Learning to Adapt – Lessons from IWAC 2012

Learning to Adapt – Lessons from IWAC 2012

Last week, I posted about how driving in the City of Savannah, site of the 2012 IWAC Conference, reminded me of some of the challenges faculty face in engaging students in WAC projects and initiatives. 

This week, I had intended to blog about some of the lessons I learned at IWAC and I will in the very near future.  However, what actually took place during our session reminded me that, as educators, the unexpected is never far away and we have to be ready to take hold of it and turn it into something positive.

We’ve all been there. We set out the details of a seminar or an assignment and something goes wrong.  You have to learn to adapt, but IWAC has me thinking in all new directions.

Our panel, which I describe here (will link) started off as four educators from three institutions. Along the way, our community college participant had to drop out.  We’d hoped for a live participant from the Office of Letters and Light, the group that sponsors NaNoWrimo, but with a new Executive Director and Camp NaNoWrimo running, that wasn’t going to happen.Still, my sister, the director of first year composition at the host university, Georgia Southern, stepped in and we felt good about our panel.

When the session was accepted, we were all quite excited. Not only did we have data on the development of NaNoWrimo from 21 participants in 1999 to 250,000 in 2011, but also we had a wonderful case study from Kerri Augusto of Becker College on using NaNoWrimo in a Psychology course and the amazing impact it had on her students.

However, due to budgetary issues, Kerri found herself unable to make the trip. Selflessly, she did her part on the presentation and we went over the data together.  We had three panel members in place and data from a fourth, so things were looking up.

Enter a nationally known airline I will not name here. Sheryl was due to fly from Minneapolis to Atlanta late Friday, June 8, and then connect to Savannah.  It was a connection from various points that probably a couple of hundred passengers made that evening, except Sheryl never left Minneapolis. 

So, by Saturday morning, it was just my sister and me – and technology.  We booted up an Adobe Room that Sheryl had presenter rights in, we set up the power point, tested the speakers, and tried the webcam (then promptly decided no on that idea).  Within minutes, it was like Sheryl was in the room. She could hear our parts of the presentations through my headset (which I shared with my sister), we could hear her and see her slides through Adobe Connect projected into the room, and best of all, the attendees could interact with Sheryl through my headset. She could hear them from across the room and respond through the speakers.

By the end of the session, I was truly energized.  Inadvertently we had illustrated two important things with our presentation. First, when you’ve planned a NaNoWrimo type project, stick to the path even if things seem to be running of the rails. Our goal was to present this session, and we did it.

Second, Adobe Connect can be a wonderful tool to bring colleagues together under difficult circumstances. It can also be a great tool for use for NaNoWrimo to hold virtual write-ins. Since we mentioned that in our presentation, we were very glad to illustrate it.

Our NaNoWriMo session now has parallel lives. It will live on in its original state as we add data and hopefully present again, maybe at KU Village or in 2013 at a couple of conferences we are considering. Also, we’ve already talked to the wonderful team at CTL about bringing our story of using technology to salvage our presentation to the greater Kaplan community.

My final thought is this. When presenting at a conference in one of the most haunted cities in America, never say “I think things are going very well, don’t you?” because that is the apparent cue for disaster.

Until next week!


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