What are Educational tech conferences and should you go to them?

Conferences on Technology in education are a great way to keep up to date on what is happening and how you can turn attendance into a plus for you. Here Gus Worth focuses on one of the biggest such conferences, EdtechX

Author’s note: Neither I nor Vedamo are connected to EdtechX in any way

If you are a teacher and wish to work online, perhaps by setting up your own business, or you have a physical school and you don’t want to be left out of the digital revolution, then educational technology conferences are for you. In this article I will concentrate on probably the biggest to give you a flavor of what it is all about, EdtechX. So, what is it? It is where the top technological educational players get together yearly to pool knowledge, showcase products and ideas, link with investors and push on online education. It happens in Europe in the Summer, early Autumn in Africa and late Autumn in Asia and, with side events, lasts about a week each time.

Who will be there and what are the topics?

What can you expect? All the big names will be there, a random sample from this June’s(2018) one in London reveals the BBC, Coursera, Google, Lego, Rosetta Stone, Babbel and countless others. There are constant talks, discussions, demonstrations, and also the chance to walk around and talk to companies at their stands. There are simultaneous events, so be warned, you need to prioritise what you want to see or participate in unless you bring a team and and can manage to fit everything in. It can be a bit overwhelming and difficult to take it all in.

An illustration of the topics reveals a diverse range: Eternal Learning, Global Networks, The Power of Artificial Intelligence and Personalising Education, Redefining the Classroom, and Startup Pitches give you just some idea of the choices. If you have an interest in tech education, whether within a company or an educational establishment or a startup, you should be there.

Companies are now trainers

The big shift in recent years has been that companies are increasingly taking responsibility for the training and education of their staff. Some, like Google, have a preference for taking staff from high school and training them themselves. In company training is constantly increasing as work becomes more and more specialized. This is reflected strongly in Ed tech conferences. Opportunities abound for those who can provide such training whether as a teacher or organization.being forged. You will be able to see and hear these workings at first hand.

We have the ability to link education remotely and now the challenge is to do it successfully. That is proving difficult. Uptake of online education is proving a little slower than anticipated. Still it is moving upward. These and other events help to keep the momentum going.

Having fun

Another important point is the fun you can have as you watch robots, 3D teaching, clever use of videos, niche products, and those that are pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved. And sometimes have a laugh as the technology fails as a robot did on stage 2 years ago in London. Or I can remember Lord David Puttnam, the former Hollywood film producer now heavily involved in online education, who got very angry because they couldn’t get his microphone to work. Even the highest tech can let us down. Keeps us humble, I suppose.

Networking

As for networking, it is unsurpassed, although you may have to be patient to grab a chat with some of the more popular participants. No matter what your desire, whether you want a job teaching with some of these companies, you want to push your startup, or you want to connect your school or company to online providers, they are all there from the top to, if not quite the bottom, certainly small scale operations.

You can go to the talks and grab your chance to talk to the speakers afterwards or wander around the stands, get a private demonstration and introduce yourself as a potential employee or contractor. I do have to say here, though, that it is not a place for a wallflower. The speakers are often high-powered, busy and in huge demand. You may have to bustle your way to the front. I have done this myself when I really wanted to talk to someone. Of course, as an attendee, you do get access to contacts for all participants so you can get in touch afterwards as you assess who is most useful to you.
You will also find your own email inbox has had a few hits as companies try to network with you.

Increasing our knowledge

Ed tech conferences also provides a great opportunity to increase your knowledge, to see how pedagogy is changing, to reflect deeply on our new world and see if you can apply the ideas to your own teaching. Areas such as A.I., lifelong learning, teaching in developing countries, working across cultures, teaching individualized courses, teaching mass courses, training in specialized areas for companies and, of course, the largest area for online teaching, language training are all in flux at the moment. These and other parts of the educational world are occupying the minds of the experts and new directions are

It could be essential

The only real downside to attendance, for me, is the expense. The ticket (not cheap) and travel plus accommodation all take a good slice out of your budget. You need to be seriously interested and feel it can make an impact on your life. However, if you are an educational establishment, university or whatever, I believe it is essential to send someone so they can keep your organization ahead of the curve. After all a keynote discussion at this year’s London EdtechX was “Will schools exist 50 years from now?”. You don’t want not to exist, do you?

Gus Worth is a highly experienced writer and educator having worked in universities for nearly 20 years and being first published at the age of six. Currently in the English department of the American University in Bulgaria, he also writes extensively for the web and in print for many companies. He has a particular love of online teaching and enjoys helping teachers take their first steps in the exciting world of the future where you can connect with, and help students develop, all over the planet.
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