Friday, October 20, 2006

Conferring on Conferences

Live from Bloomington, Minnesota… I am posting this while waiting for a session to begin at an assistive technology conference called Closing the Gap.

In coming weeks, I plan to expand on my Jumping In post by adding thoughts on why technology has compelling implications for education. Right now, however, I would like to start a discussion on education conferences as I am in the midst of one. Not only am I attending this conference for the first time, but I am co-presenting two workshops for Apple with fellow Apple Distinguished Educator, Kris Hill. I am also here to educate myself because I work with a few kids with learning differences, and I am the parent of a child with a mild learning disability.

Closing the Gap is one of the nation’s first assistive technology conferences, started by parents of a deaf student in 1983. It was billed to me as conference full of tech savvy educators passionate about their niche in our profession. It’s a whole new world to me as I do not have a special education orientation. I am amazed as I walk through the exhibition hall at the variety of software and devices available for today’s students. The sessions have I attended have carefully crafted program descriptions, handouts which are always beloved by attendees, and detailed presentations. Overall, it’s a well organized conference with high expectations for all involved.

Kris and I had dinner last night with another ADE Gayle Berthiaume who lives here in MinneSOHTA and she told us about another concurrent conference that sounds interesting. Sponsored by Education Minnesota, the state teachers’ union resulting from the merger of state NEA and AFT chapters, their Professional Conference is free and open to the public. Teachers in this state seem to have these two days off in order to attend. I have never heard of another state doing something like this and to me, it speaks volumes about how Minnesota values professional development.

Other conferences I regularly attend include the National Educational Computing Conference and the Illinois Technology Conference for Educators. My questions for you are:

-What education conferences do you attend, if any?

-What makes a conference a worthwhile experience for you?

-Are your schools supportive of you attending conferences? And if not, what can be done to help teachers have this kind of opportunity?

Leave your thoughts in the comments section above!