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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Thoughts on Conferences, from TCEA 2011

From timsamoff Flickr CC
I have finally attended part of TCEA 2011.  This was my first visit, since arriving in Texas in 2006,and I was only there one afternoon since I had to share the badge with others from my school. 

As active as I am on Twitter and as interested in tech as I am, this may surprise some of you that I had never attended TCEA.  If you're a teacher, though, it may not surprise you at all.

You see to attend a conference you really need to be able to take a day off.  And, if the conference is out of the area it is rare that a school district will pay for you to attend conferences.   Here are some of my experiences with attending conferences since 1994:
            Newport News VA - It was my first two years of teaching and I was sent to "training" sessions but other than that I never even new about conferences except the Virginia versions of NCTM and NSTA. (only local conferences/trainings)
           DoDDS School in Brunnsum, the Netherlands - I attended the ECIS conference in Berlin and I was encouraged to attend once they found I had never been to it (all costs paid)
           Gainesville, FL - This was my best experience.  There wasn't a lot of discussing conferences but if you had one that you wanted to attend there was no problem.  You were paid for travel but you had to present what you had learned to your fellow teachers. (travel paid)
           Round Rock, TX - Similar to Gainesville but you had to foot the bill.  Paying your way can make these a non-starter.  Still, Texas has many in state conferences that are of high quality (such as TCEA)  (totally out of pocket)
           Manor, TX -  This was (and is) an incredible experience.  The first year I went to several conferences and got to attend the New Tech Foundation All -Schools Conference which has to be the best strictly professional development conference - period.  Since that first year the money has started to dry up but still I was told to "pick one conference and we'll see."  (all paid but money is drying up)

      And so I have made it to TCEA.  I spent the afternoon in the Web 2.0 area because it was Edubloggercon.  It was well worth it because I got to meet some of my personal favorites from the twitterverse.  It was good to discuss things and to think - uninterrupted.

     I'm still amazed that this conference isn't pushed more by our district.  I think they just don't understand what is available.  As one of the Smart vendors said, "we don't need the IT people here, we need the teachers so we can talk to them about their experiences with the product."  So, unless there is some magic dust spread, TCEA2012 will be attended by our tech folks and I'll probably be forced to take some personal days and buy my own entry into the event.