#LRA15 Day 1 Recap

As a second year doctoral student, I’ve been told by colleagues and classmates time and time again that going to conferences are one of the most important experiences that a doctoral student can do for a budding career in the field. Connections are made and you leave sessions brimming with ideas and conversations just waiting to be had. My day was packed with interacting with amazing people and their ideas, and I’d like to briefly recap on it:

  • 8:45 — I started my day doing my very first Pecha-Kucha presentation with a group of fantastic individuals on the greater topic of MOOCs and online learning environments, where I presented my paper about #WalkMyWorld, a social media project in which I was a participant and then a researcher (my #WalkMyWorld intro post is here) — I focused on the planning, purpose, and implementation of #WalkMyWorld, but there were four other fantastic presentations about MOOCs, connectedness, text, community, and even another about #WalkMyWorld! We had a productive discussion about the tensions and challenges that MOOCs and online learning environments present to us, and at the end our fantastic discussant, Michael Manderino, tied our presentations together artfully. It was a pleasure to present alongside Hiller Spires, Neil Hasser, W. Ian O'Byrne, and Sue Ringler Pet.
Giving my first Pecha Kucha presentation EVER about #WalkMyWorld!
  • 10:30 —I attended a session with Kate Shands Haq and Lori around the concept of Whiteness and its impact on literacy teaching and research. This session critically deconstructed the generally unexamined dominant discourses of Whiteness in U.S. society, making visible how powerfully and deeply it is entrenched in our institutions and, of course, the texts we use with our students.
  • 12:00 — The Doctoral Student Innovative Community Group was presented by D. Ray Reutzel and Kelly Cartwight, and we picked up great tips on writing a proposal and carrying it all the way through presentation, as well as what to expect at research conferences. We had a very productive Q&A session at the end, and I was able to meet other doctoral students, some of whom I’d already met thanks to our online community on Facebook and Twitter.
  • 1:15 — One of the best presentations that I’ve ever seen was the alternative format session titled “Measure Upon Measure, or As You Light It” — basically, a wonderfully witty and Shakespearean twist on a typical research presentation. It focused on the complexity of methodological choice in literacy research- I was particularly drawn to the particular focus on emphasis on multimodal analysis. While there were elements of typical presentation (i.e. Powerpoints and a question/answer period at the end), each presenter took on a Shakespearean identity and turned their presentation into a grand performance. I suppose I never expected this particular kind of creativity and (dare I say it) fun at a research conference. I expected Power Points and Pecha Kucha… but in this session instead we were treated to much more. Thanks to the inspiring performances of George Hruby, Karen Wohlwend, Frank Serafini, Mary McVee, Leslie David Burns, and Susan Florio-Ruane as well as the very active discussion at the end, I think both Kate and I left with our heads exploding with ideas and new ways to approach our own research.
  • 3:15 — Because of our work with disciplinary literacies, engineering, and elementary students in our GA, Kate and I attended a session about disciplinary literacies that focused on different perspectives on disciplinary literacy. Thinking about our elementary engineering club that we are involved with at UB and the Center for Literacy and Reading Instruction, we were particular taken by Nathan Phillips’s PK presentation, in which he described this idea of not necessarily helping kids take on that identity of those professionals in the disciplines (being a scientist, or in our case, being a civil or mechanical engineer) but to introduce and guide them in using the tools and knowledge that these professionals use so they can pursue their own interests.
  • 4:45 — After some awards were given, we were treated to LRA president Janice Almasi (who spent 9 years at UB and mentored some of my current and former professors during in their doctoral work!), who discussed a broad range of topics in literacy research as well as her current research with children with ADHD using the metaphor of border crossings. She began by telling the story of her family’s border crossings, from geographic to cultural to linguistic to educational. This led to discussion about crossing borders in our own research and becoming more interdisciplinary. She used the image of the famous dress that broke the internet this past February, showing how multiple fields provided their ideas to explain the phenomena that had us stumped and divided.
Originally from: http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/experts-dress-blue-black-white-gold-article-1.2131551
  • .The border crossing discussion inevitably moved to the refugee crisis situation in our world today, and how borders function in all aspects of our lives. It was impressive to hear her talk at length, weaving so many ideas cohesively throughout her discussion using the narrative of her family’s history. Of course, she received a standing ovation following the culmination of her address.

Kate, Lori, and I found our way to the Presidential Reception and enjoyed some exceptionally prepared food. Now, my family might pick on me for this relentlessly, but a post where I am traveling would not be quite complete if I didn’t do a description of the food that we had. First, there were these gnocchi that seemed to be made with sweet potatoes instead of white, because they were sweet and served with delectable caramelized onions. Then, I grabbed a soft taco with a perfectly prepared carne asada (note: it was incredibly hard to choose between this and the mahi mahi as the taco protein) and loaded that up with fresh guac and pico de gallo. Though the temperature dropped to about 50 degrees as we stood eating out there that night around a small table with a little plastic candle, we three doc students from Buffalo braved the chill (as we do eight months out of the year!) and just took it all in.

So, what my colleagues and classmates who’ve come before me held to be true: there’s really nothing quite like going to a big research conference like LRA when it comes to sparking ideas, productive conversation, and making connections with great thinkers and doers in our field.

Stay tuned for Day 2 and Day 3! Also, please feel free to share your favorite LRA conference experiences here and also on social media using the hashtag #LRA15.