Are conference passé?

I am at NAIS in Philadelphia and I got a text from a family friend in Halifax. My daughter wrote this to her:  If you have an idea of what I should be when I grow up then text me back because I need something by tomorrow.

When I spoke with my daughter, she was in tears. I tried to calm her with the classic – you are 11 years old and have a long time to figure this out.  She cried: But I need it for homework today!  So I told her what I did in school – just say you want to be a lawyer.  And that is exactly what she did.

But the point is that when she needed help – and fast! – she texted.  This reflex reminded me of my son before Christmas. He reminded me of his research process to find a new video game.  He texted me:  Well I made a post on Facebook that said “Which games should I get for my Xbox?” Then I took the top 5 and did internet research on them and narrowed it down to the ones that I liked best.

When kids grow up with immediate access to information and people through social media, what is the role of schools?  Sometimes I get worked up thinking about blended learning and how best to incorporate technology into learning in the classroom.  But the fact is, kids are growing up with hand-held devices and can use them with or without schools.

So the answer to how to change is sometimes not to change.  There will always be a real need for face-to-face time together. I would argue that schools need to get better at teaching values of how to get along and how to be kind to each other. (Today we call them 21st century learning skills but many are just good old fashioned values.)

I feel the same way about conferences. I can – and do! – learn from listservs and webinars and internet research.  But I value more the opportunity to join my NAIS colleagues here in Philadelphia.  Since CAIS is part of the International Commission on Accreditation and the Independent School Association Network, I spend a full week engaged in listening and talking with colleagues from all over the world.  This is an international network of smart people who share my passion for accreditation, advocacy, professional development and research.  As CAIS is the only organization in Canada to focus on this combination of programs, this network is critical.  (I am joined by my friend Jan at CIS Ontario too!)

Sometimes I joke that I learn more from the hallway conversations, but it was pretty amazing yesterday to hear Jim Collins and Bob Evans.  And last night at Canada Night, people wanted to talk about them and Daniel Goleman and the other sessions they attended (including one on marriage and Headship by Sue Groesbeck and Hal Hannaford and their spouses!)

tweeted all about it, but I bet you would agree, that the real value is being here to hear and debate the ideas in person.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s