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Atlanta Skyline
Atlanta Skyline from the 55th floor of the Westin Hotel

Those of us who aspire to be active professionals are regularly looking for conferences where we can submit proposals to present on the interesting projects we are involved with at ZSR Library and Wake Forest University. This was the case with the EDUCAUSE 2010 Southeast Regional Conference held June 2-4. Its theme was timely: “Higher Education IT in Today’s World: Making the Most of the Economic Reality.” Erik and I had spotted the call for proposals late last year and submitted one under the “Teaching and Learning” track about our use of social and mobile technologies in last year’s Social Stratification South Course. I give this background because it sets the scene for what follows. We received notification that our presentation had been selected as a “backup presentation.” Translation: we were wait listed in case someone else had to cancel (a much more common occurrence these days with the current economic landscape). Fast forward a couple months and we received word that, indeed, there was an opening in the schedule and we were in!

It’s close to the end of the fiscal year and by the time we knew we would be going, funding was tight. However, library administration (yea, Lynn) was supportive of the opportunity. So we examined the possibilities and decided to register for one day of the conference and just go down to Atlanta the night before. This meant that we had enough time to doing a little walking tour of the immediate downtown area Wednesday evening and catch a couple sessions Thursday morning before we gave our presentation, “#socstrat: leveraging social and mobile technologies in experiential courses.”

Susan and Erik at EDUCAUSE Southeast

Briefly, I’ll recap the two sessions I attended. The first one was “Social Media and Strategic Communications: forming a New partnership in a New Medium,” with the presenters hailing from University of Florida. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting as the presenters talked about the importance of having a strategic communications plan for social media including consistent branding, guidelines and policies. Although that seems to be counter to what social media stands for, it was understandable when you consider that UF has over 22,000 employees and they all could initiate social spaces that represent the institution. A strategic approach may be the best way to maintain effective branding (branding is everything about your institution).

The second session was a case study of the use of the Thayer Method to engage science students at Georgia Gwinnett College. In this method, students are responsible for their own learning, they prepare in advance for class so they already have questions ready for what they don’t understand. The instructor is the facilitator, the approach is problem-based and small class size is the model.

Our presentation was well attended with about 40 people in the audience. We found out later that a few attendees actually tweeted about our talk during the session. More surprising was the man who waited patiently to speak to me after the session to tell me that he had texted a mutual acquaintance (Tommy Jackson, previously with IS) during our talk and had discovered that Tommy had just sold my husband a pickup truck! Small world these days…..

Here is a slideshare version of our presentation: