October 13, 2011

Tech reflections from #GSAMinn

Posted by Dr. Laura Guertin

From October 9-11, I attended the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Minneapolis, MN.  Although I usually blog about how technology can be used to enhance teaching, some of the more impressive uses of technology were in running the meeting itself.

There’s an App for that.  To start with, I was able to download the mobile app with the entire conference program.  This is not the first conference I’ve had an app for.  I didn’t use the app as much as I could have, probably because paper program books are still being distributed (still easier for me to flip through a book to find a session).

Upload, and you’re ready to go.  For the past several years, speakers giving oral presentations have been allowed to upload their PowerPoint files before even traveling to the conference.  This makes everyone plan ahead and get the talk finished early!  I took advantage of this service, uploading my talk the previous week and feeling relieved that everything was completed and received by GSA.  All the talks are then sent to the room where the talk is being held, and the talks are automatically uploaded on the session room laptop.  As I was co-chairing a session on Sunday, it was amazingly easy to just have to introduce a speaker and click the mouse to begin a PowerPoint.  Technology has definitely helped make the oral sessions run smoother (if only it could help with the quality of some of the individual PowerPoint slides!).

The meeting was flooded with sessions that discussed how to use technology in K-16 education, such as Teaching Geoscience Online and Virtual Reality in Geoscience Education. My poster was in the second Virtual Reality session.  It was my first time participating in a digital poster session (which means having one 4′ high by 8′ wide board for a paper poster, and one giant digital screen to connect to a laptop – see me at my poster below!).  This was the best setup for discussing and showcasing how I use Google Earth course ePortfolios in my courses.  It was an amazing range of posters using Google Earth and GigaPan technologies. What surprised me was how popular the session was.  I was at my poster ALL DAY – it was one, long, exhausting day, but people were coming through the posters from 9AM to 6PM, so it was a wonderful opportunity to share my work and student innovations.  I have a feeling that digital poster sessions will continue to grow at future conferences, which so much digital technology being integrated with geoscience teaching and research.

QR Codes, where are you?  What I didn’t see (and what someone tweeted about) is the use of QR codes.  I had two for my poster, but I did not see any QR codes in talks and hardly any at posters.  This is very different from the ISTE conference I attended earlier this year (see my blog post), where QR codes were everywhere, and conference attendees were using their iPad2’s to take photos of the QR codes to get the resources linked in the code.

et tu, iPad?  Speaking of iPads, I was surprised to see so few people using them.  The iPads were everywhere at the ISTE conference, but most of those conference go-ers were K-12 teachers.  Some of my colleagues were using iPads at the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) business meeting back in June, but most of them said they were “trying out” the iPad to see if they could use an iPad for a meeting instead of a laptop.  Although I have an iPad I could have used at GSA, I brought my laptop.  Maybe it was just for the sense of security, knowing I would have access to all of my files “just in case,” and I would be able to do all of my everyday activities on the computer and online.  I do want to try to attend a conference with only the iPad, but if the conference is during the semester when I still have classes going on, student emails to answer, manuscripts to revise, then I will want my laptop.

Not quite a trending hashtag.  The geoscience community is very active on Twitter.  The #GSAMinn hashtag was established for the conference.  If you click on the “Continue reading…” link below, you’ll see a Storify I put together with some of the more unique tweets from the conference (there were plenty of scientifically and data-rich tweets, but these are the ones that brought a smile to my face!).

So I didn’t have any amazing “ah-ha” moments at the conference when it comes to technology and education, but it is always nice to see what is out there and what others are up to, whether it be in the classroom or behind-the-scenes running the conference.

[View the story “There are tweets, and then there are tweets… from GSA 2011” on Storify]