I had the opportunity to attend the annual Podstock in Wichita, Kansas, this weekend. As I tweeted, using the hashtag #podstock2011 as instructed, I started to get replies from my Twitter followers – “what is podstock, and should I be there?”
This post is an attempt to explain, just a little, what Podstock is. If you “get” it, then you just might begin to think about what Podstock can be.
Podstock is a conference.
Or rather, it is an un– conference – with a conference-style format, the sessions lend themselves more toward discussion than traditional sage on the stage programming. Around 250 people attended this year, which is not quite twice as many as attended last year. If it doubles again next year, it will have outgrown its traditional venue, The Hotel at Oldtown.
Growth can be a good thing. The beauty of this conference, though, is the sharing and discussion, and I fear that could get lost if the conference gets too big. Even the vendor interaction is personal and relevant – I saw vendors participating in the sessions, just as enthusiastic and devoted as the full-time educators who attended.
Podstock is an attitude.
This was my first year at Podstock. I had a friend who had told me a little of what to expect, and I had done a little research on my own. I even attended a shorter Podstock of sorts in Tyler, Texas, (Podstock Pineywoods), where I had the opportunity to listen to the glue that holds Podstock together, Kevin Honeycutt. Kevin has a vision and a dynamic charisma that makes people want to learn, to share, and to grow. Kevin’s hope is for Podstock to become a nationwide movement, with small un-conferences happening on regional levels so that the original idea can be maintained with smaller attendance than the mega conferences that are becoming so successful across the country. Then it just might be a movement . . .
Just when I was giving up on the value of attending an educational technology conference, there Podstock was. From the new technology adopter in a small school district to very advanced users in very large districts, educators came together for two days to share, discuss, and learn. It was an opportunity to dream, dream big, and start making connections that might actually facilitate true change.
Podstockers are a faithful group, often using personal funds and driving hundreds of miles to attend. They are what Honeycutt calls a “family” – these educators get to know each other well enough to be a support network outside of their profession.
“What is Podstock, and should I be there?”
Podstock was an exceptional experience. I would encourage any serious educators who have been finding traditional conferences lacking, and who want to get re-charged by finding others who are just as geeky as themselves to save the dates – July 18, 19, 20, 2012 – and start planning to attend.
Yes, you should have been there.