Thursday, January 24, 2008

Virtual Conferences

It may sound weird, but I love going to technology conferences. Each year I get to go to CUE (Computer Using Educators) in Palm Springs and this year I plan to pay my own way to go to NECC 2008 in San Antonio - just because I feel it’s important to be there.

When I first started attending these events, it was all about the stuff. What were the coolest new tech toys? What new software titles did I want to add to my wish list for next year? I also did my best to religiously attend any and all sessions I could. Tell me more. Tell me more! I was a sponge.

Lately, my focus has seemed to shift away from the toys and all the information and focus more on the people. Networking! That’s what it’s all about now. I’ll gladly pass on a session to spend time talking and sharing ideas with a fellow educator. Sometimes I get to be the teacher, other times the learner. And sometimes, if I’m really lucky, both of us build upon each other’s thoughts and ideas and together we come up with something totally new. We'll also share Twitter and Skype names, blog and wiki addresses, and promise to stay in touch online.

The problem is, as my network grows and I start following more and more awesome educators, I hear about all these other great conferences that I would love to attend and speakers I would love to hear. For example, even though I’m here in California, I’m jealous of all you teachers enjoying FETC right now. I’m bummed I missed hearing Jeff Corwin speak - sounds like it was great! Unfortunately time, distance, and $$$ all prevent me attending.

Good news. Thanks to some cool online tools I can now attend some of these conferences virtually! Last night I was chatting with Diana Laufenburg, who will be presenting at EduCon 2008 this Saturday. Even though I can’t be there in person, I can watch her presentation live on UStream. In fact, EduCon has set up 8 Ustream channels and plans to webcast every presentation!

Earlier this year I was able to participate in the K12 Online Conference. This conference was completely virtual. All the sessions were webcast live or posted as pre-recorded podcasts with live chat discussions.

Discovery Education will also be presenting their own virtual conference on Saturday, February 2nd. For this one you can choose to attend in person with other educators at some of the satellite sites around the country, or participate from the comfort of your own home. Be sure to let Hall Davidson know if you're listening to his keynote address in your pajamas!

Is this the future of professional development? I'm not sure, but its nice to know that if I can't be there in person that don't have miss out completely.

Virtual Conference Links

EduCon 2008
Philadelphia, PA
Friday, Jan. 25 - Sunday, Jan. 27th, 2008
Conference Agenda and Ustream channels

Discovery Educator Network Virtual Conference
Saturday, February 2nd, 2008
Registration Page

K12 Online Conference
October 2007
(This event is over, but you can still access the archives)


Jerry said...

Hey Dennis...I am at FETC as we speak. Jeff Corwin was quite good. Although he did not speak much of technology, he delivered his message wth great passion and enthusiasm. Last year, Bill Nye was the keynote speaker and I was very turned off by his political views he presented in his speech. Corwin, although the opportunity was there, did not do this at all. All in all, it was a very entertaining keynote speech. Sorry you couldn't be here to see it.

Jenn said...

When I first started attending Technology Conferences I would come away overwhelmed, yet excited. Upon returning to the classroom I would often feel defeated. How am I supposed to affect change in THIS system?

Either times have changed, I have changed, or (most likely)both.

Now I come away excited and overwhelmed, but I try to take a moment and focus in on a few key learnings and a couple of projects that I want to implement. I try to keep that optimism and share it with others. It's just like a magic penny -- for those of you that know the song.

I am lucky enough to be planning the local version of the DEN virtual conference in Oregon. It feels wonderful to be able to provide this experience for teachers that will not have an opportunity to attend one of our regional or national technology conferences.

Thanks Dennis for pointing out even more opportunities to learn!

Dennis Grice said...

Thanks for the comment Jerry. I hope you're having a terrific time at FETC. If you get a chance to see Hall, Jannita, or any of my fellow STAR-DEN teachers be sure to send them greetings from rainy Southern California for me.

Dennis Grice said...

I agree Jenn. It's easy to feel defeated when your brain is full of so many great ideas that you want to implement immediately. I try to take some of that enthusiasm and share it with my teachers but sometimes it gets lost in the translation.

I keep thinking, "If they could just see what I've seen or hear what I heard. Then they would understand."

Lately I've been able to see some success working in small groups or individuals, focusing on specific classroom or lesson needs. (Your blog has been a great help with that - you've got such great ideas.) Last weekend we were able to get 9 of our middle school teachers to go to the local OCCUE Tech Fest, and yesterday I had 5 of our elementary teachers get together with me for the EdTechConnect Webinar with Tim Lauer. Lots of positive feedback from both. If I can't change the system all at once, I can still work to change it one teacher at a time.

By the way, if you know of any ITSC sessions that I can Ustream or Skype in, please let me know. I'm rapidly turning into a virtual conference junkie.

Anonymous said...

Dennis, I totally agree with you. If I were independently wealthy, I'd just travel from conference to conference and not to attend the sessions, but as you said, the networking is awesome! I always learn more in the first 10 minutes I'm at one of those things talking to educators than I can during the entire conference of sitting through sessions!

I will also be paying my own way to get to NECC 2008 (and I'll be presenting there, as well!) It totally won't bother me if people choose to network instead of come to my session - I understand!

Rob Jacklin said...

I'm with you man! I'm attending METC this week here in St. Louis! The thing I'm enjoying the most is the networking.

I've picked up a lot of little pieces at the conference, but the most significant parts have been conversations. It seems your head will always be too full to process everything, but conversations seem to be the cornerstone of my own personal learning!