Tag Archives: Conferences

What I learned at WordCamp 2011: Messages for eLearning

Last weekend I attended WordCamp Miami. This was my second year at this event and I highly recommend it if you use WordPress or are interested in blogging. WordCamp is…

“…a conference that focuses on everything WordPress. WordCamps are informal, community-organized events that are put together by WordPress users…. Everyone from casual users to core developers participate, share ideas, and get to know each other.” – WordCamp Central

This one-day event featured three tracks – beginner/blogger, marketing/design, and development/coding. I felt like I fell a little in between the tracks – not a beginning blogger, but also not a skilled programmer. That being said, I really enjoyed the sessions I attended and left with a list of ideas that will keep me busy for some time to come.

Getting started with WordPress:

If you aren’t familiar but want to find out more, take a look at this Introduction to WordPress presentation from Adam Warner. It’s a nice place to start.

Take-aways for eLearning:

I found that many of the presentations spoke not only to bloggers and WordPress users, but also to designers and developers of online education experiences. We’re concerned about a lot of the same things. The ideas and tips described below could be adapted for use in instructional design and development.

  • Keep mobile development in mind – “The mobile web is growing”, says Steven Mautone. Check out this presentation: WordPress for Mobile. Kevin Zurawel’s presentation on Responsive Web Design recommends developers plan for mobile delivery first, then look at the rest.
  • Let data drive your decisions – In a session on analytics, the stress was on gathering data about blog members and visitors. What data do we collect about online students? How can we better leverage the existing information to improve learning and the online experience? For WordPress users, several presenters mentioned WP SEO by Yost.
  • Improve user experience – We know we don’t ask our students and faculty enough about their experiences with our online courses. How can we get better at this? A user experience checklist might help. Jeremy Harrington presented a User Experience Flight Checklist for a WordPress site that could be adapted for use in eLearning.
  • Prepare to hand-off to your client – In this case I think we could consider both instructor and student “clients”. Too often we complete course development, upload the course pages, then more or less walk away. What can we do to make the transition easier? Tammy Hart discussed future proofing and tips for simplification.
  • WordPress as an LMS – I have friends at the University of Hawaii who are using WordPress to develop and deliver online courses. They are not alone in taking WordPress beyond the blog. Take a look at this presentation by Josh Guffey about using WordPress as a CMS to create a portfolio site. How could students do this for study and/or career portfolios? This plug-in was lauded for making the admin side a lot easier – CMS Tree Page View.
  • Take a long-term approach – It takes time to develop a quality product of any kind. Multiple presenters, especially those talking about the art and science of blogging, stressed this point. It takes time…and practice. And you get better.

Thanks to all:

Thanks to the organizers and speakers for a great event! Lost of positive energy and ideas, all at an affordable price. Visit the WordCamp Miami website for more information about the event and additional links to presentations. If you are at all interested in blogging, social media, or the WordPress platform, find a WordCamp in your area and go!

See you in 2012, WordCamp Miami!

Getting Ready for Conference Season

We are in the midst of what might be described as eLearning conference season. There are conferences happening throughout the year, but a number of them seem to be concentrated in the August to November timeframe. I am involved in four events (how did that happen?!) in the next nine weeks, so now is the time to get ready. It’s a personal goal of mine to attend two professional conferences per year. In some years the budget, location, and timing stars align and more are added to the schedule, but two is a reasonable goal with some purposeful planning.


The conference opportunities for instructional designers and technologists are many to say the very least. (Take a look at the sites provided on this previous post: Professional Conferences in ID, IT, Distance Ed… includes several conference search sites in the Updates). We can’t attend them all so we have to choose carefully.

  • Niche – Conferences range from large and broad to quite small with very specific topics.  What is your professional focus now (K-12, business and industry, higher ed)? What would you like to learn more about (virtual worlds, technology resources and decisions, course development, a specific content area)? Conferences can also be a great way to branch out and explore something new.
  • Budget – Funding is an issue for all of us these days. Look for registration options that allow you to attend part of an event, pay by-the-day, or just expo/vendor rooms. Consider what the conference fee covers in terms of receptions and meals. There are more online conferences these days – the registration fees for these seem to be significantly less and there’s no cost for travel and lodging. Many traditional conferences are also now offering virtual tracks taking place simultaneously with the face-to-face schedule. (You can present virtually, too!)
  • Location – You will find interesting events all over the country and in a lot of international locations. You can also look specifically in your area. This can be a budget or time driven decision. You might be surprised at some of the smaller events taking place at the regional level, at local campuses, and within the local business/industry sector.  Smaller events also lend themselves to an easier networking process.
  • Timing – Scheduling conference attendance around your workload can be tricky. Look for events that take place over a weekend and/or holiday. It’s not unusual to work a conference into a vacation, especially if the event is held in a resort-type location.


Conferences can be significant investments in terms of time and resources, so get a game plan together before you go. Here are several posts with tips on preparation. Some targeting specific events, but all offer great advice no matter the conference.

Dan McCarthy – How to Get the Most Out of a Conference

  • Dan suggests taking time to see the local area if you are traveling to the event. My dissertation advisor was a fan of this, too. Otherwise it’s just hotels and airports. And they all look pretty much the same. Take advantage of the location.

Chris Brogan – 9 Ways to Rock the BlogWorld Expo

  • I particularly like the recommendation to “bring three good questions.” Make them specific and work on seeking out the answers through sessions and conversations.

Inc. –  How to Get the Most Out of a Conference

  • Among Inc.’s tips: start networking before the event begins. This is getting easier with social networking tools like Twitter.


You’ve gone to the trouble to get to the dance, so… dance! Attend the sessions, ask questions, network between sessions and at receptions. Networking is often a major reason to attend a conference, and depending on your goals, may be a more important use of your time than the sessions. Think about your goals for the event. What do you want to take-away?

  • Present – Consider submitting a proposal to be on the schedule. This process usually takes place well in advance, but can provide you with additional experience, exposure, etc. And it doesn’t have to be just you up there. Think about projects you are working on with others and collaborate on a session. Presenters often get a reduced registration rate as well.
  • Volunteer – Look for opportunities to help with registration, introduce sessions, moderate panels. Students often get a discount for this kind of thing. It’s also a good way to meet people, especially the conference organizers.
  • Share – Tweet from the sessions! Share links, insights, your observations. Others in your circle will be interested, too. Blog about what you learned and keep the conversations going. Share your notes with colleagues. Take a look at this post from Michael Gray on how to use Evernote to document your conference experience.

Never been to a conference?

As with most things, it’s about taking the first step – create a short list of events you would like to attend in the next year. Then check out the websites, review last year’s program, look for proposal and registration deadlines, and put your plan together to attend. Get it on your calendar.

Experienced conference attendee?

Please share your tips here! What are your favorite ways to choose, prepare, and participate?

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds, Flickr

Have you been to PubCamp? Notes from South Florida

Active in social media? A fan of public media? Interested in getting involved with your community? I answered ‘yes’ to these questions and found myself at PubCamp Miami (#pubcampMIA). I had been following tweets from #pubcamps all over the country so when I saw a notice for the event in Miami I registered immediately. As an instructional designer (and blogger) my interest was in how public media could leverage social media to educate members of the community. I was looking for possible learning initiatives and ways to get involved.

The Format

The unconference format meant no scheduled sessions. There was just one formal presentation followed by large group discussion resulting in a list of breakout groups, topics of interest, and initial thoughts on possible collaborations. The event and the projects that may develop as a result provide a way for us to volunteer and support our public stations outside of fund raising drives.

This was a two-day session at the local public radio station @WLRN. The audience was somewhat small, maybe 30-40 people, but diverse and included a mix of artists, web developers, small businessmen and women, marketing experts, educators, local and national public radio professionals, and listeners like me. The common threads were interests in social media, the local community, and local radio programming.

The Take-aways

A list of a few of the discoveries, ideas, and possible projects that emerged…

  • Public Insight Network – The Miami Herald is working with American Public Media to register local residents who are interested in providing input on stories. Over 1500 have registered so far and their responses are already being integrated.
  • Spot.us – This site encourages “community funded reporting”. You can pitch an idea for a story, take on an assignment, and help provide funding for a story you are interested in hearing more about.
    • Could this open source project be adapted at a local level?
  • Citizen Journalists – There was a lot of discussion about recent downsizing of newspaper staff and the potential impact of having members of the community cover stories to be distributed via existing outlets. What does it mean to be a “journalist”?
    • Think about local bloggers – how can they work with public media outlets to develop and broadcast local voices? Are bloggers journalists?
    • Could someone interested in working with a local media outlet be trained to provide story ideas, and even write and produce stories?
  • Social Media – One of the draws of this event was the social media piece. Participants were already involved in blogging, Twitter, podcasting, etc.
    • Can volunteers help extend the reach of public station staff via social media?
    • There is the potential to partner with other local groups and events, such as WordCamp, BarCamp, and Social Media Club to encourage participation and seek out expertise.
    • Consider a public media hosted tweet-up with an open mike format to solicit ideas for stories.
  • Community Diversity – PubCamp emphasized the fact that the local community of South Florida is an international community. How can social media be used to gain input from this community? Provide services and education to this community?
  • Funding – While volunteers can make a huge impact in terms of manpower and additional resources, funding could make that impact more substantial. The Knight Foundation gave a brief presentation outlining some of the types of grants available, the process of selection, and upcoming opportunities.
  • Supporting Local Artists – Many of the attendees were artists using social media. How could this artist community help with and be supported by PubCamp initiatives?
    • Getting the word out is a major challenge for these artists. There are multiple event calendars and many are conducting their own publicity efforts online. Could the creation of an API resource help to unite these efforts?

Getting Involved

WLRN’s request was for us to develop our ideas and submit proposals. I am meeting with two other PubCamp Miami participants next week to keep the discussion going and continue to refine ideas for possible projects.

If you are interested in getting involved, take a look at these PubCamp resources, contact your local station, and find an event in your area!

  • #pubmedia chat on Twitter, Monday nights at 8pm ET.
  • Public Media Camps – list of local events, wikis, etc. (Check out the Prezi from PubCampNC!)
  • @Pubmedia