As my year in review continues, next up is 2014 Conference of the Year. Let me be clear here: this was an incredibly difficult decision when it comes to selecting even the top 3, let alone the ‘Conference of the Year.’ Here is a quick list of those conferences that make ‘honorable mentions’ for this year:
New Horizons (Roanoke, VA) – Put on by the VCCS, it was a great conference that showcased all that is good among the 27 VCCS institutions; and keynote Dr. Adolph Brown was AMAZING!
IT Summit (Fall 2014, Germanna Community College) – A small, lowkey event, where I was able to network with other Instructional Technologists and see what the IT Summit was all about. It was my first time there and a very useful one at that.
JMU CIT TLT Conference (Harrisonburg, VA) – One of our first opportunities to present to higher educators about apps/web tools. It was an awesome experience and helped us shape future workshops at some of the other conferences.
All 3 of those conferences were awesome experiences and we were tremendously lucky to have the opportunity to go to those. As we now look at the top 3 we have to consider why they are at the top and why they were the ‘creme of the crop.’
Coming in at #3 in 2014 was the IT Summit Spring Semester 2014, on the campus of Blue Ridge Community College. It was here that I presented with Art and Lori on 2 separate occasions. The first presentation was ‘Let Us Edu-Tain You,’ where we showcased 4 awesome apps/web tools: Office Mix, Thinglink, Prezi, and Glogster. The presentation was well received with a lot of positive feedback about the apps and the future use of them in the educators classrooms. The 2nd presentation centered around Google Drive and all of its amazing uses for educators. From Docs, to Sheets, to Slides, to Forms, we covered it all and actually ran out of time because the attendees wanted so much hands-on attention. The feedback from this presentation was amazing, with instructors emailing questions and positive feedback for weeks after the event. Looking back, the IT Summit, while small and only consisting of several VCCS institutions, was among the top 3 because of the atmosphere and the reception of our presentations. I came away from the conference with a renewed confidence in what we were presenting.
My runner-up this year for conference of the year was VSTE, held in Virginia Beach in December. VSTE had an awesome maker space for attendees, including an area with a 3-D printer and maker software and tools like Hummingbird. It was here that we, as a group, showcased our ‘Edu-Tain You with the Sensational Seven.’ It was our first major conference presentation (until ISTE 2015 happens) and the response was overwhelmingly supportive. We had over 50 attendees to our workshop, which was surprising and awesome at the same time. Now we had thought we might lose some people by attrition or perhaps changing at the last minute, but it seemed that more people wanted to come to the workshop last minute than had signed up (between 35-40 signups). We all did an excellent job showcasing the tools we were presenting but we used a multitude of tech to do it, from a MacBook, to an iPad, to a Surface Tablet. While we wished to have been able to be a part of VSTE for more than one day, we walked away from VSTE with pride and excitement for the future: we realized that not only was our content well received by educators, but we were meeting the needs of educators and still ahead of the curve in content (like Aurasma and Thinglink).
Therefore, the winner of 2014 Conference of the Year is………….ISTE 2014!
This was the event, that for me at least, set the stage for everything that happened this year; from workshops, to web tools, to motivation, to projects, to conference presentations (including my upcoming presentation at ISTE 2015), ISTE 2014 was the ‘straw that stirred our drink.’ Personally, I have never had so much fun ‘geeking’ out in my life. I volunteered, and enjoyed it so much I wanted to keep helping others (but realized then I couldn’t enjoy parts of the conference I was looking to seeing). I met some of the coolest people there, and am already starting my ‘must meet list’ for 2015. The atmosphere was electric every single day. Kevin Brown gave the best keynote address I have ever heard. Yes, it was that good; so much so that I decided to do something that so big that it would scare the hell out of me (his words), apply to present at ISTE 2015. Workshops were streamed live, others were packed to capacity. There was a ‘bloggers cafe’ which acted like a meet n’ greet mixed with a discussion forum, which had a cool view of the vendor space. I realized I stayed at the same hotel at Kevin Honeycutt and didn’t even talk with him or just say ‘Hey, I thin you’re awesome!’; I felt that busy. In 4 days, I learned more than I thought I could and came away with a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience; except I get to do it again this year, AND PRESENT! I would not be able to say that last part about presenting if I had not gone to ISTE 2014 and experienced Kevin Brown’s keynote. While I know ISTE 2015 will have its share of awesome moments, ISTE 2014 truly was where it all started for me: engrossing myself in Twitter, using TweetDeck, blogging more, and trying anything and everything I could that was tech related. I’m incredibly thankful to have the opportunity to be able to go to all of these conferences, and look forward to reflecting on next year, because while 2014 was big, 2015 is going to be HUGE!
To find out what Instructional Support and Development chose as 2014 ‘Conference of the Year’, read more here.
And as always, that is your…