Last week, I spent Wednesday through Friday attending my favorite conference, IntegratED PDX. As always, Darren Hudgins, from OETC, did an amazing job of giving participants a variety of sessions with very skilled facilitators. Choosing between so many fantastic offerings is a good problem to have. This year’s event outdid itself and I’ve been reflecting on why it felt so special to me.
The intention I set for my conference experience was to take risks, not only with my facilitating and learning, but also in my interactions with others. I was really excited to meet some people face-to-face that I had only previously connected with on social media. It was also a treat to hang out with friends I don’t see on a daily basis and get to know them better, whether they work in a neighboring district or live in a different city.
I had the opportunity to present at AcceleratED, a one-day event prior to IntegratED, that is specifically for leaders and administrators. My session was on modern curation tools and introduced a framework that nicely illustrates the process of aggregating resources. You can see the agenda here. I had a small group of participants, but I was able to try some new strategies and I think everyone was engaged and had time to work on something relevant to them. I also got to participate in the AcceleratED Sounding Board, which was a Q&A panel about ideal and current technology in schools. With fellow colleagues that included chief information/technology officers, a superintendent, principal and instructional technology coordinator, I was honored to have been invited to add my voice. I was a little nervous about participating in such a forum (I would never volunteer for something like this), but looking out into the audience and seeing many familiar faces made me realize I was in a safe and supportive environment.
As I mentioned, the session choices were excellent. There were lots of different topics, including gamification, making GIFs, the culture of selfies, 1:1, passion-based learning, instructional strategies with digital media and many, many more. Since facilitators are invited to participate, I think the caliber of workshops is much higher than what you might experience at another conference. Like last year, there was also a makerspace to explore and it was a good place to take a break and get creative. The keynotes were fantastic too. DK’s opening keynote, Follow the Digital Breadcrumbs, focused on the social aspect of learning and presented models of innovation from different industries. It was nice to be reminded about how powerful tools like blogging and RSS can actually be. Leigh Graves Wolf deserves kudos for her closing talk, Bricolage by Bricolage: Making & Repurposing iPDX15, which was something I have never experienced before with a keynote. It was an interactive presentation, where each table (there were about 50 total tables) had a task to work on collaboratively. After completing the task in 20 minutes, it was revealed that we had collectively authored a book called TL;DR The Quick, Creative, Crowdsourced Guide to #iPDX15. Absolutely brilliant! You can read Leigh’s reflection about the experience here.
For me, the main reason this year’s conference felt so special was because of this community that Darren has worked so hard to create. It’s an incredibly constructive, enthusiastic and welcoming place that encourages and challenges your learning and thinking. It’s a perfect model for what teaching and learning should look like in school today.
Other things that stood out to me:
- There was a little more racial diversity at the conference this year with facilitators and participants. It’s encouraging because we need those other perspectives and viewpoints in the education technology world. Hopefully, this is a trend that will continue with each passing year.
- Will Magid, trumpeter and DJ, provided a concert during the vendor happy hour. He was at IntegratED SF and it was a genius move to bring him to Portland. It even resulted in an impromptu dance party!
- EdcampPDX Express was held on the Saturday following the conference to draw in out-of-town visitors that could attend. It was great to have some new voices in the edcamp conversation and experience how powerful this kind of professional learning is.
- The weather wasn’t great, but it did get nice by the weekend. As a native Portlander, I have immense pride in the city that Portland has become (apart from the Portlandia references). It’s an awesome place to live and it’s fun sharing that with others.