One of the Best Conferences I Never got to “Attend”

I finished off last week, and a pretty exhausting string of engagements, with one of the best organized and idea-rich conferences that I have been a part of — better than any I can remember.  What’s more, it was a local school district conference.  I’m seeing more and more of these events, conference-style professional development days that bring the big ideas to the teachers, rather than sending them all to the big state or national events.

Pano of the Opening Session
Panorama of the primary site for the opening session

Of course, the 2009 Educational Technology Conference should be good.  It is the eleventh put on by The School District of Palm Beach County.  The event was organized by the ed tech staff and it ran smoothly with the help of more than a hundred volunteers.  There were nearly 2,500 attendees (large by the standards of just about any state conference) and the keynote was broadcast into overflow venues.

Tent Studio
Tent Studio the night before

The district’s Television station, T.E.N. (The Education Network), had a tent-covered studio set up in the courtyard of the school, where they interviewed presenters and attendees about using technology in their jobs.  The interviews where piped into various locations in the school, where attendees were resting and re-organizing their agendas.

They worked me hard at this conference, presenting during each of the three concurrent slots.  I started with the opening keynote, in front of one of the most responsive audiences I’ve presented to in a very long time (Something about Southerners — they know when to laugh at a southern speaker 😉.  That was followed by a session on casual ongoing professional development (PLN) — two hours to administrators and an hour in the afternoon to teachers.  I was very happy to do this, but it meant that I missed the more than 100 local teacher and vendor presenters and a lineup of features speakers that would be the envy of almost any state conference.  They included Dr. Mark Benno from Dallas, Steve Dembo from Chicago, Karl Fisch, who barely got out of Denver before the snow storm, Kate Kemker from the Florida Department of Education, and Dean Shareski from Saskatchewan.

Featured presenters
Left to right: Steve Dembo, Kate Kemker, David Warlick, Karl Fisch, Mark Benno, & Dean Shareski.

Another interesting feature of the conference was the competition that is held each your with the students, to design the cover art for the conference.  The winner, who also designed the conference posters, was recognized at the conference.

Conference Posters
The winning poster & conference program design

I think that it is worth noting that she, and the school chorus, who opened the opening session with an inspirational singing and signing of the Star Spangled Banner,  were both recognized for skills that most of the teachers in the audience could not match.  This doesn’t mean that all teachers should be able to do digital graphic arts or harmonize along with the American Sign Language.  Certainly not. 

However, I do believe that it is important, because it is another demonstration of how we need to come to respect the learner — not just demand respect as the teacher, but pay back with respect for the learner and the places they’ll take what we teach.

I can’t close without commenting on the conference program, which was very effectively organized, illustrated, and offering just enough content to supplement the conference.  This is worth noting because often conference programs are seemingly organized with little or know consideration of how the attendees will be using it to support the best possible event experience.

The School District of Palm Beach County was a wonderful way to end a long and exhausting tour and begin an extended rest at home.  Thanks!

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Tags: , , ,

6 thoughts on “One of the Best Conferences I Never got to “Attend””

  1. David,
    Thank you for such a beautiful post. It was such a pleasure having you here and from the feedback we’ve received I can tell you that you were VERY well-received. Awesome conversations have already begun and calendar events have already been scheduled to start moving some things forward that have been sitting on the back-burner. It was also a pleasure to meet you in person again and spend a few more minutes talking. Take care and thanks again for working so hard for our kids.

  2. I tried to follow along with the Tweets about this conference while it was going on. I’m amazed at the quality of this conference put on by a school district. I know it’s a large district, but nonetheless, I was very impressed. I hope the teachers who attended realized how wonderful of an event they were a part of.

  3. I tried to follow some of the Tweets while this conference was occurring. I was impressed that this conference was put on by a district. I hope the teachers who attended realize how great this opportunity was.

  4. I can’t tell you how honored we are here to hear your report on your short time with us in Palm Beach County, and as a member of the Ed Tech team who has heard your message for several years, let me say that the panel of speakers has left many of our teachers reinvigorated and excited about new conversations and what we can bring our students in the very near future. THANK YOU

  5. Mr. Warlick,
    Thank you for your compliment (mentioned above) about my cover art and promotional poster. Also another thank you for displaying my creation and giving me credit for it on your website (under the ‘online handouts’ tab.) My family and I enjoyed your speech and presentation at the opening session. It would’ve been nice to have met you, but I can imagine you were moving about the conference, just as I was.

  6. David,
    It was great having BBQ with you. I’m glad you enjoyed our conference and I look forward to seeing you again. You really inspired a lot of teachers here. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *