So Blackboard asked us to share #WhyIBbWorld via our twitter feeds as part of their lead up to Blackboard World in Austin #ATX this summer. Being the eLearning eVangelist that I am, I have been posting multiple #WhyIBbWorld tweets that include everything from the obvious to the quirky (Me on the dance floor during the CAP, for example).
I have to admit it has been great being able to post my own #WhyIBbWorld’s and to read the tweets of others. I have found many a kindred spirit in the reasons posted online. Reading all these great #WhyIBbWorld tweets made me start to take a deeper look at why I attend Blackboard World. I guess the reasons why I attend Blackboard World have evolved over time. Let's put them in three categories:
- The Early Days
- Getting Into the Groove
- The Seasoned Vet
The Early Days
I attended my first Blackboard World some 20 years ago in Washington D.C. In those days we were brand new to Blackboard version 5(the one right after CourseInfo). I attended, so that we could see how to “use the darn thing”(Blackboard bought Web-Course-In-Box who we were using) and to maybe get a picture of the Lincoln Memorial.
I attended subsequent Blackboard Worlds because I was the only Blackboard guy on campus and I needed to plug into a community of folks like me. On campus I was the Blackboard Wizard (there had to be twist) and I was looked to for knowledge, both technical and pedagogical, on how to use it. Blackboard World allowed me to connect to other people who were doing what I was doing and more. In those days I was the Sys Admin, Faculty Development person and Instructional Designer, so I needed to “fill up” on everything I could, to improve things for faculty and students back at SHSU.
When you are on your own on campus, supporting a strategic system like Blackboard, it can be a scary situation. When you are wearing all the hats, you feel like you are always treading water and that you can't make any progress. Blackboard World was like a life preserver that allowed you to take stock of where you were and plan for where you needed to go.
Getting Into the Groove
As I got my first BbWorlds under my belt, my perspective as to why I was going changed. I started to focus more on the connections I was making. Connections with Bb Staff, Vendors at the conference and eLearing Guru's from other institutions. As Blackboard's clientele grew, I was able to experience more cultures of learning (national and international) by attending.
As my use of Blackboard become more nuanced, so did the sessions I attended. I paid much more attention to the types of schools and programs the presenters were coming from, and that played a larger part in choosing the sessions I would attend.
Getting into the grove also changed part of what I would call the “overall feel” of Blackboard World. It became more than just a conference and networking event. It also became what I lovingly refer to a “nerdy high school reunion”. Connections that you made in early BbWorlds were celebrated and renewed, all in an atmosphere of learning and sharing. So besides just lining up your dance card for sessions, you might find yourself at Terry Patterson’s annual Birthday dinner or coordinating outfits for the client appreciation event.
At this point in my “Blackboard Evolution” I was leaving the “treading water” stage and starting to lift my head up to see what was coming next. I began bringing my list of “I Wish Blackboard Coulds” so that when I spoke with Blackboard at the vendor fair or in meetings, I had ammunition for important conversations built upon the needs of my constituents back home.
Lastly, I started presenting about the things we were doing at our campus. Not only did I present, but also I shared out some of the things we were doing for the community to use. A prime example of this would be the Blackboard Support Orgs for students and faculty that we created and curated so that others could benefit.
Seasoned Vet (Where I Am Now)
The other title I chose for this section was A Little Rounder, A little Greyer.
This year marks my 18th Blackboard World. We had a year or two where we used another LMS who shall not be named, but whose name rhymed with Schmeeee Schmollege. Their conference made me really miss #BbWorld. One of the unmentioned LMS’s conference keynotes was Ben Stein…..anyone…..anyone.
I still look forward to many of the things that I experienced in my first two stages:
- Talking to people who speak my language
- Nerdy High School Reunions
I also pay much more attention to the more strategic or long-term elements of the conference. The product road-map sessions and the Bb Executive sessions come to mind.
In my Veteran years at BbWorld, I:
- became a VIP Blogger
- earned my Bb Certified Trainer certification
- was nominated and became a Bb MVP
As I look at those all of these aspects of my #WhyIBbWorld evolution, I realize that they are all really about one area….community. I feel very fortunate to have spent much of my professional life in this community. Blackboard World has been there when I needed a lifeline, it allowed me to make important connections for me and my home institution, provided me with a nerdy high school reunion, gave me a platform to share out to the community, and allowed me to think much more strategically about eLearning at my campus. I have taken so much from my attendance at BbWorlds and tried to give back at least as much as I have learned.
Thank you to Blackboard, the community and the universe for providing this outstanding conference. I'm looking forward to #BbWorld19!