Friday, February 15, 2008

METC 25 Years & A Great New Venue

As always this year’s Midwest Education Technology Conference was a great opportunity to connect with teachers, librarians, instructional technology specialists and other educators for a few days. The conference, now in its 25th year, has outgrown the Sheraton at Westport Plaza and the decision to move to the St. Charles Convention Center was made by the Cooperating School Districts staff. The two-year old facility coupled with an Embassy Suites Hotel is located just over the Blanchette Bridge between Fifth Street and First Capitol Drive and is convenient to Lambert International Airport and Interstates 70 and 270. It offers more meeting space all in one building. It also affords easy access to restaurants and shopping in Historic Main Street St. Charles . With registrations topping the 1400 mark, it was definitely the right decision to relocate.

Prior to the start of the conference, there was concern that with Interstate 64/40 shut down just last month there would be traffic concerns coming from the south and east. Those that I spoke with said that traveling to the new location was uneventful and no problem. One of the biggest issues with the Westport location was a lack of adequate parking. Parking at the St. Charles Convention Center was more than adequate even for those arriving later or leaving and returning during the day.

The wireless network was not adequate for a technology conference and there were people joking around on the Twitter about the conference being BYOB-bring your own bandwidth. This might be because the St. Charles Convention Center was built as a venue for boat, coin, gun and knife shows which do not have 1,000+ laptop carrying attendees. The situation will only improve next year.

The only real technical issue I experienced was during my mobile phone session. In the past it has been hard to find people willing or familiar with enough with text messaging. This time, there were plenty of “text messagers,” but NO cell service in the breakout rooms. This limited the actual hands-on demos I had planned, but 15 people still ran down the hall to the escalator to text to and show how cell phones can be used as “clickers” in a classroom setting. Unfortunately, it was the only real time demonstration we were able to do. I hope the breakout rooms at NECC do not have a similar issue for my 3-hour cell phone pre-con.

I had so much more to reflect on right after the conference, but now that I’ve been fighting the flu for a week, I guess I’ll just end it here.

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Karen Montgomery is the author of Gomeric Hill. The opinions expressed herein are mine and not necessarily those of my employer.