Creating a culture of innovation, part 1: Conferences and exhibitions

How, as leader of Computing in your school, do you create a culture of innovation, ie of trying out new things? This is what we explore in this new ten-part series.

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11 tips for organising an education conference

If you're thinking of organising a conference for teachers and other educational professionals, you can learn from the best – and the worst – practice. Here are 11 tips that you ignore at your peril!

Even great content may not be enough to counteract the effects on attendanceof poor organisation. Photo from Stencil. Licence: CC0

Even great content may not be enough to counteract the effects on attendanceof poor organisation. Photo from Stencil. Licence: CC0

1.      Have the conference programme sorted out before tickets go on sale. I do sometimes receive invitations to buy a conference ticket when it's not even clear what talks are going to take place there. Sending out invitations before all of the speakers have been confirmed isn't wonderful, but at least it indicates that the topics have been decided and appropriate speakers approached. Asking people to trust what is, in effect, a blank sheet of paper is really a definition of optimism.

2.      Have one website and login, even if better individual apps are available. Sometimes conference organisers have a website for the conference programme and updates, another one for the conference blog, another one where people can sign up and take part in discussions, another one... Well, you get the idea. Perhaps each of these uses the best tool available for the job, but that's at a huge cost of having to remember the details for multiple websites.

3.      Have passworded access to slides. Some people may object to paying for a conference only to discover afterwards that all the talks and presentations are available for free online. They may know that downloading a set of slides is not the same as actually being there, but when it comes to watching a video of a presentation that is often even better than attending in person (better view, no disturbance from people talking amongst themselves).

4.      Make Early Bird tickets available, and definitely not late bird tickets. I once attended a conference at which I was penalised, in effect, for buying my ticket as soon as sales opened. As an incentive to people to buy tickets after the virtual ticket office had been open a few months, the organisers offered a free subscription to a resource. I was told that I couldn't enjoy that freebie because I'd booked too early. That sort of behaviour is not fair on those who have supported you by purchasing a ticket early. It also smacks of desperation: why have you had to offer such a thing at such a late stage? Isn't anyone attending?

5.      Give attendees the opportunity to have their Twitter names on their badges. That really helps to facilitate networking, because people spot those they've been following and conversing with online. Being able to put a face to a name can be very powerful.

6.      To assist in this process, consider having a conference app which enables people to communicate with other attendees. This isn't strictly necessary – after all, there is always Twitter. But it may be a 'nice-to-have'.

7.      When organising the programme, please don't put the keynotes on at the same time as other talks. I attended a brilliant presentation by a young teacher at one conference. All six of us really enjoyed her talk – the other 150 attendees were at the big name keynote. I thought that was very unfair on someone who had clearly made a great deal of effort. It also meant that many people missed some very good information.

8.       On the subject of 'big names', remember that there are plenty of experts who have not become (nor wish to become) celebrities. Perhaps having a big name or two helps to attract delegates, but don't overlook experts in schools, universities and people you've met at other conferences.

9.      Remember that you don't have to pin down every minute. Why not have a slot (perhaps one of the parallel sessions) and a room available for people who wish to discuss issues that are not covered in the conference programme?

10.  Make sure the wi-fi is good, available everywhere, and that there are enough watering holes for the number of delegates you're expecting.

11.  Finally, devise (and promote) your conference hashtag. If you don't, confusion will reign ("is it Conference17, Conference2017, Conference_2017...?").

There's no guarantee that following these tips will ensure your conference's success of course. You also need great content that is timely, good publicity, a good location and the right slot in the calendar. But not following them will almost certainly affect ticket sales, maybe not this time, but next time.

My book, Education Conferences: Teachers' Guide to Getting the Most out of Education Conferences, is available on Amazon at

Review of the Association for Information Technology in Teacher Education (ITTE) Conference

deck chairsITTE held its annual conference recently, and I bought a ticket and went along. As far as the ITTE conference is concerned, I was a newbie, and so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I do recall dragging my carcass to the local station in sweltering heat, mumbling to myself something along the lines of “Please let the trains be cancelled; I’d rather be in the garden.” Well, that proved too much for Transport for London to arrange, and so I made it to the conference.
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Running a successful Education Technology Project

... now? now!

It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it.

That well-known expression applies as much to running an ed tech project successfully as to anything else. In other words, for an ed tech project to succeed, you need to think about more than just the technology, or even the pedagogy. You have to think about management as well.

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Preparing for the new Computing Curriculum

Please note: the Westminster Forum Conference on Preparing for the new Computing Curriculum

listed in the post entitled Some useful-looking conferences takes place on the 26th February, and not the 14th as originally stated. Apologies!

The agenda and other details of the conference may be found here.