NECC Conversations: from the room to the poster

It’s a funny thing being a presenter. While I really work hard to make my own presentations engaging (and fail at times, I’m sure) I find myself more critical of others. Now, by critical, I mean both good and bad. I am always looking to see what makes one a better presenter over another and also what was the “thing” that released the crowd from the stream of thought so they would day dream instead.

With that in mind, several posts and conversations were had this year at NECC that I took notice of. While Scott McLeod and Doug Johnson do nice jobs of sharing their thoughts and even offering suggestions, one of the things that got my attention was a conversation had at the Google gathering with several others including Scott Meech and Dean Shareski.

Standard sessions have turned into sit and gets and have lost their luster. Poster sessions might be the better option. What makes one better than the other? The conversations. My presentation this year was changed from a standard session to a poster session. At first it was mixed feelings, but after having gone through my two hours of the poster session, it is all good. I was able to have deeper conversations with more people than if I had stood in front of an audience sharing the same information. The engagement for both me as a presenter and them as an audience was a far better experience than I have had in other settings. Dean noted that he felt it might be the better route to have the session conversations take place (as opposed to the unconference sessions conversations).

While many of us say the best PD takes place in the halls of the conference, maybe the poster session is the next best thing. Should that idea be expanded?

Now, let’s take ourselves from the position of teacher/learners at a conference and move into the position of learner in a school setting. Yeah, I would have preferred this type of setting in school as well.

15 thoughts on “NECC Conversations: from the room to the poster

  1. It seems like the conference would like to offer more variety but too often the formal sessions get most of the attention. I walked through the student showcases and poster sessions and my complaint might be in the space you were given. Just like the blogger’s cafe, it seemed cramped and uninviting for good conversation. Physical space seems to have a great influence on the depth and type of interaction.

    I think paying attention to the space as well as emphasizing the less formal sessions would be another step in the right direction.

  2. Smiles — I have said — and will say again and again —
    Poster Sessions are Fantastic and sadly, also overlooked.

    I will agree with Dean that the locale and the space have to be VERY HIGHLY considered. The Georgia Facility for posters was HUGE!! The San Diego poster session was cramped. (I presented posters at both!)

    I also have to agree — that for most of the sessions that I was able to virtually skype or ustream in — I was sad to see “Sage on the stage” too many times. Even in Birds of a Feather — I saw 4 panelists talking AT their attendees. Not talking with.

    But then on the other hand, I saw a twitter from someone that said “Why are they always asking us to turn to someone and share?”

    Which makes me think…………..

    if the NECC/ISTE conference has divided into 2 camps — the ones who get it, who are using it, who are willing to share ———- versus the either on the fence, behind the fence, or don’t even know there is a fence. Our camp seems to be the first. Sadly though, I think we are out-numbered. But that does not mean we are unheard!!

    Good thoughts, thanks for sharing!
    I posted my reflections at http://jenuinetech.com/blog/?p=1077

    Jen

  3. I have both been part of a poster session and an attendee at one. They have some good points. When I was a “presenter”, I enjoyed being able to talk to people about my topic and to really help people one on one. I think that for my particular topic, a project I had done using service learning in the classroom, many people really needed help not in understanding the issue but in implementing it and that is hard to teach to a large audience. This way I could talk to people about thier particular classrooms and how to start their own service learning project.

    For the one I attended, I found this to be true of some presentations, but not of others. The physical space that Dean mentioned is one concern. At popular presentations, there were no handouts to reference (they had been taken since presenters don’t know how many to prepare for) and slide shows are videos were easily crowded around. I was unable to see them unless I was willing to hover around and wait. For topics that need in depth coverage, the poster session set-up may not work since there is always someone behind you pressing you to move on or someone who just joined who wants the person to repeat everything they had just said.

    If those issues could be solved, though, the poster sessions could be much more useful.

  4. Ironic to see this post as I was thinking just this same thing as I reflected on my own NECC experience. The sessions have been a typical let down for me this year (and this is only my 3rd year of attending). The exhibit hall is a 10 minute stroll at best. On the bright side, the Blogger’s Cafe is a reliable spot for finding my friends and having meaningful conversations–both professionally and personally. However, like you, the “surprise” for me this year was the 30 minutes I spent in the poster sessions earlier this afternoon. I agree with Dean that it is cramped and uninviting for deep conversation. However, I loved the fact that I had the opportunity to look at specific bodies of work and talk with the educators (or students!) behind them. In one case I was listening and questioning a middle school teacher and encouraging her to evolve her work with Google Earth and student collaborative study to the next level. (We exchanged contact info, and there may be an opportunity to work together.) In another, a high school student at an all-girls private school led me through their “iSite” student tech leadership model. She was eager, engaged, and I learned a great deal from her that I can share with our ed tech faculty as they develop a students-as-tech-aides (and expert) model.

    As I walked from the convention center to my hotel, I pondered this: What if we ran a parallel experience that combines EduBloggerCon and runs it out a few days in the same city where NECC is every year? What if we take the poster sessions into a more workshop/conversational assessment mode? The loosely organized nature of EBC and the idea of sharing artifacts/pedagogy/issues in strands that are more conversational in nature and give us opportunities to help one another “climb higher” (take a project to another level, address district-wide PD with a fresh approach), would have more of a brainstorming, workshop, and conversational/relational feel.

    In general, I think at some level NECC is a huge disappointment for so many of us because it caters to a different level of attendee than where we are. I’m a big advocate of providing experiences that meet somewhere where they are (differentiated) and help them grow from there. NECC–unfortunately–just feels like a mirror of the “learning environments” we believe sabotage learning. We want a classroom that is relevant, engaging, self-directed, conversational, and connected. If they can’t shift and model it, then why do we keep supporting it?

  5. Carey, Deb, and I had similar conversations in the car on the way home tonight. Why not just buy a $75 guest pass, download all the content from the sessions we’re interested in, and meet friends and colleagues at all the walk-around events? Sounds like a perfect blending of learning to me. I found very few presentations worthwhile, and this was my first time.

  6. How about this idea – we move all the poster sessions into the exhibit hall and let the educators have the big booth spaces. The vendors can have the small spaces the poster sessions had. And we need to reserve a big section of the hall for blogger’s cafe with pleanty of outlets and reliable wifi.

    Of course the harsh reality is the fact that the vendors basically pay for the conference. So we may never get the kind of real estate like the booth structure of the exhibit hall, but we can dare to dream.

  7. I read this just after reading the chapter on Attention in the Brain Rules book by John Medina. I wonder if about two things:
    1. Are presenters ignoring the 10 minute rule and so after 9 minutes and 50 seconds they lose the audience and it feels like a waste of time?
    2. Are we training ourselves to be less attentive and so we are not satisfied to sit and listen to only one thing?

    I am heading now to write some reflections on this in my blog: http://malahinitx.blogspot.com

  8. Good points, Dean. What I realized is that there is less prep in doing a poster session because you cannot prepare for the questions coming at you. You either know what you are presenting on or you do not. If you do not, attendees vote with their feet. I’m fine with that. It would be good to have a better promotion of and increased space for poster sessions. We might see a change in how they are handled.

  9. Thanks for stopping by, Jen. Missed you this year.

    You are right. I think we might need to add a few new icons to sessions listed. One is representative of a Tool session, and another can represent a Pedagogical driven tech session. They are different. Not everyone gets the pedagogy part of it even if they are great teachers. Gotta be able to grasp both. Funny how the like minds flock to the same places (tool sessions versus blogger’s cafe, for instance)

  10. Whoa, I never thought of it as a problem needing a solution, but the being able to see part would be huge. Funny how we overlook the simple things like that.

    My suggestion would be larger plasma screens lifted above the session tables, say 7 or 8 feet up. That would help out.

    I did not do handouts because the topic was so broad. Instead, I handed out business cards and asked people to contact me to continue the conversation if they wanted. I answered what seemed like hundreds of questions, and I enjoyed every minute of it. It might not have been the preferred method for some in attendance, but it is one I like because I can start a relationship with like minds, both those ahead of where I am at and behind me. We all have to support each other.

  11. True. It is hard to hit every level when you have 14,000 people attend. One idea I got from reading your comment was that we could set up EACH poster session similar to the blogger’s cafe. It is inviting, comfortable seats, bigger screen for everyone to see, and a very casual setting that promotes discussion. Hmm, I need to run that by my state tech conference coordinator. We might can make that work.

    Thanks for getting my mind going once again! See you in Denver at ISTE, hopefully.

  12. Your idea would take care of my space issue listed above. It would become more of a campsite with your idea. Everyone personalizes their own space. 😉

    You are right. Harsh reality.

  13. Are presenters ignoring the rule? Probably. We are so well trained in trying to get everything out of our head before the attention dissipates that we forget we are working with adults who WANT to be in the room. We have to remember that and then realign our processes in the direction of being the presenter we want to have if the roles are reversed. I am sure it would improve our teaching as well.

    Thanks for sharing the book. I will check that one out. I’ll also give your blog a visit as well.

  14. I am newcomer to NECC. I was overwhelmed by the different levels of engagement going on. I could not get to all of the posters, sessions, meetings, vendors, labs, discussions, playgrounds, cafes, etc, that were going on. I was sad when it all was over.

    I was also bored at times because I sat in on a keynote that was less than engaging.

    This dialogue is great. It needs to get to the NECC Ning.

    I believe we are at the tipping point for radical change in education, and I think this group can lead us forward if we keep the conversation going.

  15. Funny how few of us recognize newcomers due to such a welcoming environment. If you have something to add to the conversation, no one recognizes how long you have been a a part of it.

    You are right. The conversation needs to keep going. I will need to check my Ning site and see about adding it. I have never been a Ning person. I have always preferred my blog, but I will look at adding this over there.

    Thanks for the suggestions.

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