Organizations and Conferences: AECT

One of the best things that happened to me as a student teacher is that my mentor encouraged me to attend a conference with the rest of the Foreign Language Department.  I loved gathering all the best practices and ideas that I could incorporate into my teaching.  I continued to attend regional and national conferences each year I taught in K12.

When I moved into Higher Education, the organization and conferences did not meet my professional needs anymore.  I felt lost and out of touch.  I needed to connect with other professionals outside my own organization.  Most of my colleagues were fantastic to work with, but there is something about getting out of the regular environment that energizes you in a way that an internal conversation or training just can’t do.

Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT)

Last year I joined and attended the national conference for AECT. This organization is about instructional design – designing good education that incorporates and takes advantage of technology.  Some may see other aspects of the organization -as there are others, but this is what I needed.

This conference was different.  In lacking a professional organizational “home” I had turned to blogs and twitter to find other professionals.  In attending the conference many of the names and faces were familiar.  Several of the featured speakers were people whose blogs /twitter feeds I followed – Howard Rheingold, David Wiley, David Merrill, Tom Reeves.

One morning of the conference they had what they called “Breakfast with Champions.”  I bought my ticket and went.  In the room were approximately 20 tables with names.  All the featured speakers and many of the other “big names” in instructional design were each seated at their own table.  This was an opportunity to go sit and have breakfast with amazing professionals!  As a doctoral candidate everyone was interested and willing to help me with research ideas so the conversation  became centered on my research interests. I can’t wait to go again!

Professional Learning Networks (PLN)

So how does a professional organization fit into your PLN? In beginning the creation of your PLN, look for an organization.  Look in all areas of your interest, for me those interests have included teaching, technology, instructional design, learning, French, change management and Chemistry.  Once you find an organization – join that organization.  Take advantage of the conferences, workshops and resources available through the organization.  As you find people that have similar professional interests, you can follow their blogs and twitter feeds to see what they are studying and exploring, and who they are following.  Bringing a wealth of information to you, to learn and grow as a professional.

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