This past week, January 29th-January 31st, I attended the NYSAIS Education and Information Technology (NEIT) conference as a first time attendee. This conference is held annually, recently at the end of January, at the beautiful Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY.
The interesting thing about NEIT is that for the most part it is an “unconference.” Throughout the three days there are 4 hour-long “open spaces” during which any attendee can pose an idea or topic of their choice. The person who poses the idea does not have to be an expert, they can merely be curious and want to start a forum for discussion. You can see a list of this year’s proposals and their notes here.
An unconference is a great way to gather information from new and eclectic voices in the education world, however, things can get overwhelming at times. For example, it can prove a real challenge attending each of the many discussions I had my heart set on when they often overlap. There is, though, always an opportunity to walk in and out of sessions but for the most part I stayed where I started.
Besides the unconference element there are also speakers. This year’s speakers included Ian Jukes (@ijukes) and Don Buckley (@donbuckley). Ian Jukes was our opening and Day 2 speaker and focused on “Education in the Age of Disruptive Innovation” and “Literacy is Not Enough: What does 21st Century Learning Really Look Like?” Don Buckley, as the closing speaker, discussed “Information Technology: Design Thinking our war to the Future.”
On Thursday evening, at dinner, there was also something called “Ignite!” which are small 20 slide PowerPoint presentations at 15 seconds per slide. They can be both humorous and thought provoking and this year’s presenters did an excellent job at keeping us both entertained and mindful of what we do and why we do it.
NEIT generally garners the attention of librarians and technologists and it is always a pleasure to catch up and converse with colleagues. NEIT, however, is open to all educators interested in how to explore and use technology in their own educational practices. I met several teachers at the conference who were interested in learning more and implementing these practices within their own departments. I think this would be a great conference for department heads and division directors to attend to see what new and innovative things the library and technology departments are discussing and developing.
One of my favorite things about this conference is how it touches on the fundamental reasons why we are educators. The location is beautiful with time built in to experience the amenities or simply relax. It was a little cold for my taste but I know that several people took advantage of the hiking trails and other outdoor activities. Minus a ubiquitous stomach bug wreaking havoc on a majority of the attendees - spurning #MoChunk - this was an enriching experience. Hope to see some of you there next year in a hopefully germ-free NEIT 2015!