Thursday, May 31, 2018
Going to a genealogy conference? Besides remembering everything to pack in your suitcase—and then checking to make sure you don't walk out the door without said suitcase—do you head to the conference with a list of learning objectives?
A teacher might draw up learning objectives when determining just what it is she hopes her students will gain from a particular class session. While that is a necessary practice, the learning objectives I'm thinking of now aren't quite the same. I'm not here at the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree to teach a class, but to learn. While I'm sure the workshop speakers have come equipped with their outline of learning objectives for their sessions, I as a student need to come prepared with my own list.
Why a list? After all, the conference organizers provide ample descriptions of all the sessions offered, complete with an app and handout availability before the conference even starts. Can't we treat this like a smorgasbord of educational goodies, and nibble on the most appealing offerings?
I've found when I attend an event, I am more focused if I bring my own set of questions to the table. I formulate my own set of personal goals for each event. If there is a speaker whom I've been eager to hear, or a topic I'm currently following, I see that as an opportunity to prepare ahead of time with questions.
A well-planned conference which factors in time between sessions for informal networking and exhibit hall visits provides the flexibility to connect with specific people in longer conversations. This affords a conference attendee the benefit of pursuing answers to individualized concerns.
For instance, I'll always be grateful for the opportunity, a few years ago, to ply Dr. Maurice Gleeson with questions about my then-upcoming research trip to Ireland. He was so gracious to set aside time for us to meet so I could glean recommendations from him, something I wouldn't have been able to do if the conference schedule was more compact or if I hadn't decided in advance to have that goal of making the connection.
Likewise, last year was my opportunity to speak with Debbie Kennett, blogger at Cruwys News, about One-Name Studies. Considering that she is not only an author of two books and numerous articles—especially on genetic genealogy—but a researcher based in England, it's unlikely I'd otherwise have had such an opportunity.
So here I am, in a new conference season, and I'm prepared to pepper presenters with specific questions, once again. To do that, though, takes some planning, and some thinking through the processes, comparing which offered classes align with my own learning goals.
With the recent news in law enforcement circles about developments in the use of genetic genealogy, you can be sure I'll have questions coupled with unprecedented learning opportunities to hear from speakers such as Barbara Rae-Venter, who happens to be one of many presenters at Jamboree that I'm eager to hear this year. I'll be attending classes of several other selected speakers with specific questions in hand, as well.
It's one thing to sit back and let the conference planners take the driver's seat in designing the event's learning opportunities—and that may be a fine strategy for the casual learner—but I prefer to grab serendipity by the horns and run with the chance to meet my own learning objectives.