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Tag: conference (Page 1 of 9)

Does This Union Make Sense?

ISTE Expo

At the end of September, members of ISTE received an email from the president of their Board of Directors, announcing that the board had voted to merge with another educational organization, ASCD.1 I assume the ASCD mail list received a similar message.

It seems like a rather odd combination, for reasons I still can’t quite pin down.

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Is This Meeting Necessary?

What did we learn?

At the end of next month, ISTE will hold its first live conference in three years.

In late June of normal times, the organization could expect to pack at least 15,000 people into a big-city convention center for the largest edtech conference and expo (with more and more emphasis on “expo”) in the US.1

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The Future of EdTech Conferences

ISTE Expo

Back when I was still working for the overly-large school district, I routinely attended several edtech conferences every year. That included the one produced by our state organization VSTE1, usually the huge ISTE event, and always EduCon.

But those three were the very small tip of a very large iceberg. If I had an unlimited budget, and didn’t have to do an actual job, I could have traveled to a couple hundred conferences. And far more if you included every K12 education-related meeting held in just the US.

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Not At EduCon

Encienda at EduCon

If this were a normal Friday on the weekend before the Super Bowl in any of the past 12 years, I would be driving I-95 (or taking Amtrak) to Philadelphia. To spend the next two or so days at a unique high school in center city, along with five hundred or so dedicated educators, students, and parents, all of whom were there for some serious (and some not-so-serious) discussions about the practice of teaching and learning.

This year, however, I will not be at EduCon. And I will miss it greatly.1 Continue reading

Not At ISTE

Eye to Eye With Ben

I was planning to go. After all, the conference is happening just a short train ride up the road in Philadelphia, a city I greatly enjoy visiting. I had booked my hotel early, paid my registration, and was all set to travel.

Then life started laying down speed bumps, as it is sometimes wont to do. Nothing critical, certainly nothing interesting enough to write about in this space. Just lots of those little things that tend to pile up, to the point that my plans had to change.

So this week I’ll be observing the event from afar, through the lens of Twitter and whatever video streams that can escape from the undoubtably clogged conference center network.

On reflection, however, I’m not entirely sure I will miss being at ISTE.

For one thing, as I’ve written about in the past, I continue to wonder if this kind of gathering has become too big and too expensive1 to serve any useful purpose, at least to me. I’m sure many of the conference attendees will gain from being Philadelphia this week. It certainly will be good for the vendors on the expo floor who must love having tens of thousands of potential customers passing by.

I know I won’t miss the formal sessions. Over the past three or four ISTEs, I pretty much stopped going to them. Most will cover information and ideas that can easily be found on the web, and offer little opportunity for any meaningful interaction with the presenters. Plus an increasing percentage of them are little more than infomercials for edtech products and lack much in the way of a connection to using technology for improved learning.

Most of the value of making the trek to ISTE for me has come from the direct connections I would make in the halls, the playgrounds, and lounges. But that benefit has also declined over time since many of the people that I would normally reconnect with at the conference have stopped attending. Or I will see them at smaller, less frenetic events2 where it will be easier to have a meaningful conversation.

So, if you are in Philly this week, have a great time and I hope the time you spend up there is valuable for you. Please share what you learn with the rest of us. For various reasons I will not be at ISTE next year in Anaheim either. But, after some reflection, I may find good reasons to return the following year in San Antonio.

Or I may become permanently not at ISTE.


The picture above was made at a previous ISTE conference in Philadelphia. It shows the city skyline from the 33rd floor of the Lowes Hotel. I wasn’t staying there. I think I rose to those heights to attend a vendor meeting.

1. Philly used to be one of the more reasonable cities for conference attendees, both in terms of cost and having the infrastructure to support everyone who came to ISTE. Not any more.

2. EduCon, which coincidentally is also in Philadelphia, is one example as is the state conference presented by VSTE, our ISTE affiliate.

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