Wow! At this point last year, right after Virtual School Sympoisum 2010, I remember debating with Jon Fila, co-founder of MoodleShare, the value of attending Virtual School Symposium 2011. In all honesty, I was nonplussed with last year’s event. This year the improvements overwhelmed me. This was simply a great conference in so many ways.
Last year felt like the conference was sponsored by iNACOB, with the “B” standing for “Business.” This year the emphasis shifted heavily back to “L”, for learning. To set matters straight, I enjoy learning about what vendors have to offer, and enjoy hearing what’s new, but the commercial emphasis last year dominated the conference.
This year, however, the Twitter stream stayed respectfully focused on academics and content, without the flood of “STOP BY OUR BOOTH AND WIN AN IPAD!” tweets that were all the rage last year.
More importantly, the range of quality, non-commercial presentations increased significantly. At one point on Thursday morning, I had six sessions that I wanted to attend for one time slot. I often found myself running around, trying to make parts of two or three presentations during the same time slot. That never happened last year, where I struggled to find interesting presentations for several time slots.
One of the lunch panels last year essentially consisted of infomercials for products. This year, in a dramatic contrast, the Thursday lunch panel consisted of exclusively teachers, talking about online learning.
Even the wireless Internet worked this year! (It didn’t last year.)
So kudos to Susan Patrick , iNACOL, and all the event organizers, for re-balancing the conference. Everyone that I talked with noticed the difference, and commented how improved their experience was. This was the best VSS in three years, and you’ve set the bar high for Virtual School Symposium 2012 in New Orleans.