Accessibility and practicality are two of the biggest priorities for me as an educator - whether it is in the way I teach my students or how I contribute to or participate in professional development.
Last week my boss left a shiny booklet on my desk - a brochure advertising the upcoming Blended Learning 2012 conference to take place in Sydney. As our team's e-Learning coordinator, I was instantly interested and even excited; this is stuff I like to sink my virtual teeth into.
Then I saw the note he'd attached to the brochure, apologising on account of our department not really having the funds available to send me along to the event.
No huge surprises, really. Mr. Baillieu and Co. have just ripped $300 million out of the state's TAFE funding and late last year we copped a massive cut to VCAL coordination funding. Times are really tough when it comes to anything financial. "Oh well," I thought to myself. "Perhaps I could chip in for this myself."
I checked out the price tag.
To attend this 2-day conference with three attached workshops, as an educator, it is going to cost $3900.
My eyes nearly popped out of my head. I had to check again just to make sure I hadn't missed a decimal point somewhere, but no. $3900.
$500 discount if you register early.
Does not include airfares or accommodation.
I was starting to boil a bit and decided to check out the line-up. Ah yes, professor after professor with the occasional vice-chancellor thrown in. Nobody that I've seen contributing anything in the edtech blogosphere, and quite possibly nobody who actually teaches learners directly anymore.
Oh well. Perhaps, given the theme and field, they would be providing a webcast of the event, for all of us non-academia who couldn't possibly afford to pay in the vicinity of 10% of our annual wages (not including those who have fallen out onto the casual and permanent part-time sidewalks) to attend a 2-day event?
Having done a reasonable amount of research on this event, I've now come to three firm conclusions:
1. It is a ridiculous rip-off aimed at 'elite' educators, none of whom will actually pay to attend but will syphon it out of deparmental budgets funded by goverment and students. Will keeping all the regular teachers out of it help everyone getting there on faculty funding feel that little bit more special and important?
2. It utterly misses the point and currents in edtech-oriented professional development. Blended learning can never work as a purely top-down process.
3. I don't think I'm actually missing all that much. There is an enormous world-wide community of educators who are applying blended learning, blogging about their experiences and sharing a massive amount of really dynamic resources - not for two days of the year but (as a collective) every day of the year. Their best tips and techniques are emerging from practice, not vaulted shut away conference halls. They charge using a currency called open collaboration.
What a joke. This event isn't really about blended learning. It's branded learning, with complimentary chardonnay thrown in, and no matter which way they try to twist or turn it, clearly teachers aren't welcome.