It’s that time of the year. Across the nation, collegiate faculty members are checking luggage, riding in cabs and staying in hotels to attend and present at academic conferences. Having just returned from a stint of three international conferences in four weeks, I’ve come to realize that the conference format is not an ideal format for professional development. Although many people have begun to question the type of discourse that occurs at traditional academic conferences, I want to just focus on the economics of conferences here. Let’s take a look at AERA, the conference from which I returned last week. The American Educational Research Association was held in Vancouver and over 30,000 educational researchers descended on the Canadian coastal city. Each attendee paid registration fees, airfare, hotel costs, meals and other expenses to participate in the conference. If each attendee spent $1,000 to attend the conference, the grand total would eclipse $30 Million. While the conference was rewarding and helped me grow as an educator and as a researcher, I wonder whether there are better ways to spend that money. I also wonder if there are other ways to foster the same type of academic discussions without the time and money spent on traveling.
Google is attempting to shake up the conference world by offering a free, one-day online conference on May 2nd from 12 – 10 PM Eastern. Drawing on a variety of topics from a group of speakers worldwide, Google Education on Air utilizes Google’s new Hangouts on Air functionality. With traditional Hangouts in Google+, a chat was limited to 10 users. While Hangouts on Air doesn’t allow more participants, the feature allows any number of observers who watch the conversation as it streams through YouTube. For the Education on Air conference, each presenter will identify nine participants to share in the discussion while any number of attendees can watch the conversation live. It’s a really ingenious format and has some real potential to shake up conference formats.
While the structure of the conference might be a little nontraditional, the schedule spans the EdTech terrain and offers some unique topics including Mind=Blown with minutephysics, Becoming a Google Search Ninja, and A Global Hip-Hop Passport. With over 40 different presentations planned throughout the day, Education on Air has been organized around six larger themes that include:
- Hot Topics in Educational Technology
- Communicate, Connect & Share
- Google Apps
- Harnessing the Power of the Web
- Instructional & Assessment Tools
- Get Productive
If you’re interested in attending the conference, be sure to check out the conference schedule and the list of presenters for more information. The best part of Google Education on Air is you won’t have to worry about losing your luggage on your way home from the conference.