Networking and the Digitial Difference

By Kimberlyn Pratesi

One aspect that I have enjoyed most about this conference is the networking that occurs during breaks between sessions. Whether strolling outside for a breath of fresh air, visiting the Exhibit Hall or bookstore, or resting in the lounge, there is always someone new and interesting to meet.

This year, much of the buzz during breaks revolved around checking devices for the NAESP Conference App that attendees can use to plan their conference experience. Of course, referencing the app (which was well received and appreciated) led to much discussion of how technology has changed the dynamic of professional learning. 

I also witnessed colleagues who have attended NAESP conferences for ten-plus years taking great pleasure in sharing with newbies how things have changed. They chuckled about times when they registered for the conference using hand-written forms and snail mail delivery, and stood in long lines to check in when scanning devices weren’t available. If a change occurred for a session, attendees were notified by word-of-mouth, or by hard copies of the update, not an electronic notification. Presentations were considered high tech if music was played on a CD player or if a video was incorporated with a VCR. Now, presenters incorporate digital media tools to deliver their message and provide electronic access to materials. Devices provide attendees with 24/7 access to communication with staff at school, replacing the once a day phone call made from the hotel phone to the secretary, or a visit to the phone/message center (now the Social Media Lounge).  

Reminiscing often makes us wonder: How did we ever survive without access to these tools? As Michael Fullan said in his presentation, “technology is unstoppable.”  As administrators, our challenge is to find balance in using it to  support our leadership, communication, and learning. 

Often the learning piece is given the least attention, but it has the most potential in helping us to grow professionally. Many of the conference sessions have referenced tools that can connect us to other professionals, so that we can engage is rich dialog about our challenges and successes. Amongst these are Skype, Google Hangout, and Twitter, all free and user-friendly. And for the first time ever, the conference features a Social Media Lounge with sessions on how to maximize these tools.

So the good news is that as we begin to pack our bags and head home, we can continue our journey with colleagues met here in Baltimore, or perhaps even venture to meet new people in our profession. Now, more than ever, technology can make that a reality!

Maryland principal Kimberlyn Pratesi, a longtime member of NAESP and Maryland Association of Elementary School Principals, is blogging from the NAESP Annual Conference in Baltimore. See more conference updates at Conference News Online.

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