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What Makes a Great Conference

It's been so busy around here, that many "news" items just haven't made it to the blog.

This summer, I attended the best conference I've ever been to: the Gordon Research Conference on Visualization in Science and Education. There were several factors that made it such a great conference. First of all, the attendees were all encouraged to participate by presenting posters, so that most attendees were either giving a talk or giving a poster. Also, the speakers were not singled out, or isolated from the rest of the attendees.

The conference was focused on a single track of sessions, and there were more opportunities for talking with the other attendees than at other conferences I've been to. Also, limiting attendees to 125 reduced the chances of getting "lost in the crowd". During the five days of the conference, we ate all of our meals together and there were many opportunities in the day to socialize. We visited several pubs.

For me, attending one of the two-day workshops before the conference began was a great way to get to know people. We broke up into small working groups. I learned a great deal about assessing the effectiveness of learning applications, and got to know some amazing people at the workshop. You could even say that I had a paradigm shift, as a result of the workshop. I'll be writing more about this, as I continue my studies and explorations.

There was also the mini-grant competition. During the course of the conference, we were encouraged to form interdisciplinary teams, design a pilot project, and write a grant application to fund the project. Each team was expected to include a subject expert, a learning expert, and a media expert. The application was due at the end of the conference.

I am pleased to announce that I am part of a team that won funding for a pilot project, through the conference, and the project will include the development of a learning tool built with Flash. The grants were funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).