Are regional tech conferences on the way out?

My wife returned last night from TIES, the Minnesota K-12 technology conference, and said that attendance was down. I know the same thing has happened with the similar conference in North Dakota and that there is a possibility that if attendance does not rebound this coming year the stand alone conference may be discontinued. I remember attending MECC (the “original” Minnesota Educational Computing Conference) back in my Apple 2e days – while I attended national conferences in my discipline, MECC was probably the most exciting conference of the year.

I wonder if this is unique to our area, a temporary situation in our area, or a trend of a more general nature. So, if this trend is real, I wonder why this is happening and if it is a good thing. Here are some thoughts (completely without data).

  • Perhaps individual districts or regions (in ND we have some regional training programs sponsored through the state) have increased tech professional development to the point that further exposure is not needed.
    • Even if this is true, I think district programs tend to be idiosyncratic and listening only to yourself limits creativity and innovation.
  • Perhaps “integration” has happened on all levels. Maybe the discussion of teachering with technology has become integrated within more general local and regional conferences. Hence, more technology topics are included at the state teachers convention. In my case, more technology topics might be included at the American Educational Research Association Convention.
    • Again, while I think this may be the case and this may be fine for those educators with general interests, I still like the opportunity to go to a conference to concentrate on a specific topic.

    Some more negative thoughts:

  • There has been some money spent in recent years on professional development. When money is easy (for example, when grants are available), teachers are paid for participating in professional development. Perhaps this generates expectations that are not feasible in leaner times. Perhaps the idea of individuals paying to become educated is dead.
  • Perhaps NCLB has caused a loss of interest in technology-supported education or caused priorities to shift to other topics of professional development.
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