As we have been investigating new models and approaches to conference time, here are some guiding thoughts that I have had on this topic:
- The best conferences are about conversations -- discussions we cannot easily have when we are apart. While keynote messages have value, they don't often foster conversations that take advantage of being together. We need to do a better job of providing specific opportunities for these conversations, and then digital tools to continue the conversations and learning. Newer approaches, such as the Edcamp model, do this well.
- The best conferences have a pace, flow, and movement where one leaves feeling that it was time well spent.
- Why should all the education talent at a conference come to just receive? Wouldn't it be powerful if the talents of the group could be used to also create something of value for others?
- The best conferences provide both professional feeding for the present but also a vision and challenge for the future.
- If we set up conferences each year the way we always have done them, we are sending a subtle message to participants that it is acceptable to continuously use the same model without reflection and thinking about the needs of learners that are present. Would we do that in our classrooms? If not, why should we be doing that with conferences? Is that the message we really want to communicate?
What makes face-to-face conferences relevant for you? Share your ideas and thoughts as a comment to this post. Let's work to make professional time together as productive as possible!