Tomorrow I’m headed out to NAIS, the national conference for independent schools. I’m going to a workshop tomorrow that’s not affiliated with the conference but coincides with it. I’m looking forward to it, and to the larger conference that begins on Wednesday.
I generally shy away from big conferences. I find them impersonal, corporate-esque, and often the sessions cover ground that’s well trod. I found that to be true of a big conference I went to last year, and let’s not even talk about conferences of my past, MLA and Educause to name just two. NAIS is a little smaller than those, and it doesn’t take long to know enough people that you can find people to hang out with in the hallways.
For me, those conversations in the hallways are important. It’s how I process whatever information I’m taking in during the sessions and keynotes. If I have no one to chat with, I get antsy. I remember one big conference years ago–10 years, I believe–when everyone I knew at the conference, which was about 10 people, all from small schools, ended up at a table in the hallway together. We’d escaped our various sessions addressing issues that just didn’t apply to us.
At NAIS, it’s less likely that I’ll be in sessions that don’t apply. While the schools may vary in size and mission, they don’t vary by that much, not the way higher ed varies. There’s no The Ohio State compared to Swarthmore. We’re all pretty similar when it comes down to it.
I’m generally looking forward to catching up with people I haven’t seen in a while, and I’m genuinely hoping to learn some things. I have specific things I’m looking to gather information and ideas on to bring back to my own school. In theory, that’s why we go to conferences in the first place!