Blog Post

Productive Small Conference Format: University of Iowa's 4CAST

On January 12, I participated in The University of Iowa’s 4CAST conference. Created by Iowa’s Informational Technology Services, Center for Teaching, and the UI Libraries, the yearly conference is intended to bring together faculty and staff to talk about technology and pedagogy on campus: what new technologies people are working with, what projects they are working on, and what upcoming events they should be aware of. This year, the theme was “Productive Disruption: Engaging Students’ Digital Lives To Enrich Learning.”  

Here, I want to share the conference’s format, which I thought was fantastically effective. It seems like the sort of event that HASTAC scholars could consider putting together at their own institutions.

The conference, which took place during Iowa’s winter break / winter session, was quick: just one day, from 10am to 2pm. Each presenter set up a table and prepped a quick spiel on the project they were involved in; groups of ten moved from table to table at the sound of a buzzer. Each group had 15 minutes at each table, to listen and ask questions. Six presenters tabled in the morning session, then swapped out for six more in the afternoon. (I presented THATCamp Iowa City, which Melody Dworak and I are currently organizing.)

Over lunch, keynote Kyle Bowen, Director of Informatics at Purdue University, spoke about using students’ digital lives to help learning and teaching.

4CAST emphasized the use of Twitter--the conference's feed (color-coded according to group) was constantly active. The balance between the tabling format and organized groups moving from table-to-table worked (from my angle, as a presenter) really well. The conference had been well-promoted, and once people were there, the conference’s quick pace helped keep things focused and interesting. Afterwards, conference and presenter materials (e-mailed to organizers) were made available online.

The event was a reminder that things don't have to be super-long or involved to be useful--this four hour-event helped connect dozens of enthusiastic people and projects on campus!



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