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As a fourth year doctoral candidate, in addition to having completed comprehensive examinations and prospectus and working on the dissertation, my thoughts are also turning towards the job market and securing that first academic position. This purpose of this blog is to chronicle the trials and tribulations of completing my Ph.D. and finding that first job.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

To Conference Or Not To Conference

I'm just returning from AERA and I've noticed that my conference patterns have changed. I recall two years ago when I attended AERA in San Diego, I took the first day and a half there to see some of the city and then I basically went to as many sessions as possible at the conference until I had to head back to UGA. I had picked sessions from different SIGs, by different scholars that I wanted to see, etc. Before the conference and then filled in my time with suggestions from my colleagues or by session title. I was a session junkie.

Last year at AERA in Montreal, things changed. I was returning to a city that I was familiar with and had been to a number of times. One would think that I'd blow off more of the conference to see some old favourites - which did happen, but not to the extend that one would think and no more than I would at any other conference or conference city. But I didn't attend a lot of sessions. I did go to all of the sessions on virtual schooling and almost all of the sessions from the Rural Education SIG, a few by Memorial faculty, but that's about it. I didn't go to sessions that my colleagues recommended, I didn't go to sessions based on the titles in the program or the SIGs offering them, I simply didn't go to many sessions. And I didn't tourist that much either. I stayed in my room and did a fair amount of reading and writing actually. I can't recall what it was that I was preparing for, nothing bigger than an individual course paper for sure, but I did spend a lot of time working.

In San Francisco this year, I brought my wife to AERA. We spent the first day and a half doing the tourist things and then at least three hours every other day that we were here on our week-long trip. I didn't go to many sessions again, almost all of the virtual schooling ones (one is taking place while I'm in the airport) and almost all of the Rural Education SIG events, and then literally only one other session other than ones I was directly involved in.

Now I know part of this can be attributed to the fact that I wanted to spend time with my wife in what has been described to me as America's most romantic city. But I think part of it can also be attributed to a certain sophistication of my research ideas, without quite being there yet. For example, that first year of AERA I also attended e-Learn, SITE, Georgia and Southern Educational Technology Conferences, and the Illinois Online Conference. Whereas in the past twelve months, in addition to AERA, I have also attended an Advanced Placement Conference, AECT, the Virtual School Symposium, and QUIG. You can see a little more focus there, a little more selectivity, but I'm still not at the point where I am comfortable enough with my own research area to go and play in other spaces and learn a little about other related and even unreleated fields - which is probably why the sessions that I have gone to these past two years at AERA have stayed very close to home for me and my research interests.

In any regard, what is has meant is that I have seen less and less of the conference and more and more of the city and surrounding areas. Not a bad trade-off, if there was one that I had to make.

Tags: AERA 2006, , graduate student, graduate students, graduate school, higher education, education

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