Reflecting On #FallCUE 2014

Fall CUE has come and gone. What a weekend. After an hour and a half turned three and a half hour drive up Thursday night, Friday morning came way too early. CUE had a new registration system in place. One that involved bar codes and printing instead of manual hunt and peck through folders. After a slight hiccup on the server side, the line moved along at a respectable clip. It would have moved even faster, however not everyone, myself included, had their bar code ready to go but for those of us that forgot (or just plain couldn’t download the bar code) email address or name sufficed. While the line moved along, it still managed to wrap outside the admin building for most of the hour it took to get everyone through. Here’s hoping there are a few more printing stations available next year or they can convince people to come to early registration, maybe with a no host bar in the hotel lobby? Sadly missing was a dedicated speaker line, which silly as it sounds, would just add a bit more thank you to the presenters who spent their time preparing and sharing with fellow educators for this two day event.

Following a disturbing trend at CUE conferences lately, wifi was spotty on the first day.

Wifi Needs

Mike Lawrence, CEO of CUE, recognizing the basics needs of all humans.

The conference was at the mercy of the district wifi network and techs could be seen walking around with wifi test equipment searching for problems. With a series of issues identified and addressed through Friday morning, intermittent problems continued to plague several attendees throughout the first day. Personally, I would not want to host an event with over 1200 uber edtech users at one of my schools but I’d have a bit more confidence in my equipment knowing it was brand new than I would in a mixed environment of old and newish access points configured without bandwidth limits or separate SSIDs for presenters and attendees. Day two saw wireless stability return to CUE, leaving me to question whether it was the lower turnout or the disabling of band steering that actually made the difference.

Day one also saw long lunch lines. The lunch vendor arrived late and towards the end had to resort to making individual orders for folks. Multi-talented CUE Board Member Roger Wagner lent a hand making salads behind the counter to keep the line moving. Again, day two went much smoother, with short lines and plenty of food.

Feedback for the conference from my teachers and principals (including @PrincipalUMS) was positive overall with generally good things to say about the majority of the sessions. As will any pre-slugged conference, sessions can sometimes be hit or miss and with rooms packed with people, voting with two feet can sometimes be intimidating. There were a few sessions that I wanted to attend but arrived late to and wasn’t able to squeeze myself in to find a seat. I ended up hanging out and catching up with folks, which sometimes is better than any session could ever be.

Somehow I managed to miss out on the coffee on the first day and didn’t realize that there wouldn’t be any coffee on day two. Luckily a call for coffee on twitter Saturday morning brought Sam Patterson and Mike Vollmert to the rescue with Mochas from Starbucks. Coffee would have been nice to have on Saturday, especially with the rainy weather.

Diana Laufenberg‘s closing keynote was the most inspiring and on point presentation I’ve heard so far this year. She has me thinking about how I can re-design our PD to be more student focused and to inspire creativity and innovation in our classrooms. Her, “It’s not what you know but what you can do with what you know” slide should be plastered on the walls of every classroom from here to the moon.

Beyond the conference sessions, it was great to catch up with people I haven’t seen in a while. The general consensus was that we’re all way too busy. The edtech explosion seems to have all of us running around like crazy trying to keep up with the demand. Suddenly everyone wants to be (or needs to be) a computer using educator.

My overall experience this year was much better than last. American Canyon High School is a beautiful campus.  I think even with a 1200 attendee cap, Friday still pushed the campus to it’s limit. Saturday was much more pleasant, even with the rain. The sweet spot for the venue is probably around 1,000 attendees. And the wifi definitely needs an upgrade. 802.11AC support would be nice and the ability to disable 802.11b and set bandwidth limits would be nice too.

I suppose the measure of any conference is, “Would I send people again?” The answer for Fall CUE 2015 at American Canyon is yes, with the caveat that a slightly lower attendee cap and upgraded wifi would be much appreciated. Of course, the alternative would be to find a bigger venue and let demand dictate attendance. I think 2,000 is attainable, but what wifi network could support us all? I wonder.


Full disclaimer, I’m a current elected board member of CUE, the non-profit organization that puts on the Fall CUE conference in American Canyon, CA.