Saturday, May 24, 2014

Transitions and Transactions: It's A Conference Thing

I'm slowly making my way into the conference presenter phase of my career. I'm starting with close-by conferences, so when I saw that BMCC was hosting a conference that focuses on pedagogy for community college instructors, I figured I'd get a lot out of it, and it was local enough to not be an astronomical expense. (FYI: I always feel like a tool when I use the word pedagogy). The conference had a lot to offer, perhaps too much. It was three days of about five sessions each, and during each session, like six workshops were running. The crowd was spread thin because of so many choices, but the choices seemed interesting across the board. I went only on Saturday and chose beforehand what to go to for the morning, and figured I'd decide at lunch what to do in the afternoon.

Getting there was easy and not much is going on in the city at 8 AM on a Saturday. BMCC's campus is gorgeous. When I got there, breakfast was ready, and I chatted with a teacher from the Jersey/PA area as we went over the sessions offerings. We were both presenting in the morning hour and still couldn't decide what to do in the afternoon. The keynote right after breakfast was schedule to be Billy Collins; he was going over some papers and chatting with some folks two tables over. I was a bit more excited for the free stuff I'd already scored. I suppose it's not exactly free since the conference was 100 bucks, but since my department's committee approved funding, I'm getting reimbursed, ergo free stuff.

Inside: campus map, program, loose leaf paper, a list of events happening in the city. The pen writes amazingly.
One of the conference coordinators introduced Billy Collins by offering an anecdote about being on a packed subway and reading his poem that hung on the subway car wall courtesy of the MTA's Poetry In Motion campaign.  It was a feel-good story.  My story of the subway that morning is: I was sitting quietly on the subway one stop before I had to get off when the doors didn't open quickly enough for one man who decided to bang on them and scream Fuck multiple times to get them to open.  Also a feel-good story.

Billy Collins's talk was great.  He said a lot of interesting ideas about teaching poetry and the differences between poetry and prose.  He offered some interesting suggestions for reading, and I'd heard some of it before, but it was the good kind of repetition. 

I was paired with an English professor from Oregon who was giving a presentation on a lesson of imitation in the online classroom.  I was giving a presentation on geo-tagging maps for creative composition.  Basically, our presentations had nothing in common other than they had a technological component.  When I arrived at the presentation room, a volunteer student told me to come back later because there was going to be a presentation.  I stated that I was the presenter and she told me that I was early.  I said that I wanted to set up my presentation on the computer and she said, We have no internet. 

Say what?

She repeated it again, and I asked if they could get wi-fi in the room because my cell was using the campus wi-fi.  Apparently, that was not an option, and then a bit later on, someone from the conference came in to apologize that the server was down for the entire campus and no one could use the internet.  At this point, some attendees were filing in and one of them piped up, Well that's why you have to use PowerPoint!  PowerPoint is the back up! Always be prepared!

More on her in a bit.

I had a PowerPoint presentation ready to go, but it also required the internet.   Because geotagging takes place on the internet.  While it has screenshots, my presentation also includes showing people how to get into the sites and navigate them.  Hence, using the internet.

So I was in a classroom with non-functioning technology to give a presentation on how to use technology in the classroom.  This, folks, is what we in the English profession call "irony."

At least the view was pretty.

My co-presenter didn't need any technology.  She began and gave us handouts.  Her lesson was pretty interesting, and I thought about how I could use it in my creative writing course. 

Then came my turn.  I began my PowerPoint (when I first loaded it, my co-presenter said, I already love how you use PowerPoint when the beginning screen came on--I make my PPPresentations pretty!).  I got through the basics and used my skillz of creativity and imagination to describe what maps and geotagging look like and how the process works.  Then when I got to the links page, I said, Lemme just try it. 

It worked!  We all cheered!  I was able to click through a few examples.  Then I tried to sign in and the internet wasn't having it, so I steered away from signing into sites, but was able to still navigate pretty well and again fall back on my description skillz to fill in the blanks.

Then came Q&A.  It was pretty standard and interesting.  And by that I mean that of the six participants and one moderator, everyone except for one got the concept of Q&A.  You can probably guess who was the one who didn't play by the rules of discussion.

Be Prepared With PowerPoint Woman decided to first teach my co-presenter her own lesson on imitation complete with textbook suggestions.  My co-presenter answered with, I'll definitely check into that.  Then BPWPPW asked me if I'd ever heard of such and such and explained that where she works the students make maps all the time and one of them is a walking tour the Brooklyn Bridge official website uses because it's so good and I should have mine make walking tours and have I ever heard of blah dee blah and I should definitely do this, this, and that.  I answered, Wow okay I'll definitely check into that.

Well, that was my professional out-loud answer.  My inside my head answer was: Umm, why would you go to a presentation at a conference if you already know everything about it? 

With my presentation over with, I was looking forward to learning pedagogy (tool alert).  I went to a workshop called self-assessment in the community college class, but I didn't really understand how the title of the workshop matched the content that dealt with whether or not to use the traditional canon.  I enjoyed the content that opened up into a bigger discussion about teaching in general and one of the panelists said something that completely sums up higher ed today: Students have been rewarded for bad behavior.  So true.  So many of them have been rewarded for just showing up that when they get their first C or D because they really can't write, they become shocked and appalled.  Also, during this panel in this very small room, this lady decided to take a nap (or maybe she just fell asleep).
Face is blurred to protect the sleepy
Lunch was next.  This conference did not scrimp on lunch.
Half eaten salmon after a finished salad with fruit on the way
Everyone at my table found out there was going to be a raffle for which none of us had signed up so we made a mass attack on the table outside of the dining room and all came back to throw out raffle tickets in the bucket.  Good thing we did because after a few rounds, I won.
This conference?  Is awesome!

During lunch, the keynote panel was about healing, but I'm not sure if they actually got to the healing part.  It was very depressing, very interesting, and very moving. 

Afterwards, I decided to go to one more panel called Topos and Text: The Importance of Place In Teaching of Literature.  The first presenter read from a paper.  Straight through reading.  Not like bullet points and looking up and talking about them.  Nope. Just reading straight through. I couldn't follow it.  I had no idea what it was about.  I'd also had two cups of tea, so I quietly got up and went to the bathroom.  When I came back, he was still reading, eyes locked on the paper.  I ate a cookie.

The second presenter had a PowerPoint that didn't need internet.  It was fabulous!  She teaches in New Mexico and discussed regionalism and using literature of the region or about the region, incorporating the experience of the Southwest into the course, complete with a field trip!  Afterwards, I told her I wanted to move to New Mexico and talk her class.  She encouraged me to do the same kind of class with my own students (I'd explained earlier that I'd presented on maps in the morning and now felt bad about how I don't do more local literature like Whitman, which is also when Paper Reader asked, Why Whitman? and I didn't really know how to answer that since I'd already explained how I live on Long Island).

There was a book fair and another session planned, but I was all pedagogied out, so I hopped on a subway, read some Poetry In Motion, and came back home (complete with one more tea bag I'd taken because I liked the quotes and wanted another one).

1 comment:

kendra! said...

Oh yes, I sure did like the part about the 2 subway feelgood stories.

Billy Collins and you roll deep!