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New this year, the ASCD Empower17 conference featured a Poster Presentation Gallery, where 11 educators gathered to showcase their education projects, research, and lessons learned. Here's a firsthand look at the Poster Presentation Gallery from the perspectives of both a presenter and a participant.
There are always two key challenges to any learning session at a conference.
The first, inevitably, is getting a seat. If you don't get there in time and no seats are left, you're likely out of luck.
The second is connecting fully with the presenter. Often, we don't have the opportunity to make a deep connection and ask questions because participants and presenters alike have somewhere else to be. So, although the session itself might be incredibly powerful, the closure that we sometimes need to plant the seeds of learning, or to propel us to take the next step, is often missing.
Enter poster sessions.
ASCD's inclusion of poster presentations at the Empower17 conference was meant to provide both presenters and participants with a less formal, more intimate opportunity to learn from each other.
The structure is fairly simple. Amazing educators share an initiative or strategy they have been using, mapping the origin, current status, and future steps. Using visuals ranging from posters to video feeds to cards or slides, presenters share their ideas; respond to questions from visitors; and engage in deep, small-group conversation about practices and wonderings.
During the hour I visited the poster session corridor, I heard from four groups of phenomenal learners and leaders, all with different ideas, different methods of presentation, and different questions that left me pondering how their work relates to mine and also curious about where their paths would lead next.
The ASCD Empower17 conference is meant to truly empower educators to grow, and the poster sessions provided a great opportunity to explore learning, teaching, and leading in a different way.
Presenting in conferences can be fun and exciting, yet it requires an intense amount of preparation and often feels a little disconnected from the audience. The presenter has to provide information while engaging a diverse crowd and rely on audience cues to interpret the needs of the group. By contrast, the poster session was quick and easy to put together and offered real connections at a much deeper level.
My partner and I designed a poster to show three different portions of a multiyear process covering research and practical work on teacher preparation. Because of the breadth of work displayed, a traditional session would have felt very sage-on-the-stage. In our poster session, however, we were able to give an overview of the work as a whole and pause when something struck a chord with the visitor. In several cases, we were able to connect visitors to other projects and organizations to further their own work.
One of the surprising benefits I found to showing our poster was learning from participants. Several visitors offered insights and suggestions that we hadn't previously considered. I loved hearing how our work resonated with different participants around the country, while others asked tough questions that will guide us as we move forward.
The energy from our neighboring poster session was infectious, and we quickly found that when one person stopped to listen, others joined in. Even with the best engagement strategies, traditional sessions can't achieve the level of personal connection that the poster session provided. As ASCD's Empower conferences continue to provide unique learning opportunities in a variety of contexts, showcasing posters can leverage the power of personal connections and help grow not only participants, but presenters as well.
Did you visit the Poster Presentation Gallery? Let us know what you thought! Pull up the session listing in the app and take the survey. Your feedback will help shape future ASCD events.
Fred Ende is the assistant director of curriculum and instructional services for Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES, one of New York’s 37 regional education service agencies. He is also the author of Professional Development That Sticks from ASCD, which explores redesigning PD to make a difference for educators. You can reach him (and give feedback on his lesson template) on Twitter at @fredende. Meghan Everette Meghan Everette is a teacher on special assignment in the Salt Lake School District. She is a Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellow and a blogger for Scholastic.
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February 10, 2017
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