Sunday, March 19, 2006

Innovations - first impressions

Innovations is, as far as I know, the only major meeting in the United States that focuses solely on community college teaching (it is run by the League for Innovation in Community Colleges). It's refreshing to be at a meeting where saying you're at a community college doesn't get the typical response of "Oh, that's nice." There are supposed to be something like 1,700 attendees to the conference this year.

The only other conferences I've attended have been scientific meetings. The typical schedule for a scientific meeting is near-insane: talks and poster sessions usually start at 8am and run until 9pm, there are usually dozens of different talks going on at once, and (except for keynote presentations) talks typically last only about 12 to 15 minutes. The 12-minute talks force the speakers to be extremely concise, and prevents any kind of meaningful question and answer session (as, assuming the session isn't running behind, there are typically only 2-3 minutes for questions).

In Innovations there are talks from 9am to 5pm, but each presenter (or, more often, team of presenters) is given a full hour to speak. This allows enough time for a detailed presentation, often complete with demonstrations, audience participation, and tons of questions (as one might expect when educators plan the schedule). It's very different, and I'm looking forward to it. I'm also looking forward to having the evenings free to digest everything.

Like most meetings, the schedule for Innovations has multiple talks running concurrently. On the flight here I read through the titles of all the talks, and highlighted the ones I was interested in; I don't think there's a single hour-long slot for the entire four days that has fewer than two presentations I want to attend (except for Sunday at 9:15am when there is only one talk). Monday seems particularly jam-packed with interesting presentations: at 11am there are seven talks I'd like to go to, and there are at least five talks I want to go to at each of the later time slots (12:15, 1:30, 3:00, and 4:15). Tonight I've got to read through the abstracts and somehow choose between them all.

But right now I've got to go to my first session of the day!

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