Saturday, January 12, 2008

To Conference or not to Conference: This is not the question

I love conferences! I love meeting new like-minded people. I love sessions where I take lots of notes. I love the hype, the buzz, the learning. For me there is no question, given a chance to go to a conference I grab it willingly and with the expectation that it will be worthwhile to me as a learner and as an educator.

My school have just approved a team of 5, including me, to attend NECC in San Antonio! I am doubly excited. NECC is still my absolute favourite conference, and now I can share it with my immediate colleagues. I am also doubly, doubly (??) excited as I am reading international blogs and finding others who are 'online friends' who are also making the trip this year such as Jo McLeay and Judy O'Connell.

However, planning and running a conference is no mean feat and we are just starting to look at what we can do here in Qatar in 12-18 months time in terms of bringing in consultants and educators who can inspire and take our school and others in Doha on a fast trip to a further change in mindset. I came across Mark Wagner's blog post today, What's your ideal educational technology conference?
Mark is helping develop a conference in California and asks these questions:
  1. If you were on the conference planning committee, what theme would you suggest for Fall 2008? (I’d love to hear why, too.)
  2. What keynote speakers would you most like to see? (And while the speakers from 2006 and 2007 are among my favorites, we won’t be having any repeats… so I’m looking for new ideas.)
  3. Imagine you’re a classroom teacher in a middle or high school (unless you actually are - then no imagining necessary)… what do you want most from a technology conference?
Here is what I responded as a comment:

Hi Mark
We are pondering the same questions here in Qatar as we move towards supporting 21st century learning with mobile computing and online learning. Here are some ideas:

Theme: Learning has no walls
Why?: De-teching needs to start with the title, let's not separate technology from learning but keep it all the same, let's encourage ALL educators to come. Also, let's broaden the scope and bring the outside world in and encourage the participants to reach/look out of their own windows and beyond their own walled environment.

Keynotes: Speakers who are patient with the technophobes but also inspiring to the early adopters who are keen to do more; speakers who not only talk about lofty ideals but can 'get their hands dirty' with practical advice and be able to workshop tools as required; speakers who represent an international approach (this is SO important). My personal favourites include David Warlick, Gary Stager, Joyce Valenza....however there are a number of emerging (or already emerged) stars who have so much to offer and just need a push onto the international keynote stage such as Jeff Utecht, Judy O'Connell, Vicki Davis, Kim Cofino, Terry Freedman........

What do I/we want from a tech conference: I want it not to be about technology, the same as I want our Heads of Department meeting at school to not be about organisation and paperwork..but about pedagogy and learning!! I want to be able to pick up tips and tricks and new tools in a fun way but the main focus must be on how to support learning and improve outcomes and engage students. I want to feel excited about what is being presented so that I cannot wait to get back to the classroom and implement new ideas and find ways to rework curriculum that is valid but needs 'modernizing'. I want to learn more about how to create a student-centered learning environment and how to convince and educate my school administration that this is the way of the future.

So, what do you think about educational technology conferences? Learning without there's another idea!

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Gary said...

I would love to join you in Qatar!! Let's talk!

Anonymous said...

Hi Julie,

I'm so flattered to included on your list of speakers here! I would love to come to Qatar anytime!

I just commented on Mark's post as well, and spent last night chatting with Jeff Utecht and Dennis Harter about next year's Learning 2.008, and I would like to see something on Connected Learning or Networked Learning. Something that focuses on how important it is to bring students and teacher together across distance, geographic and cultural boundaries. Exploring Learning Without Boundaries maybe...


Jeff said...


I'm honored that you would mention me in the post, and am glad I happen to be in Bangkok so I can respond. :)

Qatar...keep me posted. For Our Learning 2.008 conference (which I really do hope you can make it to next Sept) we're using the theme "Learning in Action" and are focusing on learning. We've had great discussions so far about that that really means to us and our conference and what strands look like at a tech conference that focuses on learning....interesting new models being created.

Can't wait to see you again at NECC...we must find time to sit and chat!

P.S. Kim....thanks again for the conversation last night! So glad we were able to connect in person!

Anonymous said...

Julie, as a fellow Australian I'm thrilled to even have a connection with someone like yourself, let alone think about visiting in Qatar@ Including my name in your list is pretty amazing and really nice of you (blush). What a buzz that would be for me to go to Qatar. It is true that we Australians don't get much of a chance to go very far afield with presentations, so I have been lucky to do some overseas presentations.

Whatever happens, best wishes with your planning. In the meantime, congratulations for having so many people funded to go to NECC. Really looking forward to catching up with you there.

Cheers, Judy

Julie Lindsay said...

Gary, Kim, Jeff and Judy
So great to hear from you all via my blog post. I would dearly love all of you to come to Qatar and show what you can do! What a fantastic team! I am working on it ;-)

Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher said...

Oh, Julie. These are great conversations. (You know I would do anything for you, just let me know.)

I think it is about a bigger topic - what makes a great conference that does what we need done. These are my thoughts:

1) Practical work areas for us to collaborate and plan our projects and inspirational people that give us ideas for what to do.

2) Opportunities to not only present F2F but live streams to others as we present and incorporation of a searchable, archivable backchannel into EVERYTHING.

3) Live "voting" abilities on ideas and suggestions so we can instantly see the response of an audience on a topic and "mashup" the presenter as we go.

4) Topics:
Mashup Academics -- How to integrate participation, producer-students (prostudents), and digital citizenship into high-caliber learning expriences.

OH, and I could go on. I'd also like to see a mashup online conference as well!

I don't really feel that there is a TRULY international conference ANYWHERE at this point (or organization for that point.) Let's start one!