I’ve had the chance to present twice at the TIE conference here in Colorado. I know all the buzz is about NECC, its big names and huge number of sessions. But the TIE conference is an incredible place to be! It is perhaps the most teacher-friendly event I have ever attended. They really work to make the experience a positive one for those participating.

There are concerts, giveaways, t-shirts, free meals, free ski lift tickets, fireworks and, of course, great learning opportunities. The venue is great and the organizers have things down to a tee.

I spent the afternoon on Wednesday talking with a large group of teachers about why we should be using online simulations and video games. The good news is that about half way through, we all lost our internet access. (ISP problem, not a conference problem) It’s a bit difficult playing online sims without the online part! It was a bit like our house whenever we lose electricity. We snuggle up in front of the fireplace and play table games.

The same thing happened here. That was the good news. We were able to really focus on the conversation in small groups and share the expertise in the room. The group had to quit playing and start talking. There’s been some blog talk over the last few months about how we need to encourage and support back channel conversations during conferences. You know, twitter and chatterous and live blogging and iChat. But when the group had no access to those tools, the back channel became the front channel.

I was able to show a few video clips of the different sims and games. We busted some myths people have concerning games and shared out powerful ways that they could be used.

I learned that sometimes technology can get in the way of great conversations.

Yesterday I spent most of the afternoon coaching a large group of people in the use of Google Earth. Again, I was very impressed with how teachers were planning and talking about how to use the tool with their kids. We had a great time exploring some of the cool goodies buried in GE and I had fun watching teachers find new things.

I was reminded how good teachers will always find ways to engage their students and provide opportunities to learn.

Perhaps the most important thing that I’m walking away with is that teaching is becoming more and more a corporate activity. It was never a good idea to put teachers all alone in a classroom. Conferences and technology and meetings allow for a tremendous sharing of knowledge!

What conferences and learning opportunities are you a part of? What have you learned?