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AERA: Research Conference Goes Mobile

The American Educational Research Association's annual conference kicks off a week from Friday in my hometown of New Orleans, La., with a focus on connecting education to the larger cultural, social and technological changes that affect how modern students learn.

AERA's is easily the largest education conference of the year, with nearly 14,000 attendees expected and literally thousands of presentations by national and international researchers. If you're a veteran of one of these week-long marathons (like me), you're probably familiar with the conference program, which weighs roughly a ton.

"With more than 2,000 sessions, it's very difficult for people to navigate, and carrying the 'phone book' is not something attendees look forward to," said Phoebe Stevenson, AERA's deputy executive director.

That's why, in keeping with the theme, AERA has launched a new, free mobile application intended to help conference-goers navigate the substantive sessions. It will allow users to browse or search sessions and will include the time and location, as well as the presenters and an abstract of each report.

Apparently this project has been in the works for five years, but the conference is so mammoth that it's taken until this year for app developers to actually have the technology to include all of the data, Stevenson told me.

It also will connect sessions to the Twitter feed coming out of the conventions, so attendees can check out the buzz coming out of presentations if they can't attend themselves, and a search tool to automatically find interesting sessions and sync the details to a smart-phone calendar.

"If you're at a session and come across a speaker and think she's really phenomenal, you can click on her name and the app will pull up all the sessions that speaker will participate in," Stevenson said.

Having lugged my share of paper programs over the years, I can say I've already downloaded the app, which went live Thursday night for Apple's iPhone and iPad, with versions for Android and Blackberry platforms coming out in the next few days. I can offer a word of advice: This is a hefty application, so you may want to download it through your computer, or else be prepared for a long download time.

Aside from a few technology related conferences like the National Educational Computing Conference, this is the first time I've seen an education association doing this sort of thing.

Readers, have you seen any great apps to keep up with education research?

Participants can download the free conference app via the Apple App Store, or here, or access the Web-based app here.

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