Conference – Day 3: Innovate

I am a day late posting about Day 3 (Tuesday) of the NASPA Conference. The truth is, Tuesday was so full of content that when I left the final session at 4:30 p.m. I just couldn’t process it. In fact, I had been in back to back sessions all day, with no break or sustenance  (even the water bubblers at the convention center were empty), so the first order of  business was a large bottle of water, followed by a brisk walk through the Walnut & Chestnut shopping district. Then, a burger and fries at the Hard Rock, and coma – on the bed in my room by 7:00 p.m.

The sessions I attended Tuesday ranged from the politics of advocacy, to legal issues, to creative listening, to using technology both in direct work with students and in connecting with other professionals in student affairs. While I found something of interest (and ideas to return to my campus with) in every session, the most mind-blowing sessions were the technology ones. Hands down.

The fact that the tech sessions were actually called “Un-sessions” leant them an air of informality that I really appreciated. Also, unlike most professional settings, you were not sneered at for having your smart phone in your hands and using it! I think the assumption was that you were tweeting session content, and the Microsoft-sponsored technology room was equipped with projectors and screens so that a running twitter feed could be displayed while the “un-session” leaders both shared their prepared thoughts and ideas, and responded to the real-time tweets.

Twitter was ubiquitous at the conference, and I found it almost humorous to watch. One young star and proponent of technology in our work with students received an almost rock-star response – every gem he shared with the group was tweeted and retweeted so many times it was comical to follow his session via tweets (I finally learned exactly how to use hash tags!). Beyond the “kids with new toys” quality of these sessions, there was real information – on resources for professional development (blogs, on-line communities, live twitter chats, etc.); on creating transformative moments for students using new technologies; on how to begin a dialogue via twitter or Facebook then use it to develop IRL/face-to-face relationships with, between and among students and staff on our campuses.

I know that I was not the only person soaking things in like a sponge. I may be coming late to the technology party, but I’m catching up fast. One person tweeted that she was sick of all the technology sessions and wanted to know what had happened to the usual conference fare. Well, here’s my thought about those day-to-day issues, such as budgets and supervision and conduct and _________ (fill in the blank): they will always be with us. And they will always make up the agenda for regional conferences or state professional gatherings. But for those professionals, like me, whose resources only allow irregular opportunities to attend national conferences, the NASPA Conference 2011 was exactly what it should have been. Challenging. Forward looking. Energizing. And exhausting! My one regret? My flight left too early and I was unable to see the final keynote speaker, Robert Kennedy, Jr. That would have been the cherry on top of a very rich experience.

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