TIES 2012 – how to put on a great conference worth jumping on a plane for

TIES 2012 promised to be a different conference when I found out that it only happens once every 10 years or so, which is nothing but unusual in an industry where conferences seem to be happening on a weekly basis. TIES is the third European Conference on Information Technology in Education and Society, and this year’s (decade’s?) theme was A Critical Insight.  I’ve spend a fair amount of time going to e-learning conferences in the last 10 years, and anything that promised critical insight really struck a mood with me.  I find that being critical in the ed tech field is sometimes associated with being anti-tech, instead of adopting a view that a healthy dose of critical can often push the field forward in new ways.

There were a ton of plusses for this conference. For starters, the keynotes were well selected and didn’t represent the usual keynote pool I’ve become familiar with.  The conference opened with Dr. Juana M. Sancho who presented a compelling overview of the past 20 years, highlighting how far and how not so far the field has advanced.  It’s not often that somebody provides such a thorough summary of 20 years of educational technology, and it’s worthwhile to have this retrospective.

I was looking forward to Neil Selwyn, who didn’t disappoint, but I was really surprised by an outstanding Punya Mishra  who was engaging, smart, and had something new and fresh to say (at least for me).  I only caught the last part of the evening keynote Xavier Prats Monne  but a chat over cava and tapas  afterwards was one of the most engaging I had at the entire conference.  Dr. Monne is incredibly knowledgeable of higher education systems across the world, including those in Canada, as well as tertiary, non-university institutions, which is a huge interest of mine.

The conference was impressively blogged by Ismael Pena-Lopez in series of several posts, and there was constructive twitter chatter throughout. Keynotes – mainly in Spanish- and photos have been captured and posted over on the TIES website, which I should add is one of the better conference websites I’ve come across. A pdf of all the abstracts is also up, and since we were asked to submit 2 pages, they give a good overview of the topics without having to attend the conference to get the gist.  The research presentations were solid – mainly representing a Spain and Latin American pool – and totally reinforced my growing suspicion that if I want to be inspired and hear something new I need to get off my continent.

I’m not one to be a stickler for details but the organizers deserve huge applause for the A-Z organization of this conference. Not a single session started a minute late, the wifi and technology worked, all the necessary info was provided…what more to ask, really?  There was a really nice community feel at TIES as well, and I got the impression that the Spanish colleagues know and like each other quite well, which definitely spilled over to the non local attendees.

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