It’s Time To Flip The Conference

Important note: this post is part of a larger look at education conferences coming out in the July issue of the Edudemic Magazine.

We’re flipping the classroom. We’re flipping PD. We’re all flipping out. But after an epiphany last month and again this morning, it dawns on me that it’s time to flip the major education conferences. We’ve flipped the smaller conference (thanks EdCamp!) and it’s time for the next big step.

Most education conferences are sponsored, filled with companies who want you to buy their products, and money is a key player. I get that. It costs a lot of money to host a multi-day event in a major convention center. It costs even more to run the event. But what if the venue was made less important and the attendees were the focus?

It’s time to create the Conference 2.0 by flipping the current setup of major education conference.

What Attendees Are Saying

Conference attendees shouldn’t have to pay hundreds of dollars in registration fees, thousands of dollars in travel and lodging… just to be able to network with like-minded folks in person. Of the dozens of blog posts I’ve read about the major conferences, the overwhelming takeaway is that the best stuff happened in the hallways and not in any organized planned gathering.

Source: The Nerdy Teacher

The #EduBros event is a perfect example of that. Judging by the tweets and response from Sir Ken Robinson wishing he could make it (see image to the right), it’s clear this was one of the coolest parts of the conference. Now don’t get me wrong, I agree with The Nerdy Teacherthat the #EduBros was a party and not really meant to change education.  But it was a fabulous event that people are (quite obviously) itching to join in on. We need more of that.

So, How Do We Change?

I’m not trying to create a movement. In fact, I completely understand this post will do very little to inspire any action whatsoever. But I felt like it needed to be put down in print. Or at least on Edudemic.

So here’s the one small favor I ask of you:

Let this idea to flip the mega-conferences sit in the back of your mind the next time you’re thinking “hmmm… I wonder if I could host a conference or maybe an ‘offline’ gathering of my fellow educators?.”

The World’s Largest EdCamp

So how would I change major education technology conferences to make them better? I’d take the enthusiasm for flipping classrooms and flip the mega-conference. It would be like the world’s largest EdCamp but not tied to just one city or location. This new style of conference would draw teachers, administrators, journalists, and even students from around the world.

Open Mic Night

All these attendees shouldn’t have to pay a lot (if anything) to attend and they should all be given a chance to share their insights, knowledge, and enthusiasm. For example, instead of getting approved to speak at a major conference, attendees could simply attend an open mic night (or day) that is similar to The Moth Radio Hour. People can get up, tell a story or share their thoughts / best practices, then pass the microphone. Simple as that.

I know I wouldn’t miss that kind of event for anything. A chance to hear people from around the world offer advice, opinions, and best practices for free or very little money? Sign me up.

The Inspiration

Don’t get me wrong. major conferences have their place in education technology. Events like ISTE are true mega-conferences just like CES is for electronics or Comic-Con is for movies, TV, and comics. But I personally left ISTE wanting more. And when I read Lisa Nielsen’s post about flipping the conference, I had to chime in and offer my support.

Weigh In

In the interest of keeping the thought process rolling, what features would you want to see at a flipped mega-conference? Would you make it like an EdCamp where attendees help pick the topics of discussion during the conference? Where would you hold this kind of flipped mega-conference? It’d need to be a big venue but since money isn’t rolling in… how could we solve the money issue? Can’t wait to hear your thoughts and more!


  1. Bill Hanna

    July 5, 2012 at 10:45 am

    I’d just like to see us address the irony of having educational conferences that require us to cancel our classes to attend.

  2. Kristin Gregory

    July 5, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    Jeff, you make a good point. I think Tweet chats and other online “gatherings” are making strides in this area and have a role in bringing educators together. However, I’m not ready to throw away the conference just yet. I just spent about $1500 to attend Flipcon12 and I’m so glad I did, even if it was out-of-pocket. The chance to meet people that I follow on Twitter face to face was something I couldn’t pass up. The opportunity to meet so many others that I wouldn’t have met online was even more valuable, as was having the perspective of educators from around the country. Using new technology with the help of experts onsite was incredibly helpful to me and will benefit my students tremendously. Perhaps a little bit of both is the answer.

    • Jeff Dunn

      July 6, 2012 at 10:23 am

      Hey Kristin, couldn’t agree more. I definitely don’t think we should throw out the current model completely. Just embrace the coming change and figure out a way to get people to do more networking for hopefully less money. Simple as that. The talks, lectures, keynotes, etc. at big conferences are great but we just need to see more chances to adequately meet up / spend time together. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Michelle

    July 6, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    Jeff perhaps one way to leverage sponsorship is to have presenters use sponsor technology. That not only gets their name out there via a real-world experience but could also bring in funds for a conference.

  4. Michele Velthuizen

    July 17, 2012 at 11:29 am

    Why not LiveStream at least the Keynote Addresses so that more people around the world can be inspired by these speakers even if they can’t attend the conference?