Mark Powell The 2012 NAFSA Annual Conference & Expo may seem a bit overwhelming at times with so many educational and networking offerings, and exhibitors in the Expo Hall. These concerns may be allayed through the use of several different kinds of technology available to conference goers. Most of the types of technology mentioned in this blog will involve either smartphones or tablets. Get out your mobile devices and let's get started!

Mobile Web sites
Mobile Web sites are specially created Web sites designed to work on smartphones and tablets. They generally contain only the crucial and functional features of a desktop Web site. There are two specific mobile Web sites that have been created for the 2012 Conference in Houston: the conference mobile Web site.

Mobile Apps
There are many mobile apps that are available for smartphones that will be of great help during the conference. They will help you find places to eat, exchange “virtual business cards,” scan QR codes for information, and help you manage your volunteer shifts at the conference.

Have you been researching the many delicious restaurants in Houston? Have you checked out the Good Eats food blog for restaurant suggestions? Want to venture out on your own gastronomic quest in Houston? If the last option is how you like to roll, Urbanspoon is the app for you. You can search nearby restaurants or if you're feeling lucky, select a neighborhood and cuisine and let Urbanspoon do the picking for you.

Did you not bring enough business cards with you to the conference or did you forget them when packing? If you have an iPhone or Android phone, your problem is solved. You can download the Bump mobile app and share your contact information with other iPhone and Android phone users. After installing the app, select the contact information you want to share and bump phones with the person you want to share your contact information with. It's as simple as that.

QR Code Scanners
QR codeWondering what the funny looking checkered graphic does? That’s a QR code (Quick Response Code) which is a type of matrix barcode which has become popular for disseminating information via smartphones. You might see barcodes in the Expo Hall or other areas around the convention center. Many QR code scanner/readers are available for your mobile device. The example QR code will take you to a page for more information about the Tech Fair at NAFSA.

Those of you who have volunteered for the Conference received a link to the ShiftBoard Web site to schedule volunteer shifts during the conference. Shiftboard has a mobile app for the iPhone which you can use during the conference. If you need to add or delete shifts, you can do it all on your phone. If you are interested in volunteering there are still plenty of shifts available for you to pick up. Learn more at

If you have a Twitter account, don't forget to use the #NAFSA12 hashtag when tweeting about the conference! Be sure to add one of the Tweetups to your agenda where you can meet up with fellow NAFSA tweeters.

You have less than four weeks to use these mobile apps and Web sites to prepare yourself for the 2012 NAFSA Annual Conference & Expo in Houston. There will be Wi-Fi available for free in the public spaces located on levels two and three of the George R. Brown Convention Center. See you in Houston!

Are you bringing a tablet to the conference? If so, what apps are you planning to use for taking notes and organizing your conference experience?

Mark Powell has spent his career working in academia both at Brigham Young University and the University of Texas at Austin. He made his first study abroad trip to the Soviet Union in 1991. In addition to studying Russian, he has taught ESL in the United States, Mexico, and Russia. He has been involved in NAFSA for almost six years. He served on the Region III Team for three and a half years as the Tech SIG Liaison. He most recently was the co-organizer of the first ever Technology Fair at the NAFSA Conference in 2011 in Vancouver. He will be coordinating the Technology Fair again in Houston this year. Mark lived in Austin, TX for the past 18 years and loved it there. Currently, he is the Program Coordinator, IELP Division of International Education at University of New Orleans