Steve Hargadon and I just wrapped up our fourth annaul Global Education Conference... a online professional development marathon that we've designed in order to connect and empower educators and organizations around the globe.
Presenters submit proposals, are encouraged to promote their sessions upon acceptance, book their sessions using a wonderful tool called YouCanBookMe, and deliver their information via webinar format. We have made this process as open as possible as we want to see people from all walks have the opportunity to share their work. If proposals relate to the mission of our conference, it will be accepted. As a result, you'll see students, higher ed, K12 and informal learning folks all come together in this event. How often do you see this with face to face events? We are deeply appreciative of all of our presenters who are risk takers and believe in sharing with our community.
Participating also requires a bit of work and perseverance. Attendees need to configure their computers, analysis the conference schedule in Google Calendar, and access sesssions through our platform Blackboard Collaborate. For many, this is also an introduction to social media usage and we have many high flying regular attendees who are using social media in very sophisticated ways. There is a lot of information parlayed about, and our conference is an exercise filtering this effectively. Again, this is a very new concept to many people.
This entire process is not for the faint of heart, but it does work and we believe that it leaves people feeling empowered, energized, and as if they had direct acccess to experts. While we are always looking to simply and support our attendees and presenters, we want to see everyone develop confidence and take responsibility for their own learning. It's exciting to see this happen during the course of conference week, and I also believe that we are giving access and opportunities to high quality information to those who cannot travel to participate or present in conferences. This event is very exciting to me because participants have many choices and can choose their own professional development adventure; no authority figure or body is deeming teachers to be deficient by setting the agenda. Teachers can pursue their interests and passions in our virtual rooms.
Regarding our keynotes, Steve thinks that I have a special gift with putting together great lineups of featured speakers, but this is not really the case. I just pay attention to people who I think have particularly profound and unique messages for inspiring our attendees, and hope that they will take this opportunity to interact with our audience. I also want to bring light to programs/initiatives/people that I think are outstanding, but may not be in the mainstream yet. While we can't pay our keynotes (we receive very little funds in terms of sponsorship because we just haven't made fundraising a huge priority), I hope that we return the favor to our keynotes by promoting their work on an ongoing basis and thinking of them when we make referrals to other people and groups. I think that developing a relationship with Steve and I can be beneficial in the future. Our keynotes represent the term I've coined "professional generosity"... they understand that the giving back to the education community and that grass roots word of mouth can lead to powerful returns and synergy.
Another vital component to this events is our volunteer group. We have a leadership team of core advisors with whom we consult with regularly and generally people we've known for a significant period of time in addition to a larger advisory board which anyone is welcome to join. Out of these groups has emerged a set of volunteers who moderate sessions and help participants in our chat room and our virtual conference lounge. It's astounding how these people step up to the plat and how we all bond during this experience. I still think of my friend Larry Anderson who joined us for a few years... the first time, he had no idea how to use Blackboard Collaborate, but reviewed our training video and immediate jumped in because he was so moved by our sessions. And this year, I'm particularly grateful for a volunteer from Uganda named Ibrahim. Always perky with a great sense of humor, he became one of us this week. He thinks he found us by one of the Facebook ads that I ran recently, too! By the way, we've had much more participation in the conference in general from the Middle East and Africa... I am so glad that we are expanding our reach.
I cannot go further with my analysis of the conference without also thanking our main sponsors, iEARN and the Global Campaign for Education. iEARN has been the mainstay global education organization in this space, and we've learned so much from them. We are happy to have so many iEARNers sharing their work every year, and have really enjoyed getting to know Diane Midness, David Potter (who is an incredible user of social media btw) , Lisa Jobson and Ed Gragert (iEARN's director emeritus). Ed is the most networked global ed expert I know and now has brought his expertise to the Global Campaign for Education - US Chapter. We are blessed and lucky to have these organizations as partners. Combined with our volunteers, I feel like we have just an amazing group of professional friends.
Finally, I want to tip my hat to Steve Hargadon, who exhibits infinite patience with me and the rest of this group. He is a man of incredible character and wisdom, and again, I am lucky to know him and work well with him. Looking forward to many more adventures with global education!
I believe that each of us holds the potential to become as great as the sum of our friends and colleagues, and without my incredible professional network, I would be nothing. Thank you, everyone involved with GlobalEdCon.... you inspire and inform me continually, and I look forward to learning together going forward. You all make me love what I do!