This Wednesday finds me at NCCE in Portland Oregon. I have been coming to this conference for the past 8 years and have enjoyed each time coming. Conferences are a great way to see what others are doing and what new technologies are out there. However they are more than that, they are a great way to energize and infuse one's teaching with new ideas and energy.
There is an energy surrounding educational conferences that you can't find at classes, seminars, etc. You have hundreds if not thousands of teachers from around the local area to around the nation all looking for the same thing: new ideas and way of reaching their students. I have always left each conference I have left each conference with more ideas on teaching technology and other subject areas than I can shake a stick at. Sometimes these ideas blossom into curricular changes for my class or in our school in general. Although often times making these changes in classrooms other than my own is an up hill battle.
Because making change in classrooms other than our own can be an uphill battle it is important to include more than just subject area teachers at these conferences. I have found that when I have had teachers outside of the tech subject area come to NCCE or NECC they are able to see ideas that apply to their classroom/classes. When this happens it is more likely that these ideas will be adopted over time and not just as a onetime shot. However often times it is just a subject area teacher that is sent to a conference that deals with their subject area. Although along with teachers from outside the conference area, there is another group that should be considered for attendance.
Students are an often time overlooked group to take to conferences. Students are sometimes only included as demonstrators of what their teacher is doing. Student though are our costumers and can benefit from conference attendance as well. They would be able to look at ideas for the classroom from the eye of the consumer. Students have a unique way of giving authentic feedback on things that could be helpful. Students often times give brutally honest feedback and this feedback given in the context of the conference can be helpful to both the presenter and the attendee.
So when it comes time to look at who to send to ed conferences reconsider sending just subject area teachers.