Saturday, May 21, 2016

Sparrow Goes to Conference, Gets Crumbs

I have attended and presented at many conferences over the years, and have always felt conflicted about attending. It is not just my introverted self; it is a problem of life interruption. First there is the paperwork required; I know I am lucky that I can usually have my institution cover most of the costs, but that demands that a somewhat esoteric and 1970s- style paperwork process be carried out.

Signing up with excitement months in advance, I tell myself that surely my life will have more breathing space than it does at that moment. (Scheduling Denial is the go-to attitude of every Over-extender.)  I have matured somewhat out of my penchant to Attend Everything over the years, but the impulse is still there. My work schedule has gotten nothing but busier and responsibilities have increased immensely. (Over-Extenders thrive on self inflicting responsibilities.)  Time away requires carving out some space that pushes work to be somehow fitted in with a mad rush to wrap up before I leave, or piled up in a stack of papers covered with sticky notes  - even more than usual - after I get back.  My email inbox looks like a rush-hour traffic jam if left unattended for a day or two, complete with horns honking. So I usually just don't "leave" as far as my email colleagues are concerned.  

The development of a very engaging Personal Learning Network has also given me a great avenue for connecting with new ideas and brilliant people without the cost and time required of conferences. I have followed blogs for years, and had my ESL students blogging when I was a teacher in that sphere.  Facebook groups and Pinterest have been another great source of ideas. I  learned to use twitter in a MOOC course in 2012, and - after an incredibly slow and painful struggle to "get" it - have found it to be  the single most meaningful action I have taken as an educator in the past five years; I connect with educators all the time, and whenever I want a short burst of inspiration, it is there with articles, visuals, and ideas.

With my PLN nourishment I feel less need to attend every conference, and can use my budget for other things. When I do attend conferences, I sit up front so I can see  (and hear!) the slides and presenter clearly, I turn on my phone, take a picture to help myself remember it, and listen for a "golden line" to tweet.  With some practice, it has gotten easier to juggle listening, tweeting, and thinking. And not feeling self-conscious about doing all of the above.  It focuses me on the presentation and gives me something to remember it with afterwards. And the act of doing that invariably connects me to even more people interested in what I'm interested in.  Tweets are re-tweeted and commented on, and the conversation grows beyond the room I am in. They are like crumbs from the conference table; maybe not as fancy as the main meal, but tidbits that many sparrows can enjoy.

sparrow | Flickr - Photo Sharing! : taken from - Abhilash Kumar 

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