This post is being written from the Portland International Airport as I await my flight back to Penticton via Vancouver. I am returning after spending three days at the Pearson ATI Summer Conference. Even though the traditional so-called “Conference” seems a bit old school in the twitter/PLN world, I have a confession to make…I still like them.
There is just something about meeting people face-to-face, finding out where they are from, what their story is, and where along their journey (in this case assessment journey) they are. I had the opportunity to meet people from all over the United States and Canada and doubt that I could have engaged in the depth of conversation I was able to experience in 140 characters. The interactions during the sessions and the social interaction in-between all created a positive energy that permeated the meeting rooms for three days. As people left the conference they were excited, motivated, focused, and renewed to go home, create a new or improved assessment plan for their classroom, school, or district.
I loved Edcamp Vancouver back in April and have really come to value all of the #chats on twitter. I think that kind of professional learning is long overdue and has increased the on-goingness of professional learning once left to the sporadic events. At their worst, traditional conferences are a complete waste of money, but at their best, they create a synergy unrivaled by any other experience.
My hope is that we don’t swing the pendulum so far in the other direction that conferences disintegrate. I get that money is tight, that it isn’t always easy to leave out families for a few days, and that professional learning is not limited to 1 or 2 events per year. But, people like to be inspired and see the big picture. After all, we are human and need – not want, need – live contact with other human beings to share our struggles, successes, triumphs, and roadblocks.
Are traditional conferences sometimes too passive for the participants? Yup. Could presenters make them more interactive and fluid? You bet! Do we need to push the limits of on-going professional learning via social media? Absolutely. But as I sit here waiting for my flight I realize that I had a very positive, productive, and inspiring few days which tells me that traditional conferences, while they might change their style, format, or routine, still have value and should still continue to serve a purpose for professional learning.