Hello from New York! This post is a little later than usual because I’ve spent the whole day at symposiums at the AERA conference! Just to briefly overview my trip, I wasn’t able to make it to the beginning of the conference (Thursday) because I was presenting at a psychology conference in Erie PA Friday & Saturday, but I flew out to NY Sunday morning (in this case, morning=3am) to land at about 11. There were some sessions I was interested in from 3-5, but my hotel room wasn’t ready until 3 so I had to skip out on those (I didn’t think to dress anything but super casual for my flight, and I was trying to avoid being that one person you always see (or your mom warns you about) that shows up underdressed and looks ridiculous). I also made a good call on skipping the 8:15s on Monday (which was partially from exhaustion from all of my traveling), as Manhattan happened to issue a flash flood warning at about 7:30. Another good call on booking a hotel within walking distance to the conference hotels because the rain was pouring for several hours; I also heard the rain was so bad it was leaking into the subway stations AND the cars! That makes walking through ankle-deep puddles in flats seem like a kinder fate (almost).
My day was super packed with symposiums, even by skipping the first ones of the day. My day began with New Directions in Motivation Regulation, which was followed up by Learning and Development Through Pedagogical Designs, The Impact of Instructional Technology on Faculty, Curriculum, and Teaching, and finished with The Impact of Teachers’ Psychological Characteristics on Young Student Experiences and Outcomes. The sessions were almost back-to-back (with about a 15 minute gap), so I got some nice brisk walking time (still in the rain) going from hotel to hotel.
For the most part, the presenters/researchers were dynamic and excited to talk about their work, so it wasn’t too difficult to keep up in a room of education professionals. But then a presenter walks up with a complex model on their slide, says “we’re all familiar with self-regulation models, right?” and the entire room nods in approval, so you spend the next 30 minutes trying to keep up. When I made my planned activities list, I was overwhelmed with all the possibilities and just chose whatever I saw first. When I got here (and had all that spare time) I began looking more closely at sessions available and strategically planned where I had to be an when, so my schedule completely differed the one I originally anticipated. If I hadn’t changed it, I would have taken time to read some of the abstracts that were available. Overall, the sessions were very informational and covered topics such as why we’re motivated, how we can utilize different types of motivation (which I didn’t even realize existed!) to complete various tasks easier, how humor can benefit learning (aka: how memes can help you learn stats), how online classes can both help and hurt education, and how teachers’ moods can affect the way their students learn.
I was pretty interested in the technology seminar, seeing as though my research at CMU is developing a virtual tutoring system for classroom accessibility. This ended up being about online classes and tools for classroom use, and even then it was a little different than what I had expected. Most of the presenters were educators (as well as the attendees), so they had first-hand experience with technology. But the presenters discussed how technology in education can foster distraction from work, students’ anticipations that their professors will always respond hastily, and that students don’t like online work because they don’t like digital text and googling answers. I was taken aback by all of this, but the audience generally seemed to fully support these notions. While yes, I can be guilty of occasional distraction and emailing my professors at 1am about a test or assignment, but they seemed to address the useful nature of the systems and brush them off to favor face-to-face. I’ve always admired learning technology for its ability to make material more accessible (as a student that works full-time, online classes are amazing because I have more flexibility in scheduling, and online textbooks are cheaper for renting and accessing for spur of the moment studying), I think this symposium could have benefitted from learning technologies in tutoring (hey! that’s what I do!).
I was also interested in the teacher psychological characteristics as a psychology major, so it was very interesting to see these researchers discuss how the mental state of educators can impact their students’ outcomes. Teachers that have more depressive symptoms and work-related stress, for example, influence their involvement in learning and their relationships with their students, which both affect their ability to learn. Teachers with less depressive symptoms can also assist in their students’ emotional and behavioral regulation, which can then keep them on-task and learning more.
Tomorrow isn’t as busy of a day because I’ll have to get to the airport and fly out in the evening, but I’m going to look through the program and find some exciting sessions to attend and report on them next week. When I get back, I’m in my last week of classes! From there, I’ll be moving home and graduating before I start grad school at the end of August 🙂