The landscape of professional development for school administrators has changed dramatically over the past five years, for a variety of reasons. The ability to be connected through Twitter chats and online resources make staying up to date on best practices easier than ever. But is it enough? Is there still a place for face to face meetings? Is there still a reason to attend professional conferences? For the cost, is there enough of a benefit in this day and age of reduced budgets and financial worries? I say yes. Here me out, because I know what you are thinking. It is too expensive, I can’t miss school days, what would my staff say? Yes, these are all valid questions. And yes, I still maintain that these conferences have their place. Here’s why:
Face to Face Interaction
Don’t get me wrong, I am all about learning through the web. I love a good Twitter chat (if you haven’t tried one of these, you are really missing out) and following great blogs and web sites. But nothing beats the power of face to face conversations. Take it a step further. Combining the two forms is even more powerful. Knowing the people I interact with online personally enriches both forms of learning.
Yes, I can follow keynote speakers online. I can read their blogs and websites. But that is not the same as seeing and listening to them live and in person. Normally, these well known speakers have a book signing or some other session where you can interact personally. You can’t do that online.
Some of the most informative “sessions” I have attended at conferences weren’t sessions at all. They were impromptu social conversations with other attendees. The opportunity to sit down over a meal, a beverage or just sitting around the conference venue cannot be duplicated online. I have learned so much from my colleagues outside of formal sessions. National conferences provide you with an opportunity to meet and interact with people from across the globe. That alone is sometimes worth the cost.
A Different Environment
Most of the reading and contacts I make online are done when I have a few free minutes at home or at work. Being at a conference location forces me to slow down and focus in what I am learning about. This is much different than the hectic minute to minute school day. I find that after a few days in this setting, I return to my work rejuvenated and and with more energy.
For me, every year I attend our state principals conference. For the past six years, I have also been fortunate enough to attend the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) conference. This year, Ignite ’14 will be in Dallas, Texas. You should join me.