Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

Consider Attending an ISPA Colloquium: It May Be Cheaper Than You Think

Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

Consider Attending an ISPA Colloquium: It May Be Cheaper Than You Think

Article excerpt

I think of ISPA (International School Psychology Association) colloquia as a summer camp experience for adults. Every year we convene in a different country, but the conference has an invariant set of rituals. Morning reveille, evening taps, the daily swimming lessons at the lake, and the group games and arts and crafts activities are replaced by the opening ceremony, the welcome party, daily keynote sessions, communal lunches, workshops and papers, and finally, the closing ceremony and farewell banquet. Each year, old familiar campers (er... ISPA members) return, but we welcome newcomers into the fold, too. This year I met someone who helped plan the Southampton colloquium back in the early days of ISPA, a conference that lives on in infamy in the annals of ISPA (but that's a story for another time).

Each year is different, too, of course. Which is what draws you back, year after year. What new experiences will this year hold? Utrecht, Holland, the site of the 2008 Colloquium held in early July, has an old city center with cobblestone streets lining canals, shops and cafes, and a wonderful Cathedral with a tower that can be scaled if you're willing to climb the 400 steps to the top. I learned that coffee shops spelled with a k sell coffee, but if they're spelled with a cyou can find marijuana, along with a room set aside to smoke your purchase. Bicycles whiz everywhere-and the riders feel it's incumbent on the pedestrian to watch out for them. They're all one-speed bikes (Who needs more than one speed in a flat country?) and no one wears helmets. Who knew?

I always learn something, too, from the sessions I attend. I do admit I have trouble staying awake during the keynotes, given the time it takes my arcadian rhythms to adjust to a new time zone. I warned the friend sitting next to me one day that I was likely to fall asleep in the middle of the lecture. He said, "I'll nudge you awake," to which I replied, "No, don't. I need my sleep." But the workshops and symposiakept me awake. At a workshop on dyslexia, I learned that in Holland, the main reading problem children experience is fluency. The language is so regular (each letter making only one predictable sound for the most part) that phonological processing is not particularly demanding. You can imagine that GBM, with its focus on fluency, is a useful progress monitoring strategy. And they've developed some wonderful computer software to help improve fluency. One involves having children read sentences silently at a rate that is slightly faster than their baseline rate-as they read, the letters in the words gradually disappear from left to right across the screen. These same young researchers have developed other computer games to promote literacy. Ayoung guy, a researcher at the University of Amsterdam, who couldn't have been more than 28 said, 'We figure if we like playing the games, children will, too." It makes me think that school psychology needs to tap into the computer gaming generation more to develop software to promote literacy and learning.

When I talk to NASP members about attending an ISPA colloquium, the answer I too often get is, "I'd love to, but I can't afford it." Although the expense cannot be denied, I think there are ways to make it affordable-or at least to spread the costs out to avoid sticker shock. Here are some ideas for doing that:

* Purchase the elements of the trip in installments-first the plane flight, then the colloquium registration, hotel deposit, then the remaining hotel fee once you're there. …

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