You (yes, YOU) should present at a conference

Educational technology conferences happen all the time all over the country. There’s probably one going on every day of the year! At each of these conferences, the organizers look for interesting speakers and presentations that will excite the attendees. Where do these presenters come from? It’s no secret – THEY are YOU!

Steve Dembo of the Discovery Educator’s Network just wrote a blog post, You know you’re a rock star… Now prove it! that contains a handy list of all the state educational technology conferences and links to their session submission pages.

The problem is that many teachers don’t believe they are rock stars. I hear this all the time, ...oh, I’m just a teacher… lil ol’ me? ….. I just do my own thing in my classroom and no one even notices down the hall! Why would anyone else care?

Really now people, and especially you GenYES and TechYES teachers out there – you are doing some terrific, interesting things that other people want to hear about and understand better. You can’t fool me! I hear your stories all the time, and what you do is just as amazing as most conference sessions out there. The only difference is that the people presenting sessions have screwed up their courage and decided to share.

Putting forward good examples of student-centered learning and explaining how that happens is everyone’s job. Otherwise, people just assume it’s magic. So — why do you care about student empowerment? What does that look like? How do you create project-based experiences in this age of accountability? What is it you DO that creates the environment where students don’t just perform – they blossom?

Speaking at a conference is not “tooting your own horn”, it’s not egocentric, and it’s not just to get fame and fortune. Believe me, it’s not about fame and fortune! Actually, you can think of it as part of your professional development — it’s a balanced part of being an educator, doing reflective work about your own practice. OK, it’s scary to get up in front of people and talk, but for goodness sakes – you do this for a living! And how can a conference audience be any more scary than a gaggle of 14 year olds after gym class?

And now I’m going to up the stakes even more – take your students along on the adventure. If what you do in the classroom is meant to enable student voice and to empower students to own their own learning, let them take that experience outside the classroom. Let your students show others what it means to be a 21st century learner. Education conferences are becoming more open to student presenters, and really, it’s not that hard.

Sharing Student Voice at ConferencesTo help, I’ve written a how-to guide about taking students to conferences. It’s called, Sharing Student Voice: Students Presenting at Conferences. The focus is on making it an enriching experience for students AND also meeting the needs of the adult audience. It starts with how to propose sessions with students, goes through planning and preparation, and includes a handy Top 10 Tips for student presentations.

You can download the PDF here or read an online flipbook version.

And yes, I’m talking to YOU!


3 Replies to “You (yes, YOU) should present at a conference”

  1. Just this evening, my colleague and I were looking at the NECC ’09 proposal criteria and were saying, ‘heck, let’s put our neck o’ the woods on the ed tech map!’ Your post is an added reason to submit proposal.

  2. Sylvia, You are absolutely right. I “stuck my neck” out there when I put a proposal in for the K12 Online Conference. I was cautioned. I was warned not to get my hopes up. Someone might have even said that famous people are the only ones who get picked. Well, I’m not famous, and I was selected. So, I too encourage everyone who has a solid and sound teaching practice to put a conference proposal out. Solid educational practice is recognized!

  3. Sylvia,

    Big applause. Anyone promoting the need to decrease the distance between “authority” and “learner” is really 3.0! That is the future, a kind of blended situation where self learning happens alongside the teacher, not infront of the teacher. Technology really makes this a possibility and so too should prof. development embrace this student/teacher meld.

    Great pdf, very professional and succinct.



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