Austin, Texas, is a place of eclectic music, beautiful lakes, superb Tex-Mex and BBQ restaurants, and on June 14-16, 2021, it will host the second annual Digital Learning Annual Conference (DLAC).
This innovative conference will focus on online, hybrid, and blended strategies and solutions that best support the entire school community. Unlike other conferences, DLAC 2021 will not be a "sit and get" event. Instead, attendees will have opportunities to share their experiences, learn through collaboration, and network with colleagues in facilitated sessions and informal settings. The organizers believe that there is value in the hallway conversations outside the sessions and aim to maximize those opportunities while maintaining the benefits of more traditional conference programming.
Understanding that not everyone will attend the conference in person, DLAC 2021 (opens in new tab) has thoughtfully created its conference in a flexible hybrid (opens in new tab) model, with onsite and online attendance options. The online option will occur in three segments: an online conference opening June 8; onsite sessions June 14-16 that offer online programming; and a final DLAC Encore online session on June 30.
DLAC 2021 guarantees that both their online and in-person sessions will be shorter, livelier, and more interactive than most conferences, “creating a high-energy gathering built on sharing and conversations.”
Onsite DLAC includes contributed talks, workshops, panel discussions, debates, table talks, and PechaKucha (opens in new tab) talks. In addition, DLAC online presentations, discussions, and networking opportunities will include extensive break-out rooms to allow small group video discussions and text chat options.
Finally, live streaming several sessions from Austin will give online attendees a connection to the onsite conference with live moderators and real-time interaction.
Focusing on topics relevant to the many districts seeking to create, expand, and improve digital learning, conference goers will have the opportunity to attend sessions relevant to our new world of online schools and classrooms. Tracks will offer consecutive sessions that will provide attendees with planning and implementation strategies that support robust digital learning initiatives.
For districts looking to create or expand their online and hybrid learning environments, the How to Start an Online School Track will dive into critical topics such as setting goals, operational and district policies, and how best to support online teachers. The twelve Online Teaching Track sessions will help the needs of both new and experienced online teachers with topics such as Building Community in the Online Classroom, Engaging Reluctant/Struggling Learners, and Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Strategies. Finally, the challenges of the hundreds of school districts expanding their use of blended learning in summer 2021 and school year 2021-22 will be addressed in The Blended Teaching Track, which will focus on creating customized learning pathways, understanding blended learning in the early grades, and, most importantly, designing engaging online learning experiences.
Recognizing the challenges faced by rural school communities during the recent pandemic, DLAC 21 includes various online and blended learning sessions specifically for rural teachers and administrators. Sessions of interest include highlighting how a rural district addressed continuity of learning during the pandemic using various learning models, online tools, and digital content, and how to engage and provide equity for more than 150 square miles.
While in-person conferences are slow to come back, DLAC 2021 has found the secret sauce of connecting districts and educators across the country through their hybrid conference model. When they launched DLAC in 2019, they said: “No technology has ever transformed education quickly, and we see no sign that technology is about to do so. But we see plenty of examples of dedicated school leaders, caring teachers, thoughtful providers, effective researchers, and respectful policymakers using technology to improve student opportunities and outcomes.” This commitment is reflected in DLAC’s focus on the needs of their community and providing professional development experiences that will ensure sustainable, effective, and engaging digital learning experiences for our students.
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