Reflections on Building Bridges 2015: A Washington-based EdTech Conference

Conference Impressions Overall

Overall, this has been a great amalgamation of library, IT, IR, faculty, and numerous other tech folks who work, largely, in higher ed. As faculty, it was nice, quite nice, to be in a minority. This enabled me to listen, hear, and observe how others use, see, employ, support, or make decisions about EdTech. For that, and the multiple perspectives, that was wonderful.

The Context

Set in Spokane, Washington, there were some lovely views. But honestly, riding in from the airport, I felt like I was being driven into a post-apocalyptic film. Maybe it was all the bridges that could serve as snipers' nests. Maybe it was the grey that reminded me of East Berlin, March 1990, that echoed of buildings. Maybe I was just tired. But I've rarely felt that I'd entered into an apocalyptic film scene.

Fortunately, the conference and the hotel were anything but apocalyptic. The Red Lion at the River van driver was friendly. Counter staff were friendly. The seventh floor room with a view over the park was lovely. Everything went killer smooth. In spite of my bad first impressions, this town was tight.

Downtown Spokane, or at least the 20 square blocks or so I puttered around in, were nice. Dug Auntie's Books, but didn't find anything to buy. No Bucky Fuller there. Le Sigh. However, there was a killer artisan shop inside Aunties. And there, there I found a lovely ceramic with a Raven theme. Killer, dude! Gift for my man!

Next was tacos. Fish tacos. When I mapped downtown Spokane, I sought out cheap eats. Taco El Sol appeared on the map. Went there. Ordered. Waited. And I waited a bit longer. Was it worth it--ever! Best fish tacos--fish grilled, my friends, not fried--I've had in over two years. And the lengua taco was sweet, too. All total, it was under $9. Fabulous lunch.

From there I quested for color pencils. That led me to a pretty run down part of Spokane near the stadium. It was grey. And, again, it felt like part of Eastern Europe 1991 but with American advertising. It was surreal, especially in terms of the aesthetics.

River--lovely. Park: gorgeous. People: friendly. No disrespect meant to Spokane, but that's how it felt.

The Hotel: were they and the conference responsive? Very much so. Tweeted concerns and requests, lack of tea during breaks or rooms being too hot, and they responded. Quickly. So, yeah, the infrastructure and support was pretty good. Hotel room was nice, too, but paying $115/night, before tax, was a bit taxing. Still, at least the WiFi worked pretty well.

Concerns. Did I mention this is an EdTech conference and, for some strange reason, almost all of us are using open public unsecured WiFi. In other words, a packet sniffers delight. Delight! Just seemed a bit strange to me. The other significant issue was the very non-diverse audience. It's obvious that EdTech has a long ways to go in recruiting and retaining more diverse participants and employees. Almost all presentations were practice-oriented; given the audience, this was probably a wise choice. I would like to see more InfoSec related presentations--perhaps an entire strand.

End ResultOne of the most organized, most enjoyable, and focused conferences I have attended. Great timing for breaks, session length, presentations, etc. Overall, it was a relaxing, enjoyable conference where I learned a lot and felt far less stress than other conferences I have attended.

Podcasts About #WSHETC15

I have several podcast reviews of specific sessions:

Tangent Runner 4: A bit about FedWikis and Social Rules at conferences

Tangent Runner 5: Discussing Siemens' Worry About (Corporate) Jackals

Tangent Runner 6: Forthcoming Reviews of Multiple Thursday Sessions