I love going to conferences as consider it the best way to find out what other people are working on in my field. Unfortunately most big organizations like Tesol(Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), CCCC(Conference on College Compositions and Communication), OLC(Online Learning Consortium) or ATD(Association for Talent Development) do not tend to come to the Boston Area.
So many times I have ended up traveling to great cities like San Francisco, New York, and Vancouver. I am not complaining because I love to travel, meet new people and learn new things, but lately due to family restrictions I have not been able to go to any outside Massachusetts.
In the past 3-4 years, several organizations have begun streaming some of their sessions online. To my delight these virtual conferences or live streamed sessions tend to be quite affordable, especially considering the amount of money it costs to attend a conference and also pay for the plane ticket, hotel and everything else that comes with going to such an event. A large part of going to a conference is also about meeting people in the field and interacting with them so that is not something you recreate when attending online. So, there are a lot of positives and negatives to watching streamed sessions.
In the last few years, I have virtually attended a few conferences. This time around I watched the OLC conference that was taking place at Orlando Florida. They streamed live 110 sessions which was such an upgrade from the amount they streamed a couple of years ago. The topics ranged from MOOCs to tips and tricks on how to teach online to how to flip a classroom as well as how to how to design and online course and creating an effective online learning environment.
The other thing about attending a conference online is you are able to access the recorded sessions so you get to view all of them. In the case of the OLC they give you access to the videotaped sessions for up to a year so you actually get more out of the conference than going to the conference. I say this because most conferences have at least 50-100 concurrent sessions each day and there is no way you can get to listen to all of them. I remember one time I went with friends to a conference and we all went to different sessions and then got together and shared what we learned so we could get more out of the conference. So, having access to them for a year allows you can go a look at a presentation a few times something you can’t do when you are physically attending a conference.
I marvel at how technology has changed our lives as it has transformed the way we work, learn, and play. I can’t wait to see what will happen next!
The semester is more than half over and I find myself some days having a difficult time balancing work and home life. There is no real separation between work and personal life since I work from home. In the perfect world one would work all morning when the house is quiet, but then I remember that the dishwasher needs to be emptied or I have to cook dinner early because when my child comes home I have to rush out the door for soccer practice or a music lesson. Irrelevant of the reason the list of interruptions goes on and on…
Strategies for balancing my workload:
- Stagger my due dates, especially after the middle of the semester as my courses are writing intensive. This strategy make sense for me as I have about 70 students every semester and I assign about eight to nine assignments per student. So the amount of pages I have to read on my computer/tablet is enormous to say the least.
- Not edit my students’ writing so much, but provide them feedback on the error patterns I see in their writing. Editing student writing can overwhelm students and it does not aid them in becoming better writers. Showing them a few of their errors actually, helps them improve their writing more.
- Pace myself. I read student papers for an hour at a time as my eyes get more tired faster when I read a computer or tablet screen. I usually dedicate 2 hours of reading assignments in the morning, as I have to also respond to student discussions, read blog reflections, and respond to student emails and questions.
- Work at different times of the day and night. So if I work on a set of papers in the morning and I haven’t finished that set of assignments, in order to finish I will end up reading in the evening.
- Take it with me. Many times as I rush out of the house to take my son to the park, practice, or a playdate I bring student papers with me. I download them to my MS Surface and I read them wherever I am. Even if I read two more assignments it is more than I would have if I hadn’t brought my work with me which gets me closer to finishing my work.
- Set due dates for when to return students their homework. It helps me stay organized and the students know when to expect the assignment feedback and their grades.
- Use Tools that will help you stay on track. I like to use my MS Surface tablet as it helps read and comment on student papers like I am reading a piece of paper that a student handed me in class. Besides being able to write on the screen like I would on a hard copy, the other benefit this tablet has is that it is light and small enough for me to be able to take it anywhere.
I am sure that there are more strategies out there that other hard working educators are using, but these are the ones that work for me. They help me balance my personal and professional life because things happen to throw me off track all the time.