Brilliant People Who Care; Reflections of NAIS ‘09

Just about a year ago today I was returning from one of my all-time favorite cities, The Big Apple, after attending NAIS’ 2008 Annual Conference. For those that know me well NAIS ‘08 was a life changing event for me professionally. The speakers, the sessions, the ideas and the connections I made have served me well this past year and have dramatically changed how I view that which I do.

Today, as I reflect on the past year and consider how NAIS 2009 has impacted me, I am reminded of a quote from Bill Gates’ recent 2009 TED Talk in which he noted, “Brilliant people who care and draw other people in can make as much progress as they need to.”

Of course, Bill Gates was talking about his philanthropic efforts to eradicate Malaria but his words got me thinking – and isn’t that the point of great conferences - what is it about attending conferences that, whether they be local, regional or national, help educators progress? What is it about getting together at these events that helps us move forward?

First and foremost conferences should challenge our thinking. Through keynote speakers from NAIS ‘08 like Daniel Pink, Sir Ken Robinson, and Ian Jukes, to this year’s speakers Dan Heath, Michelle Rhee, Guy Kawasaki and Oprah Winfrey we are exposed to brilliant people who draw other people in. But that is only half of the equation. The other half is those people who help us make as much progress as we need to.

How is the brought to bear?

Certainly one could argue that having such a high level of talented speakers that are incredibly good at drawing others in at a national conference should be fulfilling enough. I would challenge, however, that it goes much deeper……

Consider this – throughout NAIS ‘09 there was an incredibly powerful back channel of high level sharing and thinking happening during the three days in Chicago. From the live blogging done by myself and Sarah Hanawald to the continual stream of tweets (#nais09) during the conference from folks like Antonio VivaSam MorrisMatt ScullyLiz DavisJonathan E. MartinKerri RichardsonMichael RogueroKaren BlumbergDavid BillPhillip Cook, Lorrie Jackson, to those who participated from afar like Vinnie VrotnyAlex RagonePeter BaronSteve RitchieDemetri OrlandoBill Campbell and still others who reaped the benefits of this constant flow of knowledge quietly, this year’s conference was truly a marriage of:


So what is the point? I would challenge everyone involved in education to consider how curricular innovation can be achieved through the use of real-time reflection as shared with others. I am not quite sure how one would accomplish such a lofty aspiration. What I am certain of, however, is that my PLN is full of“Brilliant people who care and draw other people in” and with their help I know we will “make as much progress as we need to.”