Some reflections on academic conferences

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This week I have been very fortunate to have attended a large international conference in Valencia, Spain on educational development and technologies (the 11th annual International Technology, Education and Development Conference, INTED) which was attended by around 600 people from all over the world. On the whole it was a successful couple of days, from a work perspective I made a few new contacts, raised the profile of the university to an international audience, learnt new things, got some ideas and had some very positive feedback on what we are trying to achieve at Abertay through new technology-rich learning environments. On a personal level I got a bit of time to see the old part of the city the day before the conference and I enjoyed some great Spanish culture in the evenings. All good, you might say but no, not entirely.

First of all, it felt somewhat ironic that I was delivering a talk about new ways of teaching and supporting learning using new technologies and flexible learning spaces in a room that was set up in a very traditional, didactic way! In fact, almost all the sessions were like this although there were a couple of workshops on offer in parallel. Secondly, authors were asked to write a paper in advance of the conference and then had a very short time (15 minutes) to present the paper to their audience on the day.

It just seemed like a real missed opportunity to do something quite different that was more in the spirit of the conference topic. I believe participants would have got a lot more out of the event if it had been run in a flipped classroom mode i.e. attendees are asked to read the papers in advance and then choose the ones they would like to discuss with the author at the event. There could also be other types of sessions e.g. debates on controversial hot topics in education right now e.g. use of big data, lecture capture, social media, students as co-creators of their learning etc. There could be good practice swap shops on particular themes which are very practically focussed and also “masterclass” workshops on topics run by experts in their field.

The TLE seminars have been very successful over the last (almost) four years and rest-assured they will continue but I would like to propose that we offer a greater variety of themed sessions next year to make sure that those colleagues who attend come away with real practical, take aways. We have a terrific community of practice in teaching and learning at Abertay and I think the time is right to think about how we can keep it fresh going forward. All ideas welcome!

I look forward to hearing from you,

Alastair

Keynote Bryan Alexander making a punchy start to the conference with some horizon scanning and apologising for his country.

 

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