I'm in Baltimore for the National Task Force on CME Provider/Industry Collaboration conference, which is one of those typically brain-exhausting two-day information marathons where so much gets thrown at you you're lucky if anything sticks. As was made kind of obvious at the opening general session, when the conference chair asked the audience members who had attended the previous year if 1) they remembered one thing they had learned last year, and 2) if they had done anything differently because of what they learned. I saw maybe five or 10 hands go up in that crowd of a couple hundred people. Ouch.
But the organizers recognized that this was a problem (they are, after all, adult ed experts) and decided to try something new this year. They handed out a reflection sheet that had a space for the session title and speaker name, key points made, and action plan and implications. They even included a 10-minute period after the keynote to fill out the form and discuss your key points and action plans with others at the table, which I found incredibly useful. Unfortunately, the next 10-minute "reflection and application" period doesn't happen until the very end of the conference, and we've only been reminded to do it I think once since, but it's a start. They also are using some sort of a closed electronic system that allows people to follow along with the PowerPoints and submit questions in some sessions.
It is a bit depressing to see these folks (again, experts in adult ed) doing the same old bad practice of cramming way too much into their hour-long presentations, but I guess old habits are wicked hard to break. Is it the fear that people won't think they're getting their money's worth if the presentations were more streamlined and interactive? This deserves some thought, since we all (OK, well most of us) seem to be clinging to this with a death grip even when we know it's not the best way to educate. Building in a few 10-minute discussion and reflection periods are at least a start (and the communities of practice sessions, at least the one I went to, was much more a discussion than a lecture, and probably was one of the most useful sessions of the day for me).
On the plus side: The Marriott Waterfront makes a mean crabcake, of which I partook happily at the reception last night. Now if we could just get WiFi in the ballroom and breakout rooms, I'd be a happy camper.