/ conference

VSTE 2011 is coming!

Tomorrow morning I head out to the 2011 VSTE Annual Conference. VSTE stands for the Virginia Society for Technology in Education and is probably the largest gathering of educational technologists in this state. It's hard to believe that this will be my 5th year at the conference. In many ways I got my roots in educational technology from VSTE. In 2008 my wife was headed to this conference in Roanoke and I figured I'd tag along. I'd never been to the Hotel Roanoke and heard it was beautiful. When we got there she had to register and get her stuff and as I idled about I picked up a conference program and started thumbing through it. Google Earth in the Classroom, RSS Readers, Blogging, I had no clue people in education were interested in this stuff! My concept of education came primarily from higher education and even then only on the IT support side where I was working as a classroom technology support person. The themes in the conference resonated with me profoundly and I told my wife Emalee I wanted to pay the registration fee and go to. Keep in mind as a walk-in this would be over $300 of my own money out of pocket but it was that important to me. I registered and had a blast learning all kinds of new things. The following year I submitted a proposal to speak about mobile devices in education. At the time the iPhone was starting to pick up a little steam and there wasn't a lot of other competitors but Openmoko seemed like it had some promise. Still I could see that with the power of a computer in your pocket and the near ubiquity of these devices being predicted, there was no way we could ignore them. It was my first time speaking in public and it was amazing. Now I was hooked. My wife and I presented the later on 60 iPhone apps in 60 minutes to a packed Washington Lecture Hall, and the year after we did 60 iPad apps in 60 minutes to an overcrowded room in VA Beach. These experiences shaped my understanding of educational technology and ultimately provided a foundation for how I got out of an IT support role and became an instructional technology specialist at the University of Mary Washington. This year is shaping up to be one of the best conferences yet, and I don't just say that because I'm on the Board of Directors and Conference Committee. I've helped them build a brand new domain for the conference and we've integrated an amazing online program to allow users to search and find sessions, take them on the go with their mobile device or print them out, and connect with other people through social networks while they're there. We've got a whole day of virtual sessions, a brand new IT strand, and I've been working with several other Board members on a new space called the Digital Sandbox which will be a community-driven unconference-style space for presentations and discussions. Not to mention the conference is back at the Hotel Roanoke during the holidays, which is just awesome. I could write a book on all the great things coming out of this organization but I'll just leave you saying if you haven't dove in to what VSTE has to offer, you are truly missing out on an incredible network of dedicated and innovative people with a passion for technology in education. I'm incredibly blessed to be a part of it.