Education Conferences, are They Really All That?

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Education conferences. I have been to many of them in my 15 years of teaching. As a new teacher, just starting out, I thought they were the greatest. And they were… sort of. As I grew, and continue to grow, as a teacher, I am becoming increasingly convinced, there has to be something better.

Don’t get me wrong, conferences can be great things… but I am starting to find the great sessions fewer and farther apart. There are still those great sessions, the ones where the presenters are really trying to get you some great information. The best ones are the sessions that share what they are doing, and explaining why it works for them. They give you a plethora of tools to add to your proverbial box. They spark something inside of you to go try.

Times seem to be changing, however. It seems that increasingly often, things are more about entertainment in a session than sharing. The number of presenters who actually say something along the lines of “If you came to this session hoping to hear something educational,. sorry.” The scary part is that most attendees love it.

Most of the time, however, it seems some of the best learning comes from conversations you have before and after sessions. Talking with fellow educators who are not trying to impress anyone, and discussing what works.

After attending a conference last week, I let my mind do some whirling on the drive, since I had about 5 hours of drive time. I got to thinking about a better way to “do a conference.”  If you are on Twitter and follow pretty much any education related hashtag, you have seen #edcamp fly through.

Edcamp is a model of professional development that is catered to the participants. I have not had the pleasure of attending an Edcamp, but would love to give it a go. From what I understand, folks arrive at the Edcamp and come up with what they are going to learn, and what attendees have to offer.

I want to do more than just learn about a tool, I want to go to conferences where I get to learn about it, then find ways to implement it. I want to go to a conference where people create. I want teachers to sit around, and basically develop activities for actual classroom use.

Depending where you live, you may have a ton of teachers around you. Odds are, you have many who are teaching the same grade level, and even the same objectives/standards. Does it not make sense to come up with a conference or Edcamp (or whatever you wish to call it) where you can get together with colleagues in the same boat as you, and figure out the best way to make that boat move? Of equal importance, I think we need to strive to meet with other educators who are not in our school district. Most of us are very familiar with the way things are done in our school. If we want to really get something new, we need to be open to discussing and learning with others outside of our comfort zone.

Again, don’t misunderstand my post. I had a great time and learned some new things at my conference last week, but I think there was an opportunity missed to do more than learn.

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