Conference Check In

It is very much too early on a Monday morning.

I’m currently at our state edtech conference and, as part of the team running this show, I don’t get much time to write about, much less reflect on, what’s happening here in real time.

So, just a few quick observations before the day kicks into high gear.

Over the years in this space I’ve written more than a few posts questioning the relevance of educational conferences, and specifically those, like this one, with a specific focus on technology.

However, the most relevant justification for holding and attending these meetings has to be the energy in the center. The hundreds of reunions and new connections, thousands of side conversations that couldn’t happen virtually, and untold number of ideas exchanged, in and out of the sessions.

As long as organizations structure their events to encourage these interactions – and not allow the vendors to overwhelm everything else – there could be a future for educational conferences. For our little event, so far, so very good.

Looking at the actual program, it’s not hard to see which topics are at the top of almost everyone’s mind: AI and CS.

Roughly 20% of our sessions feature something about artificial intelligence, with many specifically citing ChatGPT. Based solely on reading the descriptions,1 the vast majority of presenters are discussing how to use AI, not trying to scare teachers about this new boogey man. That’s the job of the state Department of Education reps who are here.

We also have a whole section of the conference dedicated to coding/programming/CS. Which is also not surprise since the state of Virginia has established CS standards for all grades. Of course, they are standards with no evaluation attached, which means teachers tend to shunt them aside until the other, high-stakes tests are addressed.

But, as I’ve also ranted about here many times, CS for all or everybody codes or whatever other phrase you want to want to use doesn’t really make sense as anything more than a topic woven into other curriculums.

Especially when many experts are predicting artificial intelligence will take over the job of basic programming, which even now is an entry level job, not a career.

Anyway, enough rambling for now. It’s still dark outside and I need to get ready for another day of learning, and helping a thousand or so colleagues to do the same.

As always, I have a camera close by as I run around the conference center. The photo at the top is just one of the many hundreds of shots – some planned, many random – I’ll take before the conference ends.

1. As a member of the Program Committee, I have read every one of the descriptions. Most more than once. A piece of advice for anyone writing a conference proposal: you really need an editor. REALLY! :-)

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