Friday, August 1, 2014

Reflections from the ICOTS Conference: My First ICOTS Experience

Reflections from Liz

On the Wednesday of ICOTS, Ethan and I got to visit the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. While hiking near the volcano, I was amazed at the beautiful scenery all around, and the gorgeous views I got from every angle! At one point during the hike, Ethan picked up a rock and pointed out how interesting it looked up close (see the top left frame of my photo). When I shifted my perspective from looking far away to looking at things up close, I noticed the small details and intricacies of the scenery around me, such as the tree trunk that also appears in my photo. Although the “big picture” of the scenery was gorgeous to look at, I was slower to notice the additional beauty to be seen in the details up close!

Going into the conference, I think my perspective went the other way around: I was focused on the details, asking questions like: What details of the work I did for my 90-page pre-dissertation do I share for my 15-minute contributed talk? What individual presentations am I interested in attending? The first couple of days, I got caught up in the details of how I could “session-hop” from talk to talk in order to catch as many of the presentations as possible that I wanted to see. I ended up missing portions of the presentations I planned on seeing. So later on, I tried the “big picture” approach, asking: What session themes are most interesting to me? What major topics do I want to learn about?

Going to entire sessions helped me to see the bigger ideas and themes that connect the work of researchers and scholars around the world. One presentation I enjoyed was given by Douglas Whitaker from the Florida LOCUS group. In his talk, he had a slide of various assessments that have been developed in statistics education, including the GOALS assessment that our e-ATLAS team has been working on. The slide gave me a way to visualize how this assessment fits into a larger framework, and reminded me that there are various other people at different places who share the interest of developing good assessments.

I enjoyed not only meeting new people, but reconnecting with colleagues I already knew, including the SRTL friends I had met one year earlier! It was exciting to hear from many colleagues I already knew about how their research has continued to progress, not only during their presentations but also in informal conversations over meals and snacks. One invited session I enjoyed involved research by Susanne Podworny, Janet Ainley, Keren Aridor-Berger and colleagues on technology-enhanced learning environments. At this session, it was very interesting to learn more about the big picture of students’ learning trajectories while they used technology to reason about uncertainty, as well as the details of their reasoning as shown in several excepts of students’ dialogue.

ICOTS reminded me of the importance of collaboration, communication, and being aware of what statistics education colleagues around the world are doing. While the details of our own work are important, it is also essential to step back and look at how our work fits into a larger context. We are not alone—there are many, many others who share the goal of improving the grand landscape of statistics education!

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