Putting together an education conference is a huge undertaking that is often overlooked, or at least not fully appreciated by the attendees. It is not that people are intentionally unappreciative, but they may not realize all that goes into the planning, and execution of such a multi-faceted endeavor. This conference requires a huge effort to solicit, register, organize, accommodate, and deliver over 400 sessions to over 8,000 attendees, and over 200 vendors throughout a four-day event. That is a huge undertaking that can only successfully happen with leadership and a team effort on the part of the planning organization. I am sure that as this conference comes to an end, planning for next year’s event will begin immediately.
After attending many conferences over the years, I have made some observations as to the specific traits of conferences. Some conferences for example are very tech-oriented. Some conferences have the same people returning year after year. Some conferences attract a large number of vendors, while others attract a large number of classroom teachers. Of course since ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) is populated by people who supervise and develop curriculum and that usually would involve the hierarchy of the education system. I guess they could be categorized as the movers and shakers of education.
If my observations are to be believed, this conference, compared to some others, has far fewer tech-using attendees. The cacophony of clicking keys of laptops is not heard in every session, although there are laptops and tablets. Smartphones are not glued to hands of the conference members, although there are many visible. Of course the tell of tells as to the tech use in this conference is the fact that people are not hovering and jockeying for position around limited electrical outlets for constant charging. All that considered, this is not a tech infused conference.
With the advent of social media a mark of a really impactful conference may be measured in the buzz created by the sharing of the conference through the venues of social media. If the Tweets and the Blogs abound with the sharing of events, ideas, and conversations generated by the conference it may be considered a success. If the attendees are not inclined to use the skills required to utilize 21st century technology in sufficient numbers then there is no buzz. The conference remains local and never goes global.
Having some foresight on this issue, the leadership of ASCD took this into account in the planning of the conference. Some of the leading educators on Twitter who also have great blog followings were invited to attend the conference. They were afforded complete access to the entire conference with but one instruction; attend the conference and just do what it is that you do. Ten to fifteen of these educators made up the social media press corps for ASCD. They attended sessions, reflected upon what they learned, and shared their experiences of each of the sessions. Their followers spread the word further by re-tweeting tweets and commenting on posts. This cadre of connected educators created the buzz. This model is making the best of social media in order to take what has been a national conference to a larger audience than just the attendees. Educators, who could not be present at the conference, benefitted by the offerings of those who were in attendance. Through social media everything local is now global, and everything global is now local. I would thank the leaders of ASCD for giving us the opportunity to share their conference.