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
Friday, Jan. 25 - Sunday, Jan. 27th, 2008
Conference Agenda and Ustream channels
Discovery Educator Network Virtual Conference
Saturday, February 2nd, 2008
K12 Online Conference
(This event is over, but you can still access the archives)