So, I’ve been thinking about conferences. I didn’t go to EduCon this past January. Now that it’s gotten more popular and you have to register sooner; I keep missing out. This past weekend I went to EdCampPhilly, which was also at SLA this year. I’ve been to many an EdCamp.
Anyway, I was chit-chatting with some folks when Hadley Ferguson appeared. Hadley is an EdCamp Original and a great person to have in your PLN. If you don’t follow her already, you should go to that now (@HadleyJF). Hadley, Philip Cummings (you should also follow him @Philip_Cummins), and I all presented together at EduCon several years ago. Our session was about Making Thinking Visible and we demonstrated and modeled a number of strategies from the book by Ron Ritchhart. It was a bit nerve-wracking initially, but it went pretty well. I wrote about it before.
One of the folks in our session was Brad Campbell. (You should follow him too @BrdCampbell). He was also at EdCamp on Saturday. And, of all the wonderful things, he came up to Hadley and then to me to say that he still uses strategies that we shared and thinks about our session. I was so flattered. How lovely of him to tell us. And, how many times should I be saying something similar to someone else myself! Hadley and I both admitted that we needed to remember our own session highlights a little more in our own teaching.
This got me thinking that you just never know what will stick. I mean I thought that our session was pretty good. I was very proud of us. And, I’m sure a lot of the folks who were there don’t remember it. And, I’m sure that even people who thought the ideas were good at the time have forgotten or not used the information. This does not offend me. The same thing happens to me at conferences. When I think back to all the sessions at the many EdCamps, EduCons, NAIS, ISTE, etc I have attended, it’s not always the ones that wowed me in the moment that end up having the biggest impact. It’s really hard to predict what will stick because it’s really more about what is relevant now. Relevant could mean I can use this idea in class on Tuesday, or relevant could mean I’ve been thinking about this topic recently, or relevant could mean I’ve been thinking about something else entirely, but somehow this other idea brings it into better focus. So, since I can’t predict what will be useful, what should I do? Wait for the perfect session title, conference theme? NO.
My best bet is to go to the conference, go to the EdCamp, go to the session that might be good, because in the end it might be what sticks. I just read in my Alumni News from college that one of the things that makes people happy is good conversations (An hour-long lecture version also available, conversation part starts at about 30:00). Well, this makes total sense to me. I find most conferences totally invigorating. Seriously, I come home wound up and taking a mile a minute. Things get done; blog posts get written. And the thing is, I don’t actually even have to learn anything new. Since there is a limited amount of information that I can keep in the front of my brain, I appreciate being reminded of stuff I technically already knew, but may have filed a little too far back. It’s the great conversations at the conference that make my brain spin, in a good way.
So this Saturday, Brad reminded me of something I shared with him. How great is that? And then, I went to a bunch of good sessions and hit the jackpot, I think, with the last one. (More on that later.) Several great conversations, one happy me.
What do other people expect to get out of conferences?