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Testing Live Conferences

Jumping for Joy

Last summer I posted some rambling thoughts in this space on the future of in-person edtech conferences.

Asking questions like: after nearly two years of remote professional development activities, will educators want to return to face-to-face meetings involving hundreds of participants in a confined space? Will they and their schools want to spend the money to make it happen?

Do live conferences provide enough value to justify their existence?

Over the next few days, we might start finding a few answers. For three days starting Sunday, the Virginia Society for Technology in Education (VSTE) will hold it’s annual conference, our first live event in two years.

I can’t say I’m not a little nervous. Both from the standpoint of being a member of the conference committee, which works hard to make sure everything goes well, and as a participant who wants to continue avoiding any COVID variant (or viral bugs of any kind).

While the number of attendees, 500 or so,1 is about half of years past, and we are doing everything possible to encourage social distancing, the convention space will still seem crowded. Everyone will be required to wear masks, but there’s no vaccine mandate.

Participants, speakers, and vendors will be coming from all over the state. From areas like ours where measures to address a public health emergency are mostly accepted and followed. And from other parts where wearing masks will get you yelled at, evidence is ignored, and experts are ignored.

Sometimes I wonder why people with that mentality even bother sending their children to school when they model a very anti-intellectual behavior at home and in the community.

Anyway, despite some apprehension about health issues floating in the back of my head, I’m very much looking forward to this conference. The opportunity to see friends and colleagues live instead of in a Zoom box. To have impromptu hallway conversations and share ideas. To work with a talented team of educators on a worthwhile project.

However, those discussions, and sessions at edtech conferences like ours, need to address the many serious problems facing our teachers and students, many of them presented by technology, rather than simply promoting the latest cool classroom tools.

I’ll have more to rant about as the conference gets going. If you will be joining us in Roanoke, stop me in the hall and say hi. From six feet away, wearing a mask, of course.

The picture is one of my favorites from a past conference at the Hotel Roanoke. This is our keynote speaker, Dean Shareski, (in the orange pants, of course) and some of my friends jumping for joy. I learned where the setting for continuous shooting was.

1. We will also be streaming to virtual attendees from many of the conference rooms. I hope we keep this hybrid approach long after the pandemic has passed.

1 Comment

  1. Jennifer

    I’m back in Williamsburg for VASCD’s annual conference this week. Educon 2020 was my last in person conference and I am feeling similar concerns to yours. We’ve also kept numbers lower. We’re also doing a virtual conference as well (differently than VSTE and I am loving all of the ways organizations are trying this still). I’m presenting for both the in person and the virtual (with my class for the virtual – fingers crossed for that one) and I feel less certain about what to expect than I’ve felt in many years.

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