Have passport, will travel: Tom Smith circles globe to present, learn, browse

Tom Smith
Tom Smith

Tom Smith really gets around.

In November, it was Taiwan. The Presidential Teaching Professor in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment (ETRA) made the journey to Asia to participate in the Taiwan Educational Research Association (TERA) conference in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and to deliver the keynote address at the International Conference on Education (ICE) conference at the National University of Tainan.

In his keynote, he spoke about some of his large-scale data set research on motivating and sustaining students’ interest in learning science.

While there, he also met and befriended João Maroco, an associate professor of statistics, research methods and data analysis at ISPA Instituto Universitário in Lisbon, Portugal.

The encounter was serendipitous: Smith already was registered to visit Portugal in January to attend the Lisbon Economics and Statistics of Education (LESE) conference – and, as fate would have it, Maroco was a keynote speaker and highly-involved in the organization of that event.

At the LESE conference, Smith presented a paper – a collaboration with David Walker, associate dean for Academic Affairs, and Hsiang-Ting (Tina) Chen, a postdoctoral visiting researcher in ETRA – that had probed data to confirm a connection between students’ sense of belonging in school and their attitude toward mathematics.

Presenting at LESE was a new experience for Smith, a seasoned veteran of academic conferences.

“A lot of the people there were actual economists, students in economics or researchers in economics with econometric models applied to education. I’ve never really seen that done before,” Smith says.

“The culture, or way of presenting, at an economics conference is a little different. They outline the entire study, and even the results, at the beginning,” he adds. “In education, we usually present our research as a story and build up to the end.”

Next on his itinerary: a quick trip to Paris for the Learning Technologies France Expo, which he attended as a curious spectator. The event has doubled in size in just two years, Smith says.

He found vendors, speakers and “all things related to learning technologies in educational and corporate settings and other institutional settings that are not formally educational.”

“It was fun. There were talks about trends in educational technology – the up-and-coming as opposed to the passé,” he says. “Educational technology is not my area, per se, but I use it and I’m interested in it. I just wanted to see what’s going on in with technology in education and what is popular, or what they find interesting, in Europe.”

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