GA Conference 2021 - #2 - Making the most of it...

Updated 4th April
How do you make the most of a virtual conference? 

This year's GA Conference will be very different to last year's event, which had to be pulled together very quickly and was limited in scope, although very successful and well received by all. It offered pathways and rooms that were themed around a particular topic or key stage e.g. Primary.

This time round, there is full freedom and scope to move from session to session. 
All sessions will be recorded as well, and available to delegates after the event, so you'll actually not miss anything...
Not too late to book your place (although it may be by the time you read this)

Here are some ideas for making the most of this year's online conference.

1. Find yourself a suitable place to sit for up to two and a half days. 
Set reminders on devices so that you don't miss the key sessions that will be of particular interest to you.
Make yourself comfortable. Cushions, suitable ambient temperature and good posture.
Make sure any devices (more than one is preferable) are fully charged, and plug them in to charge on Thursday and Friday night to avoid having to plug them in during the day.
Depending on the weather, wifi strength and outside space, consider getting some fresh air for at least part of the day. Fingers crossed for a good weather forecast towards the end of next week.

2. It's a little early for the shops and cinemas to be open again sadly, but people can now get outside and also move a little further from home, so persuade your partner and any children to head out for the day if you can, with some money for fish and chips, and ask them to bring some home for you in the evening to save having to cook. If not, then my noise cancelling headphones will be getting some use.

3. Get Tweetdeck up on one of your devices - an iPad or similar is perfect for this. I have 4 columns preset for my @GeoBlogs account (if you don't follow me, then request to do so here - if you're a geographer, I'll accept your request fairly promptly... I protect my account to stop spam)
These show: 
- my main twitter feed @GeoBlogs
- the conference hashtag #GAConf21 - don't forget to add it to any tweets you write / RT - please keep the RTs coming to share interesting sessions with others - perhaps we can get the conference trending this year...
- Notifications - I hope people will be talking about me (in a good way) 
- Direct Messages

4. Make sure that you have spare batteries for any devices that need them e.g. headphones, and all relevant cables and adaptors.

5. Note-taking. It's said that you remember more if you take your notes by hand but we all have our own preferred method. 
6. Look at something you can try to put into action in the short term, and something to plan to do by the end of this academic year, and something to use from September onwards as a result of the conference sessions.
For example, why not join this Friday session, which is a relatively recent addition to the programme:

Writing workshop

Friday 1pm start, hosted by Gemma Collins

If you have been thinking about writing about your practice for any of the GA journals – Geography, Primary Geography, or Teaching Geography – or would like to do so and are unsure of where to start, we would love you to join this informal session. Hosted by the Geography Education Research working group, and joined by representatives of the GA journals, we will talk about the benefits of writing for the GA, as well as how some of the barriers to doing so might be overcome. You’re welcome to bring any emerging ideas with you for discussion, but this is not a prerequisite to joining the session. Everyone is welcome, and we would particularly encourage anyone new to writing to take up this supportive, friendly opportunity to find out more. Click here to join the Zoom meeting.

7. The full session details are now available on the GA's website:

Thursday / Friday - come along to the GA Awards to find out who will be following me as GA Vice President for next year, as that will be announced on the day.
Social events - including some lunchtime chats - there is also a Wonder Room, which is open throughout the conference for chats and meetups

One of the things I've made for myself is a list of sessions I intend to attend. Print the lists out or copy and paste them into a document. Highlighter pen on paper is always my preferred method.

8. Chat to colleagues on WhatsApp, or however you communicate outside of work emails which I hope have their 'Out of Office' settings on by now, to liaise over attending particular sessions and organise part of your first Departmental Meeting in the Summer term to be feeding back on what you each took from the sessions you attended.

9. Stay hydrated - keep plenty of water, coffee or whatever takes your fancy to hand during the day, along with suitably (un)healthy snacks. Also have a beverage to hand for a few of the events such as the Dressed up Drinks on Thursday.

10. If you are a teacher, make a note to get your students involved in next year's Young Geographers' sessions. This year's can be viewed here. The day is chaired by the Vice President, which this year is me. Suitable for students from age 14-18. Places are free of charge and available to students of GA members only. One teacher must be booked to attend Conference as a delegate to secure the places.

11. Make sure that you sign up to attend the Teachmeet on the Friday evening once the day's official proceedings are over, and organised by David Rogers, supported by Discover the World Education.

12. Surprise yourself. Don't always go to the 'obvious' sessions and familiar names... 
One regular spot for me is the session organised by Sharon Witt and Helen Clarke which is always surprising, playful and rooted in rigorous thinking. After channelling the power of pigeons, bats and gnomes, this year it is Winnie the Pooh.

13. Susan Pike's Presidential Lecture is on Friday at 10.30. 

14. Don't forget the Decolonising Geography 'pathway' session that I blogged about previously, which includes a session from Charlotte Milner. Charlotte put herself forward for election to the Governing Body. The result of that election and also the news on 2022-3 GA President will be announced too. Remember to keep an eye out for these opportunities to get more involved in the workings of the GA.

15. You could be part of next year's programme at the University of Guildford. Submissions will start to be taken from May 2021. Start thinking of a suitable session around the theme of 'Everyday Geographies'.

And of course:

16: Don't forget to attend the sessions that I'm involved in, such as the Generous Geographers panel on the Friday at 9am (nice and early) with Jen Monk, Simon Catling and Gemma Collins, chaired by Susan Pike.

Any other suggestions welcome.

Image copyright: Bryan Ledgard / Geographical Association - Teachmeet at the Guildford Conference.

This looks like being a useful session for our international colleagues (and others)