Reflections on NITLE

This weekend, I attended a NITLE conference at Wabash College and blogged live during all of the sessions (of which there were many). I’ve since removed those chunks and phrases that make little sense to anyone but me from the front page, but I’m hardly done talking about the topics that resonated with me; those notes will evolve into several posts which are in my to-do queue on the back end of this blog. First up, coming sometime tomorrow, will be a reaction to Andrew Ross’ talk from Saturday evening. I am always impressed by a speaker who gets stuck with the end-of-a-long-day post-dinner slot and still manages not just to keep me awake but to engage me. (His promise of five Powerpoint slides only – which he kept to – certainly helped make his the best presentation of the weekend.)

In the meantime, some general conference reactions:

Quality vs. quantity. Fifteen minutes, and no Q&A session, is really not enough time for anyone to present what they’re doing in a way that their audience can grasp -and- retain. A tight schedule with little to no room for decompression meant that my brain had checked out by around 2 pm…with several more sessions left on the agenda. During one particularly bad presentation I couldn’t even continue taking notes and had to go take a walk outside. It’s not fair to the presenters or to the audience to maintain such a hectic pace. Choose quality over quantity.

Details, details. Friday night started out with a bang right after dinner, with Carl Blyth’s thought-provoking presentation Pondering Learner Preferences (to which I’ve already responded). But I have some issues with the way this presentation was handled on the part of the conference staff: Carl had to turn his back on the audience to see his slides; there was a large supporting column in the center of the room which got in the way of several audience members, especially during the Q&A session which followed the presentation; no coffee or tea or water was served after Carl started, and I had to leave the room to get water from the fountain in the hallway, thereby missing part of the presentation. (Also, this is petty but I’d like to say it anyway: not all of us drink coffee. If you serve coffee, please also have tea available.) These seem like small details, but they add up and can make or break a conference experience.

Post-session networking. Some of the best conversations I’ve had with people are the ones where you’re sitting at a bar or just walking around town, away from the structure of the conference itself. I went out with a small group of folks on Saturday evening to blow off steam, but we didn’t know where to go, really, and we ended up at a rather seedy tavern. Provide your conference-goers with some information about the town (a town map in addition to a campus map, for example) so we can make good decisions and not put ourselves in potentially dangerous situations. Also, let us know what our options for transportation are, especially in the post-dinner hours, and especially if there is a peculiar lack of the things one might expect (say, for example, taxis).

More upcoming the next few days!

Ryan has been proudly maintaining and contributing to Language Lab Unleashed since 2005, and is the current President of SWALLT. Since the summer of 2013 he's been causing trouble with his all-star colleagues in the UMW DTLT; when not wrangling websites Ryan can be found doing strange things with heavy objects.

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