Student Led Conference

I first read about a student led technology conference in Maine sometime last year and thought it would be a great thing to try here in Omaha.  Earlier this year, I threw out the idea at a meeting of tech savvy educators and before long it generated a lot of positive inquiry.  At this point, everything is still in the planning/conceptual stages, but the hope is to put together a student led technology conference this spring.  Below is part of the proposal I’ve written up for it.  The full version contains a lot more detail, but this gives a pretty good outline of how I envision the conference running.  If anyone else has done something similar, please leave a comment or get in touch with me (see

How it works

This conference will be broken into three parts: a keynote, breakout sessions, and a debate session.  The details of these parts will be delineated with further discussion, but the the descriptions below represent a basic overview of each.  The preference would be that all students attending lead one of these three parts (the keynote, a breakout session, or a debate session), though we may choose to allow students not leading a session to attend.

Keynote – The keynote would be presented by a student or group of students based on submissions to a simple question and it’s follow up: What impact does technology have on education? and Why do we need it?.  After receiving submissions, a panel would evaluate what student or group should serve as keynote.  Submissions could be made through a written essay, a video submission, or another creative work.

Breakout sessions – Following the keynote, their will be 2-3 periods of breakout sessions.  At the sessions, students would lead 20-30 minute presentations describing an application, lesson, or project that involved technology in the classroom.  Potential sessions could include tutorials on podcasting, robotics, integrating interactive whiteboards, 1:1 computing, Internet applications (Google Docs,, etc.), or software applications (iMovie, Alice, Scratch).

Each breakout period will have about 1/3 of the students presenting at one time.  This will give students/teams the opportunity to attend two sessions that interest them and present one of their own.  We may require students to pre-register for their break-out sessions to keep the number of attendees at each session balanced.

Debates – The debates will consist of presentations answering a series of questions.  Groups leading the presentation will have to present the pros and cons of for each question.  The audience will participate in the debate through back-channeling.

Back-channeling is commonly used in many technology conferences around the country and is built in to Google Presentation.  It allows the audience to write in comments as a presentation is being given.  The presenter controls the screens of those participating in the presentation and the typed comments are aggregated in a sidebar in real time.  Within this format, the presenters would present points for and against and the audience (most likely in small groups) would discuss these points, then write in their reactions.  These comments will appear in the presentation and the presenters can discuss them.  Below is a list of questions that could be debated.

• Should YouTube be allowed in schools?

• Should schools provide email access to students?

• Should schools limit or ban the use of social networking sites at school?


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