Sound Education 2019 – Reflection

Leave a comment

October 14, 2019 by Dr. G

At the end of every conference I attend, I pull together a reflection of my thoughts on what I learned, what new information made me want to do a deeper dive into that topic, and what parts I wasn’t so thrilled about. I’ll try to pull together my thoughts about Sound Education 2019, but this reflection is a hard one for me to compose.

Sound Education 2018 had 150 speakers with 600+ conference participants. I haven’t seen the statistics from this year’s conference, but it looks comparable. From Thursday through Saturday, people gathered from the local Boston area and from quite a distance (Canada, Mexico, Scotland, Germany, Latvia) for learning and networking with educational podcasters, audio producers, and listeners.

So this was a very different conference for me. The geoscience conferences I typically attend have anywhere from 8,000 to 25,000 people in the convention center, and the presentations are on topics related to my professional background. Although I have attended podcasting workshops and have experience creating audio narratives with students, it was a different collection of people gathered together. On the plus side, I find that as I progress in my career, I’m actually learning more from going to conferences outside of my discipline – communications conferences, for example, have been extremely beneficial and complimentary to my teaching, outreach, and science communication efforts.

But when things go opposite of what I expect at a conference, I get thrown off and sometimes frustrated. For example, several of the sessions had titles and descriptions at this conference that did not match what was presented. My geoscience conferences require a 500-word abstract, and in that case, more is better – I have an understanding of what will be covered. Podcasters are creative people, and some of the titles had words/concepts in them that were not part of the session, so I was left confused and frustrated. I do exercises with my students on developing meaningful titles that reflect the content of what they are writing about in my courses, and this needs to be carried through to all professional dissemination opportunities.

I wish I had known exactly where the conference venues were well in advance, when I had booked my hotel. Since this was my first time attending, and the conference was listed as being hosted by a podcast at Harvard Divinity School, I assumed the conference was being held on Harvard University’s campus. It turns out that almost all of the sessions were across the Charles River at Boston University (see map on right). I tried to use public transit as much as I could, but a couple of sessions were too far away and required Uber (I know, students – I talk all the time about how Uber is causing more traffic problems and increasing overall CO2 emissions on the planet – I feel guilty enough!).

Now the conference app was very helpful, and it had some neat features to try to create a sense of community with discussion forums and ways to message other participants. I’m pleased to see more and more conferences use mobile apps to help with keeping the schedule organized and to send out “blast” announcements of last-minute changes.

If I had to describe my overall conference experience, I would use the phrase “hit and miss.” Some of the sessions and keynotes really knocked it out of the park for me. The training by Hindenburg on the first day was exactly something I was looking for. But the keynote on the first evening left me frustrated.

And there was some strange bowing down to Malcolm Gladwell. During one keynote, I counted that his name was dropped over 8 times (in less than an hour!). I’ve read his books, and his content is interesting. But it was really strange to hear the nonstop mentioning of his name – to me, it reflected a community too focused on one person/speaker and again not open and receptive to the many voices that are podcasting.

On the flip side, Tom Webster from Edison Research provided such an informative overview of the changing audiences for podcasts (even though I already heard him speak at Podcast Movement, I appreciated hearing the data again!). And there were useful tips I took away from each of the sessions that related to podcasting and higher education, such as:

I think the two sessions that will have the longest impact on me (and now that it is a few days after the conference has ended and I’ve had time to reflect) were the sessions by Ian Elsner and museums and their podcasts (can/should museums always be a trusted source? How can we think more critically about museums?) and Jason Gots “closing his laptop” and not running podcast interviews from a script but instead embracing “play” to create stories with guests.

And of course, I learned about some excellent new podcasts to check out, from TIL Climate to Museum Archipelago. And I even got to spend a little time with a Penn State colleague, Jenna Spinelle, who is key to the production of Penn State’s Democracy Works podcast!

Me and Jenna!

I still felt that there was a lack of scholarship when it came to podcasts presented at this conference, a lack of research and assessment, which is the world I live in as a faculty researcher. I was also shocked at how few presenters and rooms were equipped and ready to play podcasts during the presentations, which impacted my experience. I’m off to one additional podcast conference this academic year, Podfest Expo 2020, and it will be interesting to compare my experiences across Podcast Movement, Sound Education, and Podfest Expo 2020. I still have much to learn about podcasting, but where to go for this professional development in the next year remains to be seen…





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


Follow me on Instagram

Today I attended a conference event like no other I've attended in all of my meeting experiences.... the Ocean Sciences Storytellers program! #OSM20 connected with 10 public libraries in San Diego and arranged for ocean scientists to participate in a storytime event for kids! We each received an ocean-themed book to bring to the library, to read, and then to donate to the library's collection. Wendy from @sdpubliclibrary Central Library led an amazing storytime, with three of us from Ocean Sciences (Riley, Heather, and myself) reading books and talking about our lives as oceanographers. We sung songs, danced to Baby Shark, and more, with over 20 kids and their adults that drove them there (the kids were less than 6 years old)! Soooooo much fun in such a great space! #storytime #drseuss #thelorax #library #storytime #storytellers
Tuesday at #OSM20 ended with back-to-back-to-back events for me! I presented my poster on using quilts for scientific storytelling (Stitching Hope for the Louisiana Coast). There was so much interaction with attendees, hearing their own quilt stories - and so many people asked to film me descirbing my quilts, and I was even interviewed for a podcast! Then it was off to the NASA Earth Science Division Town Hall to hear the latest-and-greatest from NASA. And the day wrapped with with a student/alumni reception with the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science (@umiamirsmas), where I earned my PhD in marine geology & geophysics.
The Exhibit Hall at any meeting, including #OSM20, is always an interesting experience, filled with scientific instruments and visual displays you may want but have no room/no need for (or cannot afford), booths of universities promoting their graduate programs, the NASA hyperwall you wish you could just sit in front of and be mezmerized by all day, and book publishers with so many amazing books you wish you had time to read.... except there is one I am going to shameless promote on behalf of my brother-in-law. Richard J. King wrote Ahab's Rolling Sea: A Natural History of Moby Dick. In this book, Rich details what was known about whales and natural history back in Herman Melville's time, and what events from Melville's own life experiences influenced the writing of his classic book.Be sure to pick up a copy at The University of Chicago Press booth! (*photos of the @uchicagopress booth taken with permission)
As a blogger for @americangeophysicalunion I am able to attend press events and briefings at #OSM20 (it is a great opportunity for me to gather information to later blog about). I started Tuesday morning learning about Oceanography in Space, and how Earth's ocean can act like an analog for oceans in space. I honestly wasn't aware of how many oceans exist on the planets/moons in our solar system, and why we need to understand our own ocean better (what's at the bottom, ocean circulation, life at vents and other regions, etc.). So many missions I'll now be paying attention to - Dragonfly, Europa Clipper, Jupiter ICy moon explorer (JUICE), and Cassini-Huygens... The best take-home message for me was that oceanographic knowledge is needed for planning these forward missions, but we can then reverse engineer to study our own ocean. Going to space let's us go back and look at Earth.
In addition to the three(!) sessions I was chairing on Monday, I was able to attend a few others, such as this #OSM20 Town Hall on the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. I had attended a Town Hall back in 2018 at the AGU Fall Meeting on the same topic, and I'm really looking forward to celebrating all-things ocean in 2021-2030! Alas, this session didn't seem to provide quite the information the audience was looking for - such as, how can we become involved? As the IOC still needs to approve the plans to oversee official activities, we were challenged to think about getting knowledge needed to make decisions for sustainable development, and how to elevate programs that are already taking place. Seems like we shouldn't wait for 2021 - contributions, collaborations, and communications can/should certainly be taking place now. The ocean can't wait for us.
%d bloggers like this: