This time next week I’ll be arriving in the Washington D.C. area for NAIS’ 2011 Annual Conference which is being held at the Gaylord National Convention Center in National Harbor, MD. As this will be my fourth consecutive annual conference visit (and the third in which I’ve presented) I consider myself well-schooled in the ebb and flow of our national conference. However, that was not always the case. In fact, I first attended the annual conference in 2006 and, I have to admit, that I left that year’s conference not being overly blown away by content or connections so much so that I did not return in 2007.
In part, I believe, because NAIS had not yet grown in its leadership. Pat Bassett was just completing his 5th year at the helm of the organization and, anyone who has read anything about change management, knows it takes time to influence organizations of any size let alone one with a membership the size of NAIS. Combine that with that fact that twitter – founded one month after the conference ended – did not exist and CoverItLive.com was still one year away from launch and it made for a very disconnected conference experience for me.
Fast forward to 2008 and New York City where Radio City Music Hall was the center piece for the annual conference --- with general sessions by Daniel Pinkand Sir Ken Robinson and workshops by Ian Jukes and Rob Evans --- and all of a sudden a tipping point of professional development began for me personally. Perhaps I was just ready for the content or perhaps being able to share my thoughts about what I heard with trusted friend and like-minded soul Matt Scullymade the difference. Regardless, my career changed that year for the better because of NAIS’ Annual Conference.
In 2009 Chicago played host for conference attendees and I presented for the first time. And, the sphere of like-minded and trusted colleagues grew to include Sam Morris and Sarah Hanawald as we soaked in sessions by Dan Heath, Michelle Rhee, Guy Kawasaki, and Oprah Winfrey. And for the first time twitter and live blogging of sessions helped those at the conference and those from afar connect to the content in ways previously unavailable --- so much so that I posted “Brilliant People Who Care; Reflections of NAIS ‘09” as a reflection of my experience and one that I look back on regularly.
And last year, San Francisco played host to my colleagues and I and again the bar was raised as I presented with Sarah Hanawald in the School of the Future strand. More connections, more content, and exposure to folks like Arianna Huffington, Juan Enriquez, Irshad Manji, and the Thought Leaders Panel all of whom helped broaden and stretch my thinking about teaching and learning in the 21st Century.
As I anticipate next week, I wonder what will the 2011 Annual Conference hold for me? I'm certain it will be a chance to continue to challenge my thinking, to reacquaint myself with colleagues face to face, and to share my learning through my role as one of several official conference bloggers.
But, I also wonder what will it hold for you? What are your expectations? And how can I help?