Yesterday, I gave my first conference presentation, for the University’s Teaching & Learning week. Mine was a keynote event, with attendees combining after previous, separate presentations.

The subject was a talkthrough/demonstration/”sell” of the system I’ve been contacted to design/develop -a web application for Personal Development Planning and effective tutor-student interaction. The walkthrough required two actors, a student and a tutor, so I had an academic colleague assist me by using the system a a tutor. I could hear murmurs as the demo was underway – not of the bored variety but clearly reacting to the developing system. Afterwards, feedback ranged from good to excellent – one comment expressed surprise that this was developed in-house and not by a design company, let alone one man in a few months!

Reflections upon the event:

It was my first public speaking event for five years & I was nervous. It was surprising to note a) how blasé my colleagues were about their events despite the importance, & b) how apprehensive I was considering I used to do these frequently when I was a lecturer myself. How things change. I got far too nervous,and it showed. I was also quite tired later.

I was too nervous to be able to really judge my own performance at the time, so I had to rely upon other people’s feedback, and could not supply my own. This led to a probably better evaluation of the presentation!

There was also an interesting plenary session afterwards in a Question Time format, which helped gain a wider perspective upon aspects of the academic culture/process than I generally experience, especially in relation to empowerment – the nature of ensuring professionalism through quality assurance in the context of academic “freedoms”, for example. When a practitioner says “I’m a professional, I know what I’m doing”, is that granted merely by a job title? How can we balance the tension between practices such as blended learning (from multiple methods and sources) with professional practice?

Aside: At some point in the near future I intend to reflect upon the nature of meta-cognition and the limits of the reflecting practitioner (recursive reflection!). Laerning is not merely a means to an end “to get a job”, but self-improvment . I made use of such techniques during my MSc to my benefit and am now a ‘convert’, but attempts to give a holistic overview of the self-improvement process as opposed to direct factual dissemination are not universally applicable. I also need to properly document my thoughts on the conference I attended back in May. I think I may call it “Are our students learning?”

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