In August 2004 I went to Rotterdam, the Netherlands for a conference. I was presenting my work on a recent meta-analysis of STEM simulations for learning. (You can read more about it here and can download the report here.) The conference was a meeting for two special interest groups of EARLI (the European version of AERA) – Instructional Design and Learning & Instruction with Computers. It was a small conference with no concurrent sessions (i.e., we were all in the same room for the entire conference) which was really nice because a) I didn’t have to make any decisions and wonder if I chose the wrong concurrent session and b) I was exposed to a bunch of interesting research that was a bit outside my normal area.
I had been to the Netherlands before, 10 years earlier, as part of a three-week bus tour of Europe that I went on right before I started grad school. During that trip I spent two days in Amsterdam and saw a wooden shoe making demo and ate lots of pommes frites and gouda cheese. This time, although I was flying into Amsterdam, I really only had time to check out Rotterdam which worked out well. Rotterdam is a really interesting city and I’m glad I had some time to explore it. The architecture in Rotterdam is unique and kind of weird because a lot of the old buildings (like those you might see in Amsterdam) were destroyed in WWII. So, when they rebuilt the city they invited a variety of architects to try out things. The result is an eclectic and inviting city with surprises around every corner.
I took the train from Amsterdam, which was a quick 20 minutes or so on the express train (the non-express was about an hour). It rained nearly all of that first day, but I still managed to figure out the light rail system, find my hotel, stumble upon a giant farmers’ market/flea market/fish market, and wander around the museumpark (it’s a park that has museums in it!).
By the end of the day I was exhausted. I had been awake for a very long time (didn’t really sleep on the plane too much). But I saw almost all of the city and went to a really nice art museum. I got to sleep in a bit the next day because the conference didn’t start until after lunch so that was nice.
The conference was being held at the Erasmus University Rotterdam which was a nice 15-20 minute walk from my hotel. It took me a while to find the rooms where the conference was being held (protip: make sure there are signs pointing to the rooms from the place where most people will be coming or at least send out an email with the room numbers!); a good way to find a conference is to follow people that are carrying poster tubes.
The conference went really well. I met lots of cool people doing interesting work. My paper was nominated for the best paper award (but it didn’t win). I got to talk a lot about the gory details of doing a big meta-analysis with some local grad students. I learned a lot about eye tracking studies. There were also a bunch of good talks on collaborative learning which is one of research foci right now.
I had a great time and would totally go back to Rotterdam. There were lots of cool shops and restaurants and museums. I would also probably go to that conference again. It’s good to meet new researchers and expand your disciplinary boundaries once in a while.
The rest of the pictures can be found on flickr.