Sunday, November 23, 2008

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Reflections from a first time presenter!

L-R: Asst to Malena, Manisha Javeri, Malena Ruth, Lori Rozelle
E-Learn 2008 Las Vegas

A week to remember in Las Vegas. I took the first "shift" of the presentations with Dr. Javeri and master's graduate John ....while about 9 more master's students took the 2nd "shift" of the week to round out the presentations with a roundtable. Dr. Chen and Dr. Samreau, also in attendance, did their fair share of presenting throughout the week with colleagues and master's students. So Cal State University Los Angeles was well represented at E-Learn Conference 2008. Hurray for CSULA and CCOE!!!

This was my first conference and first time speaking; you'd think it would be good to start small and local, but I started with one of the largest international conferences in the field of instructional technology and
e-learning thanks to Dr. Javeri. :) "Fascinating" is the word that comes to mind when describing the people in attendance. Every accent known to man could be heard; it was unusual not to have an accent. Every color of skin. There was absolutely no way that one would feel out of place with the mix of people in attendance.

The first morning I met Miss Turkey, later Miss Germany and Ms. Finland. Even later, Mrs. Australia who worked at a women's college in Dubai, Saudi Arabia. There were Mr. and Miss Bahamas, Ms. Japan, Ms. Korea, and Mr. China, and Mr. UK in the elevator, not to forget Mr. Italy. I was surrounded by a sea of people all who were always friendly and open to communicate.

Just with one meeting, we would act like we knew each other every time we passed one another to and from presentations. In one quick passing, I introduced Miss Germany to Ms. Finland and they began their own conversation. I've never seen people talk so freely and so easily.

I enjoyed the keynote speakers the most ... as they each gave the big picture of life as it is currently in the education and technology world. It was great to be able to connect their language, their terms, to things I've learned in grad classes and have many things making sense to me. Conference were mixed; some I understood and could jump on board while others were complex, out of my league, or simply lacked engagement.

For a first timer, I listened for content AND watched for presentation style to see what I might emulate in the future. One duo did a stand up comedy routine that at first was fun and fresh. Less is more ... I need to remember this too.

One speaker I was especially impressed with in style and content was an Australian woman who is a professor of business at a woman's college in Dubai. Ms. Australia told us about the Bizarre she organized each year for year 1 and 2 college undergrads that put them in a simulated business setting as they each become entrepreneurs buying and selling real products they create. Talk about hands on! I wanted to attend these classes so I could be better prepared to finish the design of our microcredit interventions for women in Maputo. All schools are segregated by gender in Dubai.

Tuesday morning, 10 a.m., was my time to speak at the conference. Overall, I would say my experience was a success! Malena Ruth, African Millinneum Foundation, and her assistant were present and Dr. J was right up front for support; John was also present (thanks for coming, John!). I had 20 minutes before Miss Germany's presentation ... and did I cover a lot in that time period! My presentation was about HPT and the interventions EDIT 594 designed for the children who have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS, and the activists and caregivers. I had been working for hours on this presentation the days before, and then Dr. Javeri and I did some last minute tweaks to the presentation the night before, so I was ready to go.

Also the night before I had noticed that I didn't get the pants packed I planned on wearing, but hey, it was Las Vegas! I saw every type of dress. Wearing an acceptable alternative, I managed to spilled a huge amount of orange juice on my blouse, don't ask how. I guess it was my nerves. You couldn't miss the spot "river" it from far away. I'm thinking, okay, I can deal with this, no problem. It was not going my way, but I wasn't going to let these little blunders stop my enthusiasm. Miss Turkey and I got a laugh out of this. Working on her Ph.D. Miss Turkey was to present 3 papers and was worried about her English. I tried to calm her fears on that. She became a fast friend as we could understand one another.

The thing I loved about this conference was meeting all of the people from around the world and having conversations with them. The world got much smaller for me in 3 days at this Las Vegas Riviera Hotel and Convention Center. My perspective changed from being out of touch with the world at large to feeling like I was part of a common goal, a common language in education and technology.

I even started reading the published papers in the book that AACE published and gave out Wed on the airplane ride home later Wed night. Being there gave me a new appreciation for what we're learning in our Instructional Technology courses at Cal State ... and a hunger to learn more.

I returned to my 4th grade classroom Thursday morning feeling a bit like what I came from was surreal, not ready to re-enter what seemed to be my smaller world in Arcadia. Felt a little sad to be back, but by Friday, I was back in the swing. Told my students about my week and that it was a new accomplishment for me and my students spontaneously started clapping and then one came up and gave me a big hug and then another followed and before I knew it all the students were surrounding me in one big hug. It was absolutely priceless. Talk about the innocent wonder of children and a lack of reservation to show what they authentically feel in any given one moment. Wow.

I'll always remember my first presentation about our interventions to help the children orphaned by HIV/AIDS in Africa and be ever so grateful to Dr. Javeri for encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone. I'd say that discomfort is a lot less now and my horizons are broadening ... and that this is a very good thing! :) Onto the next presentation!