In 2005, I attended the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) in Philadelphia. I had wanted to go for years, but it took a long time for the stars to align to get me there. I was impressed and overwhelmed. After attending our state educational technology conference each year, I thought I had a pretty good idea what to expect. I was wrong. There were 12,000 people in attendance. The breakout sessions regularly had 200 people or more in them. The people presenting were, for the most part, amazing. I was impressed by the size of the conference, the quality of the presentations, and the conference as a whole. I decided then that I need to return as often as possible.
Because of family obligations at the end of June and the beginning of July, there’s a very small window of opportunity for me to attend NECC. Going to San Diego or Atlanta or San Antonio was out of the question. This is the first time I’ve been able to get back to NECC. I’ve been looking forward to it for four years.
So now that it’s so close, why am I so indifferent about it?
Sure, the Africa trip probably has something to do with it. I’m leaving for Africa for the Teachers Without Borders trip right from NECC, and I’ve been a bit preoccupied with that. But I think there’s more to it. Since 2005, I’ve discovered my professional learning network. By participating in EdTechTalk, listening to educational technology podcasts, reading blogs, and Twittering, I’ve become part of this community of educational technology people. I don’t need to go to a conference anymore to see what people are thinking about and talking about and working on. I see that every day. So there will be lots of sessions on using cell phones in education. There will be lots of netbooks. For some reason, “web 2.0” and “21st Century Skills” are buzzwords that refuse to die, and they’ll be all over the place. And there will be sessions on professional learning networks, too.
I’m not excited about that stuff. What I am excited about is meeting some of these people I’ve been interacting with over the last few years. There are many people in this community that I interact with on a daily basis, and it’ll be nice to put some faces with the names.
But I wonder if the megaconference has outlived its usefulness. I’m not submitting all of my expenses to my employer for reimbursement for this trip. But if I did, they would pay as much for me to attend this conference as it would cost for the district to pay 15-20 people to attend the K-12 Online Conference. And it’s infinitely more expensive than the free, extraordinarily valuable professional development I get from my network.
So, I’ll enjoy NECC. But I’m not nearly as excited as I thought I’d be.