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Reflections from CoSN Conference

I attended CoSN’s annual conference in Austin, TX this week.  I’m glad I went, though my impressions from the conference are mixed.

What I liked about the CoSN conference:

  • Serious – the overall tone/climate of the event is, IMHO, very serious.  I mean that in a good way.  The tone stands in stark contrast to some of the larger conventions that long ago crossed the line of professionalism.  There were  no costumes or gaudy theme decorations at this conference, thankfully.
  • Location – the weather in Austin sucked.  That said, I’d always wanted to go to Austin and the little of it I saw was appealing.  I’m sick of the Orlando, SF, New Orleans conference scenes.  This was a nice change for me.
  • Focus – there were a few sessions that were about tech. tools and/or pedagogy, but there was definitely more of a focus on bigger policy issues.  I’m cool with that.
  • Opening keynote – though he seemed a bit cranky, I thought Don Tapscott’s presentation worked.  I’ve not read any of his books, but I like that he writes and speaks from evidence.  He’s done the research necessary to make the claims that he does. [NOTE: I had to leave before the Christenson/Horn keynote, so I don’t know how that went.]

And, here’s what I didn’t like:

  • Facility – the conference used the 4th and 6th floors of a Hilton hotel.  That was fine, but there were very few spaces to sit outside of the rooms.  The hallways were long and wide spaces that didn’t lend themselves to convening and chatting.  It just felt cold and lonely in the facility.   Also, without an air card, wireless Internet access cost $10.95/day.  Not a huge expense, but tech. conferences should freely open the cloud to the attendees.
  • Sessions – nothing meaningful can happen in 45-minutes. Just about every session I attended had to end abruptly and lacked speaker/audience interaction because the speakers took the whole time.
  • Lack of diversity – this continues to infuriate me.  The attendees at this conference made the NECC crowd look like a rainbow and that doesn’t say much.
  • Cost – this was an expensive event to attend.  On top of that, it seemed like there was a lot of nickle-and-diming going on.  When I heard that CoSN would be making the final keynote available on the Web on a pay-per-view basis, I nearly choked to death.

As usual these days, the real value of the conference was in the face-to-face conversations that happened before, between and after the sessions.  I met some of the folks in my Twitter network and a host of new educators.  And, most importantly, I had some real Texas BBQ!

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