Today has been a stimulating, motivating, challenging and rewarding day of professional development – all from the comfort of my own home. I have spent the entire day watching video presentations by art educators for the online winter Art of Education (AOE) conference. It started just before 7pm on Saturday night here in Ethiopia (10am in Iowa) and was due to run until midnight. Having never participated in an online conference before, I was excited to see how it would go – especially given the challenges we face with power and internet.
The first few minutes were a rush, watching over 900 people come online all over the world. Most attendees were from America, but there were a handful of us from Africa, and others from Europe and Australia.
Luckily my husband had forfeited an invitation to celebrate Burns night with friends and colleagues, as shortly after the conference opened, the power went out at our house. He helped me light candles, and ran the generator to power our ADSL line, and luckily I’d had the foresight to charge up my laptop during the day. So I switched over to my MacBook Pro, and within minutes was back on-line.
The conference consisted of a series of 10 minute presentations, like art Ted-talks, for 5 hours straight! What a wealth of information in one evening! Many of the presenters were names I knew from AOE classes, popular blogs and Twitter, but many are people I now will look up myself and follow more of their doings.
With streaming problems finally driving me to bed before the conference was over, I then spent the next day downloading all the recorded presentations, and have spend the whole day today watching them – thanks to my school allowing me a PD day to make the most of the experience. I have come away with lists of materials to buy, projects to try, initiatives to look into, practical tools to use in my art room, concepts to research and pages and pages of links to further information. It has been astounding collecting all this material in such a short time. Having attended many large professional conferences around the world, never before have I had such a wealth of relevant material delivered so efficiently. No time (or money) was wasted on traveling, socializing, finding conference rooms or hotel rooms. Yes, I missed out on the camaraderie and idea-sharing that a regular conference provides. However, for under $100, this conference was extremely good value – and that’s not even counting the delicious swag bag of goodies that were mailed right to my door!
It has even motivated me to write my first blog post!