By Thomas Phelan, The Peddie School
I hate conferences. OK, perhaps “hate” is a bit strong, but I generally find them a very poor use of my time and I only go if I feel I absolutely have to. For this reason, it took me five years to finally act on the advice of a number of colleagues and attend an edACCESS conference. The verdict? I shouldn’t have waited so long!
It turns out that edACCESS is a fantastic conference, and I’ve gone every year since this first visit in 2008. In fact, I liked it so much, I volunteered to host edACCESS both this year and next here at the Peddie School in New Jersey. This year, the conference is running from June 20 through June 23.
For anyone not familiar with the conference, edACCESS is designed specifically for technology staff at K-12 schools and small colleges. Technology directors are the most well-represented group at edACCESS, but other technology staff positions such as network managers, database managers, and technology coordinators/facilitators also attend. Many participating schools send two or more representatives.
In a nutshell, edACCESS gets rid of the “expert” presentations which dominate most conferences and then builds around what is traditionally the best part of these meetings — the peer discussions that occur in between official presentations. With this model as the foundation, edACCESS excels on many different levels.
Each year I have brought back valuable information that has resulted in significant savings of both time and money. One of the things on my plate as I traveled to my first edACCESS conference held at St. Andrews was a $15,000 renewal for our aging high-maintenance Packeteer. It was at an edACCESS peer session that I learned of the NetEqualizer, which turned out to be a fraction of the cost of a Packeteer. In addition, I was able to setup, fully understand and configure the NetEqualizer in half a day, and it ultimately did a better job of QoS on our network!
However, the benefits of edACCESS don’t stop when the conference ends. One thing we could all use is better networking with others, but the challenge is finding time to make initial contacts. As useful as online forums, listservs, and Web 2.0 platforms can be, there’s no substitute for meeting people through face-to-face discussions. edACCESS will give you a chance to connect with, AND REALLY GET TO KNOW, more peers in other schools than you could in years of going to other conferences. If you attend edACCESS, I guarantee you’ll find yourself reaching for your edACCESS Facebook page throughout the year.
edACCESS is also the most cost effective conference you’ll ever attend. We are able to keep costs down because edACCESS is hosted by boarding schools. The standard registration fee (payment made prior to 5/6) is only $605 for a 4-day, 3-night conference with meals and dorm room included.
Lastly, edACCESS is just a lot of fun. When you return to work you might have a full inbox, but your batteries will be recharged and you’ll remember why supporting technology in schools is a pretty cool thing to be doing.
Enough of the sales pitch. If you have read this far and edACCESS sounds interesting, please take a minute to look at the conference brochure (http://falconnet.peddie.org/edaccess/edAccess_2011.pdf) and the edACCESS website (http://www.edaccess.org). And please, feel free to contact me if you have any questions at all about the conference.