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Archive for the ‘Conferences’ Category

Things I learned at SXSWedu

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
SXSWedu 2017 photo collage

SXSWedu 2017 photo collage

Last week I attended SXSWedu, an education-centric pre-conference to South by Southwest Interactive. I came home with 13 pages of handwritten notes and an information hangover.  South by Southwest Interactive is the now seemingly ubiquitous conference of music, culture, tech and hipsterdom held annually in Austin, Texas. SXSWedu is a smaller gathering which occurs the week before the big event, attracting thousands of teachers, entrepreneurs, policy makers and students. It packs a hyperbolic amount of content about teaching and learning into three days, but many sessions are available now to watch for free.

Here’s a list of items of interest to me, a long time librarian in higher education:

Ed tech


  • Future ready librarians: K-12 education uses the term “future ready” to describe goal of bringing districts, schools, and libraries into the 21st century and give kids the skills and opportunities they need to succeed in a fast-changing world. What does it mean to be a ‘future ready librarian’? This infographic explains.  This panel had great online handouts.
  • Library & out of time meet up – This session gathered librarians from higher ed, K-12 and public libraries, as well as vendors, museum curators, and random library fans together for informal conversations & shared brainstorming. It was an introvert’s nightmare, though I did meet the folks behind Mobile Citizen, a mobile hotspot vendor aiming to make wireless access affordable to everyone. They want to work with library systems  to provide mobile hot spots for checkout.
  • Open Educational Resources: At the “Ed Surge Lightening Talks” I heard a university provost describe how librarians and instructional designers at her school located & tagged open educational resources with learning outcomes to develop an OER Commons for their faculty. Here’s their LibGuide.



  • Enterprise embracing the MOOC – Salesforce Trailhead embodies the classic features of a MOOC (badges, online, asynchronous, massive & free) to train up skills for their sales software
  • “Digital Education is the oil of the knowledge economy” – just a neat quote
  • Ed Tech moving into the East & South markets (China & Africa)
  • New tools: DigiExam (digital exam platform), Zzish (mobile learning apps), Open Campus (“campus” (as opposed to course) management system), Practice (video platform designed to empower interactive, individualized learning for mobile, active learners, anywhere, anytime, and on any device – prototyped with surgery residents at UCSF)

Would I attend SXSWedu again? Maybe. It is close to where I live and professional development funding is available. But for the average health sciences librarian, SXSWedu might be one of those ‘bucket list’ conferences. Good for a one time visit, likely not a return customer.

Need More?

The SXSWedu YouTube account includes keynote speakers and spotlights, while the SXSWedu Twitter feed aggregates content from everywhere.

Conference Time!

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

This week the NTC trainers are attending the Distance Teaching & Learning Conference in Madison, Wisconsin. We’re looking forward to learning more about teaching strategies, engagement, social learning, instructional design and other topics. We’ll be sure to share our new knowledge with you as well.

Dome of the Wisconsin State Capitol viewed from the street.

Here are few other conferences you might find useful for learning about distance learning or instruction.

Each has a different focus and audience, and it may be worth checking for some free online conference materials.

Tips for the Virtual Classroom

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

I recently attended the American Society for Training and Development‘s TechKnowledge conference. It was a great opportunity to see new training technologies and learn from others about their challenges and strategies in training. ASTD’s membership is quite diverse and includes those who do compliance training, technical and software training, workforce development, and many other areas. In all the sessions, I found myself looking for ways to apply techniques from other areas to what we do here at the NTC. In the next few blog posts I’ll share some of the tips and tricks I learned in these sessions.

One of the first sessions I attended was about identifying and avoid pitfalls in the virtual classroom. As we (and many others) move more of our classes online, this seemed particularly relevant.

Woman at computer wearing headset

The instructor first described the difference between webinars and a virtual classroom. For her, a virtual classroom uses web conferencing software to facilitate synchronous learning with a high degree of interaction. A webinar, on the other hand, is more one-way communication or simply presentation of information. Here are some of her tips:

  • Tip #1: Make sure participants understand what a virtual classroom is and establish right away that it is an active, not passive, learning environment. Use opinion questions at the beginning to engage participants from the outset and clearly communicate that the virtual classroom is for building skills.
  • Tip #2: Know the platform you’re delivering in, practice in it, and  have someone else as a “producer” when instructing. The role of the producer is to set up the room, assist participants with technical difficulties, answer questions, and help make sure transitions are smooth. Although we don’t really refer to it as a producer, we at the NTC always make sure that another trainer is available to help with these issues. If you deliver classes over the web, I highly recommend it.
  • Tip #3: Have a plan for how you will distribute materials. If you have handouts or other materials, how will the students get them?
  • Tip #4: Never have more than 2 “tell” slides in a row. Break it up with some kind of interaction.
  • Tip #5: Pilot and Practice!

Conference Season

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

I recently came across a blog post that offered 10 tips for maximizing your experience at a conference. Bottom line…be prepared. Follow this link to read the tips: