Reflecting on Education Conferences: When Size Matters

Thursday, July 14, 20161:54 PM

Does the size of a conference really matter? That’s a question that I spent some time thinking about this week. I had the pleasure of attending #EdcampLDR at the Hudson Valley, New York site on Monday and sit here typing away at the NJ #GAFESummit today. With these experiences, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we work and learn together in today’s education and technology conference culture.

#EdcampLDR’s Hudson Valley site was new this year, and was an intimate gathering. Last year, I attended the North NJ location, with around 200 other educators (I wrote about it in 5 Things That Make Education Conferences Great). It was BIG. This year, though, I walked in to see around 25 educators ready to learn. I’ll be honest: my first instinct was apprehension. There were few of the conference regulars and “big names” of education. Who would lead the sessions? Who would I learn from?

And these quick instincts were the wrong way to think about edcamps, for sure. Within minutes, I met educators who were eager to spend a summer day learning and growing. We didn’t have presentations; we had discussions. We asked questions, shared ideas, and solved problems. And it was awesome.

The big conferences are great--I sat in packed sessions at #GAFESummit today--and the more you can learn the better. But they can also be overwhelming sometimes. In a full day conference, sometimes my brain is full by lunch.

With #EdcampLDRHV, the half day unconference, with three time slots and only fifteen discussion-based sessions, the learning was slower with smaller groups. But it was more intimate, and maybe more thoughtful. I loved both experiences but I wonder how the 25-participant experience allows for different learning opportunities.

I’m starting to think of conference experiences like I look towards my teaching ones: sometimes whole class or large group instruction is best, but I truly enjoyed the variety of learning experiences my summer has offered so far.

Summer is a time to pause, reflect, and process, and these conferences have given me a great opportunity to do that. I’m looking forward to seeing continued growth for the summer weeks to come.

A Note From the Schoenblog

Faithful readers will notice that there’s only been one weekly post for the past few weeks. Summer’s been great but it’s also been busy with administrative internships, doctoral school, and so much more. I’ll be slowing down for the summer but expect a weekly post to continue. Then, look for a brand new Schoenblog 2.0 to premiere towards the end of the summer with new content, new series, and so much more.

Thank for reading and please continue to share, comment, and connect on Twitter @MrSchoenbart.

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