Sunday, March 1, 2009

Conference Assimilation...Impossible Dream?

As I mentioned in my previous posting, I attended two wonderful meetings last week. The first one, an all day event, was about kids and how they use the Internet. The unique thing was that the WiredKids Summit was also conducted BY kids, with the audience composed of both kids and adults. Industry leaders were there as well as educators and proud parents. The kids had some great research to share. It was a memorable event and I desperately want to go over my notes and share some of what I experienced. I cannot say that I LEARNED all that much because if I do not go back over my notes, I am likely to forget just about everything except that it was a great event.

The next day and a half I attended the IMLS/Wolfsonian Webwise 2009 Conference for people in both the library and the museum worlds. We have much to learn from one another. I met some fantastic leaders and reconnected with others. Ironically, I visited with a number of Texans, some of whom I had not seen since LAST years Webwise. Again, I took extensive notes. Now I am back home. What I really want to do is spend time assimilating all the ideas and information to which I was exposed. BUT, due to being out of town almost a whole week, I am woefully behind in grading and never-ending administrative tasks, not to mention catching up with email and writing in this space. What to do? I really wish that conferences would build in some assimilation time. The ideal would be a "quiet time break" before the concluding session. People would be able to visit about mutual interests or just wind down and perhaps blog or write a bit about what they had learned. Then there could be a final session with some sharing from the audience as well as a fitting finale. Of course I realize that logistics work against "down time" at paid venues like convention centers or hotels. Planners must work to get everything in and maximize facility use to justify cost.

Another solution would be for participants to plan to stay over the last night and take time to reflect and synthesize. However, there are forces that are likely to deny this option. At my institution, if you ask for an extra night's lodging, you may very well have to pay for it yourself. At a conference this fall, I did stay an extra night after an conference whose last session ended at noon. My colleague and I used the time to drive closer to the airport, have supper, and talk about the conference. It was one of the best things about the event because it allowed us to bounce ideas off one another and also to remember important ideas and points. However, upon returning home, I had to go to great lengths to justify this "extra" time. Alas. I wonder how other people deal with the challenge of trying to assimilate new ideas and information after a conference ends?

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