Everything is big in Texas! The Texas Computer Education Association’s annual conventions are no exception. TCEA is well known for high-quality workshops, strong professional development, great fun, and networking opportunities galore.

So it is no surprise to watch activities unfold true to the advertising. I took time to sit back today and observe the conference from many different perspectives. It can be highly entertaining and very enlightening to simply observe an activity. Observation is routinely used in the business of education, with subjects held accountable in performance reviews. Observation is different than expectation.

So, what did I notice? Let me begin by complimenting the city of Austin Convention Center staff. I have been closely watching your actions in every situation during my time in your lovely facility. Without exception, you have done the facility proud. You are helpful, courteous, and generally friendly without being invasive. Your presence is easy to spot, yet unobtrusive when activities are in full swing.

I had the sensation that should I need anything, I could find a helpful staff member to accommodate that need. Good job! No conference occurs without tremendous planning and orchestration. TCEA staff and volunteer team members are also easy to spot, and they, too, deserve well earned kudos!

It probably goes without saying that problems will occur, but as I have been watching, I have seen any indication of a problem quickly and efficiently dispensed with style and kindness. Team members are quick to find appropriate resolutions, and each has kept a sense of humor about them–even though I watched a few annoyed attendees get quite snippy.

At one point, someone apparently wasn’t registered and someone else had already picked up the school’s package. The reason I don’t know the specifics, even though I was sitting quite close to the interaction, is due to the grace of the TCEA gal who handled the issue. She continued to smile all the while as she asked for “just a few moments” to get the situation straightened out.

I didn’t stay around to watch the incident conclude, but I did see the attendees having a great time with exhibitors later. Exhibitors were in place on Wednesday with staff aplenty to answer questions. Unfortunately, many conference attendees were either in classes or out shopping at local malls.

Education is a highly competitive field, and I found it sad to see the exhibits close at 5. It did, however, provide a chance to see how exhibitors worked with the situation and how they interacted with fellow merchants.

There was much to see, much to learn, and plenty to purchase. Perhaps more time would benefit more people. I polled a sizable number of workshop attendees. Most participants summed up the TCEA learning opportunities and presentations as “Great!”

Speaking as both presenter and teacher, educators can be the best–and the worst–students to have in a workshop. We tend to have high expectations and short attention spans, or maybe we simply spend too much time dual-processing. That is to say, perhaps we are so busy thinking about how we can use (or modify) the information we are acquiring that we often miss part of the instruction or step aside from the flow in order to see what else we can do.

Have you ever noticed that even though we KNOW the value of asking questions–we require that skill in our students!–we will wait until we are so desperate to catch up that the person sitting next to us takes heart and helps, or gets the instructor’s attention. Still, few audiences are more excited and engaging than teachers when we discover new tricks for our students!

The most underrated aspect of the week is the networking opportunity. It is interesting to watch the difference between the people who “take advantage of” and those who “miss the chance” to confab with TCEA’s technology sirectors, campus technology specialists, and peers. Teambuilding activities might be better utilized in this area to expedite change.

Personally, meeting and greeting people I have never met before, and may never see again, is one of my favorite activities. It is my experience that strong personal growth can occur in these chance encounters. They are, after all, a chance to discover our destination!