2014 Conference Explores Technology, Pre-K, and Much More

NAESP’s 2014 Annual Conference and Expo took place July 10-12, bringing over 1,800 school leaders to Nashville to learn, network, and engage with leading voices in education.

Held at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, the conference featured keynote presentations from best-selling authors Robert Fulghum and Susan Cain, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and DonorsChoose.org founder Charles Best, along with dozens of concurrent sessions.

One of this year’s key themes was technology, and principals connected more online than ever before, exchanging nearly 6,500 tweets with the #naesp14 hashtag during the conference week. Principals flocked to the Social Media Lounge for workshops on hashtags and Facebook, and swapped strategies from the best-selling book Teach Like a PIRATE in a tweetchat on Saturday, July 12.

This year’s event also marked several debuts for NAESP. First, on Thursday, July 10, NAESP launched a new body of work on pre-K practice. The executive summary of the new report Leading Pre-K-3 Learning Communities: Competencies for Effective Principal Practice, is an update to the 2005 NAESP publication, Leading Early Childhood Learning Communities: What Principals Should Know and Be Able to Do. This new work draws on the latest research to outline six key strategies principals can employ to bolster the academic, social/emotional, and physical development of young children. The new report will be rolled out in September.

Second, principals also had the opportunity in Nashville to see the world premiere of Principals’ Perspective, an in-depth news program that will explore pressing issues in pre-K-8 education. NAESP has partnered with ITN Productions to create this vehicle for sharing best practices, highlighting success stories, and raising standards.

Third, NAESP debuted The Wrap, a series of notes and top strategies from hot conference sessions. These highlights, perfect for sharing with colleagues, are available here.

The conference festivities kicked off on Wednesday, July 9, with the sixth annual Community Service Day, sponsored by NAESP and Landscape Structures. A hundred principals braved the Tennessee heat to build a new playground for Inglewood Elementary’s 350 students. Besides installing the new equipment, the day’s work included pouring concrete, using a jackhammer to drill holes for a zip line, painting a swing set, and mulching. See the playground’s progress from start to finish in this Storify wrap-up.

After the day’s labor—and pre-conference sessions from Justin Baeder, Judy Carr, Carol Tomlinson, and Michael Chirichello—principals relaxed at Denim and Dancing. This NAESP Foundation fundraiser, housed on the General Jackson Showboat, featured a presentation from best-selling author David Baldacci.

Robert Fulghum, author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, opened Thursday’s events with a humorous and heartwarming keynote on celebrating children’s uniqueness. Friday’s presenters included Susan Cain, who explored how schools can support introverts, and Sandra Day O’Connor, who championed the importance of civics education. Principals wrapped up their conference experience on Saturday by singing with Peter Yarrow (the Peter, Paul, and Mary star-turned anti-bullying advocate), and learning with crowdfunding guru Charles Best. Best treated conference attendees to a $25 gift certificate to fund a project on his site, DonorsChoose.org.

Between these sessions, conference attendees had the opportunity to explore the Exhibit Hall, home to the National Principals Resource Center bookstore, the popular Principal magazine photo booth, and the Social Media Lounge. In the lounge, social media ambassadors hosted informal sessions designed to help school leaders boost their technology know-how. The most popular session was Twitter 101, though principals also explored and received one-on-one assistance with Voxer, hashtags, Facebook, and more. Todd and Beth Whitaker even dropped into the lounge to record a podcast, fresh from their lunch presentation on school culture.

For more on individual sessions, read The Wrap, and view blog posts and media highlights on the Conference News site.

Looking ahead, the 2015 NAESP Annual Conference will take place in Long Beach, California, June 30-July 2.