Susan Riley | February 2016

People First: 2016 Winter Conference Recap

The 2016 Winter Conference Recap and Arts Integration and STEAM Online Conference is officially over and after 24 hours, some major takeaways have emerged.  The day is always filled with energy, excitement, and solutions-based sessions that give us all a much-needed boost.  But more than that, this 2016 Winter Conference Recap became a full-fledged community.

Here are a few big takeaways that our community shared during the 2016 Winter Conference Recap, along with one of the biggest lessons we can all learn.

Start with Your Best

Sometimes, people say “save the best for last”.  Not us.  We kicked off the day with the best keynote ever.  Austin Kleon gave us 20 minutes of pure inspiration.  He was funny, poignant and full of gems that spoke to artists and educators alike.  He set the positive tone for the day and encouraged us all to Steal Like an Artist – and so we did. Throughout the 2016 Winter Conference Recap, after the day on social media, and even now.  Start with your best and the rest will follow.

2016 Winter Conference Recap, Education Closet

PD Can (and should!) Be Flexible

We’ve always structured this 2016 Winter Conference Recap around the idea that educators will participate in PD that is both practical and that honors them as professionals.  And yes…that means offering PD in a format that is flexible to teachers’ schedules.  By hosting the event online, we enabled folks to join us from their living rooms….

2016 Winter Conference Recap, Education Closet

or from school viewing parties….

2016 Winter Conference Recap, Education Closet

and we welcomed people from 6 continents all at the same time.  There is something magical and meaningful about that.  Not to mention the fact that people can leave when they need to and still catch up on what they missed through the on-demand site that is included with registration.  This time, we also offered a new breakout library with more in-depth sessions for arts teachers, classroom teachers and administrators.  Providing multiple options is key to helping meet the needs of teachers.

Speaking of flexibility…that even includes our break times.  We know that people need built-in breaks throughout the day, so we make sure they are both practical and fun.  People are able to get up, stretch and grab a bite if they need during the breaks.  But we also offer some fun challenges (like Junk Drawer: create a sculpture with 3 random items in 2 minutes or less) for people to help their brains reset and get ready for the next section.

2016 Winter Conference Recap, Education Closet

It IS You, Not Them

Sometimes, I think that administrators are concerned that they need to “clock” teachers to make sure that they put in the necessary PD hours.  This conference proves that is unnecessary and outdated.

We had some folks who watched the entire conference from beginning to end.  We had others who watched what they could, and then left to take their kids to sports practice.  When they were able, they jumped back into the conference and have already viewed what they missed in our on-demand site.

The lesson here?  Make PD practical and relevant and teachers will eagerly participate.  If they aren’t interested in participating, it’s because you’re not offering what they need.

Biggest Lesson: Put People First

When I tell people that we offer an online conference, I usually get one of two reactions.  Either people think it’s revolutionary and the future of PD, or they think it’s “conference lite”.  As though there is something less about a conference that is offered online than if it were live.  What sometimes gets lost (unless you’ve participated) is that the online format isn’t the highlight.

The PEOPLE are who take center stage.  In this format, folks make fast connections with each other in the chat, through social media and even in person if they are viewing as a team.  We share, ask questions and lift up each other throughout the entire day, and we all leave better than we came.

2016 Winter Conference Recap, Education Closet

This was by far our biggest event we’ve ever produced.  That means that there were both hiccups (note: get alternate email accounts from everyone. School email accounts will block communications as junk mail…grr…) and overwhelming engagement (Twitter couldn’t keep up with all of the comments at one point!).  Overall though, we are joined together as a community.  And there’s no stopping us now!

About the Author

Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of The Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, STEAM, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education. Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter. Email Susan