The need for conferences

What I want to say is that in the span of my career little has changed or advanced about the ways of academic conference activity. The very first one I attended in 1992 baffled me– a room full of people watching a speaker at a lectern read slides about the need to change the way teaching is gone (sage/stage/guide/side, please dim the lights and advance the slides) is really not too different in 2020.

There was also this weird realization in the mid 2000s at a large EDUCAUSE conference, watching a large room full of people on break all heads down in the laptop checking email (this was before smart phones crossed The Near Horizon). This is why we travel to conferences? Even now, I picture these large conference halls where most folks are there tweeting slides.

Source: On Deconferencing – CogDogBlog

Having just finished OETC, I’m torn on this article. I can see his points, why go to sessions that could also be delivered as a blog post or a video. My main goal at conferences is to be able to interact with people that I see rarely. At this past OETC I was able to catch up with a couple of people that I haven’t talked to in real life for a couple of years.

So, what can be done? First, I think districts need to be supportive of teachers that want to attend virtual conferences. Give them professional days, just like if those teachers were going away to a conference. The cost to the district is lower since you don’t have to deal with travel and lodging. If there isn’t a conference room for the teacher to attend a virtual conference at the school, rent space for them, or, for those forward thinking districts, allow the teacher to attend a virtual conference from home. If you know of a district that allows that, please let me know!

Second, I think the format of 50 minute presentations needs to be modified. I could see a blended learning format, where the presenter shares a video of the presentation ahead of time. Then the 50 minutes can be productive question & answer or go more in depth into the material. What about a bazaar format. Put all of the presentations online and have the presenter available for certain time frames. 

There is so much good information that is transferred at a conference, I’d hate to see that go away.

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