Guide to AAPT Conferences
Sessions: PER vs Non-PER
"PER sessions'' at AAPT are either sessions of invited talks organized through the RiPE committee, or are sessions of contributed talks that have been classified as PER. These are well attended by the PER community and when in doubt, attending these sessions will give you a good feel for the current physics education research in the states. e.g., PER: Investigating Classroom Strategies. Non-PER sessions (no prefix "PER" in front of the title) tend to be more practical. These sessions also address larger issues in the AAPT/PER community (e.g., racial and gender issues, curriculum standards - NGSS). K-12 teachers as well as researchers both attend and give these presentations. e.g., Innovative Undergraduate Labs.
Invited sessions can be sponsored by one (or two) committees, but the ones sponsored by RiPE are not labled "PER''.
While it is often tempting to jump between sessions to catch specific speakers, depending on the locations, it can take a significant amount of time to get between talks. While not a rule, some people think one's time is often best spent staying through an entire session. If you are resolute on leaving, though, it is recommended to sit by the door to disturb the least amount of people on your way out.
Meetings to Attend
RiPE Meeting: This is the meeting of AAPT's area committee for Research in Physics Education (RiPE). It is well attended by the PER community, so it is a good place to get to know the different personalities. Topics include planning PER sessions and workshops at future meetings.
PERTG Town Hall: This is a community meeting led by the elected, representative governing body of the PER Topical Group (PERTG) of the AAPT, also very well attended by the PER community. Topics include PER community events, announcements, and mini-grants and awards administered by PERTG.
Graduate Student Topical Discussion: This meeting is for graduate students to get together to meet others in our subcommittee and to discuss issues that effect us.
AAPT Area Committee meetings are mainly for planning that committee's sessions and workshops at future meetings. They often also include announcements and discussions of interest to that community. Meetings are generally informal roundtable discussions and are open to anyone who wants to attend. If you have ideas for conference sessions or workshops, other projects within the physics education community, or you want to be kept in the loop on upcoming plans, attending meetings of committees most appropriately suited to your ideas is a good place to begin your involvement.
Presentation Etiquette (quick tips on what to do when presenting at AAPT)
Locate the room you'll be presenting in and, if possible, familiarize yourself with the technology available (make sure they have what you need). If using video/audio, try to test volume of audio (always subtitle your media, though).
Arrive 10-15 mins before the start of the session.
Introduce yourself to the session moderator and to the other presenters.
Pay close attention to how the moderator signals how much time there's left on the presentation (usually moderators tell the whole group what her/his signals will be).
Stay until the very end of the session. Not only it's courteous to other presenters, but moderators sometimes end the session with general questions to all presenters.
After the session ends, consider exchanging contact information with whomever you thought was doing interesting/compatible work.
After-hours is a great time to interact and make friends with the PER community. PER usually hosts at least one night of Karaoke and there are often other large group socials as well. For details about social events, check the PERGS Google+ at the beginning of the meeting!
Free Food/Drinks: Book and lab equipment makers will often hold sponsored events where they will pay for catering and drinks. If you can get invited or simply find one of these events, they can be a good way to meet people while getting a belly full of food.
Make it a goal to meet as many people as possible. Go to lunch with new folks and find out what they makes them tick! If you have been reading papers from a certain author and admire that work - find them and tell them what specifically you found interesting, or better yet, bring with you some follow-up questions about the articles.