The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) hosts an annual conference each November, where participants can convene, have conversations, and share insights on new literacy practices and research. Most attendees are literacy educators from all over the United States, but among them are also authors and researchers, who have a shared passion and interest for literacy. Through practice- and research-based sessions, literacy educators have the opportunity to acquire new strategies, network with like-minded professionals, and even obtain a new selection of books for classroom libraries.
In 2019, the convention was held in Baltimore, MD, and I was fortunate to be able to attend and present for the occasion. The theme for this conference was Spirited Inquiry, and the motto was, “Let’s dare to wonder, to be bold and creative in our curiosity.” A large number of sessions were based on topics that explored how teachers can have an inquiry-stance in their teaching, and how to encourage and empower students to practice inquiry in their learning. In some sessions, teachers also shared their reflections to findings that occurred as a result of inquiry-based practice.
NCTE was my first conference experience, both as an attendee and as a presenter. As representatives of Dr. Kim’s team, a colleague and I did a panel presentation, as well as a poster presentation of research on digital storytelling that we have been working on for the past year. Since Dr. Kim was presenting at another conference at the same time, she was not physically present with us, but met with us several times prior to the conference to discuss and practice the content of our presentations.
On the days leading up to the conference dates, I was filled with equal parts excitement and anxiety. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and how to best prepare myself for what’s to come. However, as soon as I arrived, I was comforted by the strong sense of community. The area surrounding the convention center was inundated with educators who all had the same passion and mission. Some attendees arrived in groups, and some were excited to have their annual reunion with regular attendees. Many others were strangers to one another, but the common ground established a basic rapport among all. The conference badges served as a sort of symbol that we were all part of the same community. In passing, strangers would smile at each other or spark up conversation upon recognition of the badge.
The panel session I presented for was entitled Inquiry on Digital and Multimodal Literacies in Rural and Urban Contexts, and aside from my colleague and I, there were two other groups who presented on technology tools that are used in literacy instruction. This opportunity allowed me to meet with and hear about the work of other academics who are studying topics that are under the same umbrella as our team’s research.
The poster presentation was a very different and more interactive experience. Some teachers who were interested in implementing digital storytelling in their classrooms stopped by to ask some questions about our work and how they could adapt projects in their classrooms.
There was an overwhelming amount of sessions and activities concurrently happening at the conference. We were given a thick booklet, and within each hour, an average of 50 sessions were going on. I initially wanted to attend as many sessions as possible, but I quickly learned that it was too demanding to attend more than 3 sessions within a day. I decided to refine my goals for the conference based on my interests. I suggest any future first-time conference goers to do the same!
(To be continued...)