Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Magic Hat: My Ideal Conference for Connecting Educators

As I look into this crystal ball, I see ordinary educators sharing ideas about special topics like technology for reflection or struggles they experience establishing a connected classroom. Most importantly, I see lifelong learners who are making choices about how they wish to spend their time developing as professionals.

If you could make your own conference for educators, what would it be like? Who would be there? This week's #YourEduStory is a fun post, so here's what I found in my magic hat.

Conferences need three things to be effective: (1) Inspirational presenters, (2) Opportunities to connect with other professionals, (3) And takeaways – those ideas and tools that we can use the next day. There are other things that conferences need, of course, but these are the must haves for learning and developing.

Oh, by the way ... it's a connected educators conference, but all are welcome.

Inspire

In the past several years, I've listened to a lot of keynote speakers. Most of them deserved the audience before them, but only a few continue to make me think. I'm not sure that the presenters who have inspired ongoing reflection are only of the published or Twitter star variety. They've just had substance, which is often provided through examples of student work.

I like presenters like Alan November and George Couros because they share video, blogs, or Tweets that show what kids are doing in classrooms around the world. Anyone who can share work samples like they do will convince the audience of the relevance of their talk.

I want to see what it looks like when it works and that it doesn't always work. I also like presenters who understand that the novelty of innovation can be troublesome if it is not accompanied by careful observation, reflection, and conversations with other professionals.

Connect

We are almost to the point that every school will have at least one class that is working with a class or group outside of the campus. One of the best ways to make a global learning community is at a conference. Meet someone in person and connect on social media so the conversation about learning can be extended to the students.

Perhaps the conference has a hashtag for general Tweets. It could also host caucus chats. These chats would take up some of the time people spend transitioning from one session to another.

How about connecting with vendors? This conference I am pulling out of my magic hat has vendors who work to connect educators in creative ways like @RemindHQ's coffee chat sessions. The role of the vendor, in this case, is to facilitate a conversation, not sell products.if the products are so great, they'll sell themselves.

Oh, that's another thing. A Remind group is essential for the conference. You can stay up to date on announcements and chat with other attendees. It's also a great way for presenters to crowd source images and sites for a truly learner-centered presentation.

Takeaway 

Everyone likes things and ideas that they can use right away. Since this conference is about learning technologies, there will be a focus on learning and strategies that are facilitated by a variety of technologies, which do not have to be defined by digital tools, alone.

My takeaway will be new ways to engage students in critical thinking activities facilitated by tools and configurations that enable learners to share information, resources, and their work efficiently. We already have a lot of these tools, so most of what I will take away will be how to use them in lessons.

What would you want at a conference? Please comment. I'm curious.