Notes from AERA11 in New Orleans

May 17, 2011, [MD]

AERA stands for the American Educational Research Association, but as with so many American associations, their annual meeting is a decidedly international affair. It's also gigantic, easily the largest meeting of educators in the world, with this year's meeting bringing some 13,000 attendees spread over 5 large hotels in downtown New Orleans.

This was my first time to AERA, and it was quite an overwhelming experience -- with often more than 100 parallel sessions going on at any time, on anything from adolescence to zone of proximal development, I tried to attend a variety of sessions in my field, to get a sense of the research going on. I also tried to take quite detailed notes on my new wiki, which worked really well (especially because I could do it offline -- connectivity was not the best).

I have a general list of all my AERA11 notes, and here I'll highlight some of the interesting sessions I went to. (I didn't get notes from all sessions, sometimes because I was too tired, or I didn't find it relevant, sometimes because I was out of power. I am seriously considering buying an external powerbar for future conferences, because having the ability to take notes throughout the day is a significant advantage.)

There was very little about open education at AERA, although Wendy Drexler did  a presentation about a MOOC. I hope to see more research on MOOCs, open courses, PLEs and so on, at future sessions. I was very happy that I went to the evening meeting of the special interest group on self-regulated learning. Allyson Hadwin gave an interesting presentation about fostering self-regulated learning in university students, but the papers I read before coming to the meeting were even more interesting, and I feel self-regulated learning and self-directed learning are fields that hold great promise for open education. How can we better help students at P2PU, or in MOOCs, motivate themselves, be meta-cognitively aware of their own learning, etc? (This was also one of the few occasions where I had time to do some reading before the meeting, which was very helpful).

Gerhard Fischer, a well known figure in CSCL, gave a great presentation on "a culture of participation". He seems to be doing some very interesting work, and is definitively someone I want to read more about/of. In the same session, there were also very good presentations by Sharon Derry, Mike Eisenberg and Alexander Repenning.

Dan Hickey gave a very inspiring presentation on participatory assessment, with many examples from his own work in schools and at university. Ever since I got to know him at P2PU's assessment workshop in Palo Alto, I've been very impressed by his work, and look forward to read more (see examples of his work at Working Examples).

There were a number of interesting presentations on pedagogical agents, by Heller, Procter, Kim, Haake. Silvervarg et al, Veletsianos, Adcock and Overmyer. I also got a good overview of the use of knowledge maps in education by Harold F. Neil & Greg Chung, Dirk Ifenthaler & Pablo Nicolai Pirnay Dummer, Roy B. Clarina, Furstenau, Oldenburger & Trojahner  and Breuer, Bender & Barry.

I look forward to the next AERA, in Vancouver. And I hope to also take a lot of notes at CSCL 2011 in HK.

Stian Thank you to David Paul Ohmer for the picture (CC BY)

Stian Håklev May 17, 2011 Toronto, Canada
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