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Not All Tech Conferences Are a Waste of Time

October 24, 2014 Leave a comment

Today I attending the Tech Forum New York 2014 hosted by Technology & Learning Magazine.  My attendance at this one-day conference reaffirmed my belief that not all tech conferences are a waste of time, even though there remain many that are.

Today’s conference was held at the Westchester Marriott in Tarrytown, New York, near the Tappen Zee Bridge and the Hudson River.  This location is easily accessible from most locations in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut & Pennsylvania area.  Unlike other conferences that are held in New York City, this conference is accessible by car, with no charge for parking.  Being able to drive your own vehicle makes a big difference in terms of convenience for attendees coming from the suburbs.  Having to commute by mass transit into NYC to attend a conference may just incline some not to attend.

The day started off with Eric Sheninger (@E_Sheninger) providing the keynote address.  This former Principal from the award winning New Milford High School (NMHS) in New Jersey accomplished many things with his address, but there were two things in particular that impacted me.  First, I came away feeling very inadequate.  I became keenly aware of how many exciting and impactful opportunities I am not providing to the students, faculty and administrators in my school district.  Second, and even more importantly, I felt inspired.  Armed with a wealth of resources by provided by Eric, I am committed to doing more in my schools.

The session that followed the keynote presented many useful apps and tools that work nicely with Google Apps for Education, Google Chrome browsers and Chromebooks.  The “Industry Spotlight” which followed was one big sales pitch from event sponsors.  The time could have been better spent offering another useful session.

A luncheon for District Leadership followed the morning breakout session.    During the luncheon, the attendees were encouraged to engage in a meaningful discussion about social media in schools.  Hearing different points of view from various school leaders was very informative.  I always find direct conversations with colleagues to be the most beneficial part of any conference or workshop.

A very interesting “Idea Exchange” followed the luncheon.  This roundtable discussion on “Connected Leadership: How Education Leadership Can Remain Relevant in a World of Tech-driven Collaboration”, was facilitated by Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby), the founder of #edchat and Adam Bellow (@adambellow).  This session was a free-flow sharing of ideas by all in attendance.  The discussions primarily focused on collaboration.  The use of Twitter for both personal and professional use, along with the benefits of doing so, were discussed in great length.  One attendee who was a self-described “hold-out” was so influenced by the discussion that she created her own Twitter account by the end of the session.

Other discussions included establishing and/or maintaining a blog for sharing ideas and resources with others.  I was inspired enough by the discussion to revisit this blog after many months of abandonment, and to write this post.  The key take away concept for me is that sharing and collaboration can offer great benefits to all.

I concluded the conference by attending a very informative session on “Rethinking Learning Spaces” including very cool furniture, fixtures and tech accessories from companies like Steelcase.

Being out of the district for a full day in order to attend a conference is never done without careful consideration.  Upon reflection of this conference, I am satisfied that the day out of the district was time well spent and was very beneficial.

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