Professional development opportunities aren’t just a great time to learn and grow; they’re a wonderful way to network with other educators. During conferences, you can gather lots of great ideas to be used in your classroom as soon as you return. You also may hear about initiatives and programs that have been successfully implemented in other schools, and which sound like they might work for your own school. At educator conferences, teachers get to come out from behind their closed doors and mingle with other educators to discuss issues impacting education and to brainstorm and begin to implement measures of necessary reform.
Image via flickr and Aquiamigo
In the last decade, numerous technology-centered conferences have sprung up, promising educators a look into the classrooms of the future. Edtech is a booming business and, more importantly, an integral part of reforming antiquated pedagogical practices. At tech conferences, teachers can participate in maker spaces to gather ideas on how to incorporate design-centered learning into their classrooms. They can hear from teachers implementing flipped classrooms or teaching in 1:1 device environments. Eager new publishers and vendors are available to demonstrate the latest and greatest apps and software. Done right, tech conferences for educators are a much needed blending of major players from across the educational world, who come together to learn from each other and drive change.
We’ve come up with a list of a few Edtech conferences that take professional development to the next level.
7 Edtech Conferences to Consider
- SXSWedu: This edtech conference is part of the greater family of South by Southwest programming, including conferences on music, film, and general technology. SXSWedu focuses on trending topics and brings in high-profile leaders in the learning world. Besides the normal sessions and workshops found at most educational conferences, SXSWedu offers a startup venue showcasing upcoming and companies in the edtech field, giving teachers a first hand look at where classroom technology is headed. There is also a maker space to promote STEM and hands on learning. We’ve covered SXSWedu in the past and can highly recommended attending this conference.
- Blended Learning Conference and Workshop: Hosted by the Online Learning Consortium, this conference has been around for more than ten years. The conference highlights the way blended learning is being used around the world to enrich teaching and learning. The conference specifically seeks to be a place where global educators can meet to exchange ideas, problem solve, and discover effective ways to implement blended learning.
- Serious Play Conference: This is a fun conference! The Serious Play Conference is all about how the use of games and play is revolutionizing education. Speakers from all over the world share insight into how game-based education can be used to infuse fun into learning. Design consultants, developers, and educators hold panels to talk about what makes for effective gaming in the learning environment. The conference website links to past presentations, including topics such as how tablets help kids think and ways games make you happier.
- Miami Device: With a name like that, you know this conference is worth checking out! What sets this one apart is that it is organized and presented by a school— Stephen’s Episcopal Day School in Coconut Grove, Florida. In an effort to share its best practices around mobile learning, classroom technology, and project-based learning, St. Stephen’s opens its campus to host this two-day conference. Unlike many conferences where you’ll hear from everyone but teachers, this conference includes dozens of sessions led by classroom teachers, so they you can walk away with an understanding of how technology really can be used in the classroom.
- ISTE: The International Society of Technology in Education is a conference that people in all realms of the learning world look forward to each year. It’s at ISTE that many large edtech companies make big announcements about how they’re planning to move forward in the coming year. In fact, the ISTE conference is globally recognized as the most comprehensive edtech conference in the world. ISTE provides educators, administrators, superintendents, and technology specialists with numerous options (more than 900 session) for learning. ISTE attracts over 15,000 attendees each year, many of whom look forward to experience the hands-on displays in the interactive expo hall.
- CUE: The Computer Using Educators Annual Conference is one of the oldest educational technology conferences in the US, at 30 years running. The conference includes sessions, panels, and workshops given by the foremost leaders in edtech. CUE also runs popular academies, which hold 20-30 participants. These specialized sessions are three hours long and include hands-on activities to compliment the rest of the conference programming.
- Future Ready Schools Summits: These regional summits happen in six different locations around the United States. They are free to attend. The focus of the Future Ready Schools Summit is to give district leadership teams the information and the space to create thoughtful plans for technology integration, regardless of the types of devices the district ultimately chooses. The sessions cover information on curriculum, professional development, networks, hardware, budget, and privacy issues. The summits encourage cross-district collaboration.
Edtech conferences are a great way to improve your comfort level with and increase your knowledge about classroom technology. Educators at conferences learn how to improve on what they’re already doing, and add to the repertoire of great teaching practices. Furthermore, edtech conferences also give school leaders a way to see what high-performing schools are doing differently and what might be up and coming in the world of eLearning.
What are your favorite edtech conferences and why? Let us know in the comments below or by connecting with us on Twitter!
Editor’s note: This piece was originally written by Jeff Dunn and ran on June 4th, 2014 A lot has changed since then, so we’ve had author Amanda Ronan update this piece with the latest techniques and innovations.