Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Conferences are fab!

Just recently Doug Johnson posted a blog post on why face to face conferences may be in decline. I have just travelled half way across the world to a face to face conference, much to my personal expense, time off school, and fatigue and it was all totally worth it.

It was my first general educators conference - the ECIS Teachers conference - open to all educators who are members of the European Council of International Schools. There were over 1700 attendees with 240 sessions in 2 1/2 days on all sorts of things education.

I have always focused on attending and presenting at conferences that I have training and expertise in. This conference gave me ideas and insights that I did not have before, conversations with people who had different roles in their schools to what I do in mine, and I learned so much.

I love attending real time and face to face conferences for the following reasons:

I am focused on my learning - I am there to learn, interact and network with people - nothing else will get in the way of that when I am away from my normal environment. I find that online learning is always interrupted with life and more pressing demands of work and home unless I make it the first priority - it never is made a priority.

I find that listening and watching people present allows me to understand them a little better. I can also follow up with their ideas, new ways of doing things or just to mine their heads of information and thoughts they have over a drink, breakfast, lunch, coffee, dinner etc. Face to Face conferences allow me to connect on a personal level with people that is more than reading their blog, or online presentation.

Conferences give me space to think
about what I am learning. I try to always write up what I came away with in terms of learning, new thoughts for progression in what I do at work, and, how I can help others. Taking notes is imperative for this, and now that I have an ipad with soundnote, the presentations I attended can be revisited very quickly and easily.

I find out about people that I may not have any idea about before and want to follow their thinking. Bill Rankin from Abilene Christian University was one such person at the ECIS conference. Great thinking there and someone I probably would not have even thought about following as his expertise is in Middle English literature,Medieval theology and heretical movements, Medieval pedagogy, Literary theory medieval pedagogies and educational practice. However, the way he presents and thinks brings his knowledge of the past into the now - gripping stuff and someone I would not have known about if I had not been at a conference where I could meet him and hear his presentations.

I also get to meet people
that I only know through their online work - this last Conference I had the pleasure to meet Kathy Schrock and to learn from her. I also had the opportunity to converse with her and later exchange emails about common interests.

I also get to reconnect with people that I have met before through work, previous conferences and twitter connections. Always good to reconnect.

I also get to meet new people I want to follow on Twitter through their tweets about certain things going on at the conference, I could tell we had connections and became followers of each other.

I took my daughter to this conference as she just recently completed her B. Ed. She said she came away with more practical ideas in working with students from the conference sessions than she had in the 4 years of formal training and she is now a conference junkie.

I could not have hoped for anything more ;-)

What do you get out of face to face conferences? Why is meeting in person still important to you?


Carmel said...

There's nothing like a live presentation to create connection and inspiration. Online networking will never replace the personal connection one makes with physical presence. I too like the fact that one is present to learn and uninterrupted by the minutiea of daily life.
If it wasn't for a face to face conference I would not have had the opportunity to meet you, a definite bonus!

Kathy Schrock said...


I agree that ECIS was a special conference! I had not attended a general education conference in a while and thoroughly enjoyed the sessions I attended. I still picked technology-related ones to attend, but the presenters had a different point of view then the tech conference presenters, so I really learned a lot!