What we’ve learned at Bridges LIVE this year!

1)      Multi-platform is the new eco system

At BridgesLIVE events we’ve seen BYOD in action.  From iPads, to Surface tablets (actually a lot more than I expected,  several per each BLive), from wheezy but still chugging XP laptops, to Macs and Windows, 7, 8 and even an Android tablet and Chromebook or two.  Two years ago people brought their own iPads.  Now folks bring a laptop, a tablet and a phone all running different OS’s.  I had a few people who brought both a Windows laptop and a iPad or Chromebook — each attendee is their own tech eco-system.

The hardware/operating system wars seem to have abated.  (Am I dating myself by using the word “détente”?).  Educators are choosing the platform – iPad, Windows, Chrome etc. – based on their need and the student’s needs.  And there is a realization that those needs might differ e.g. a laptop for the teacher and a tablet for Joachim but a laptop for Sahar.

2)      People still need to get their hands on stuff

There are webinars, loaners, premium, freemium, trials etc. etc. etc.  But there is something about meeting with colleagues and getting your hands on stuff.

This is particularly evident when people have been trying eye gaze, and curricular materials. But even cloud based applications like SymWriter Online and Kurzweil 3000/firefly — guided hands-on seems to be essential to understanding if a specific AT tool is actually appropriate for your student, class or school.

3)      We all have a lot to share

Sometimes I think the best part of our Bridges LIVE events is when attendees say “I’m sorry we went off on a tangent…”  Comparable professionals working in the same region can go for decades and never have a chance to meet and speak with their equivalent in the organization down the road – whether that be a clinic, a school district, an advocacy group etc.  At BLive events we force… well maybe that’s too strong of a word… we strongly encourage groups to break up and mix over new stuff.  It’s a great leveller talking about tech and products – you share opinions, (“this would be great in my classroom…” “Really? this wouldn’t work at all for me… because…”), you don’t have committed allegiances to anything, so you speak your mind.  And people are always looking for new ideas, no options.

4)      Food trends

2 years ago, it was all about the vegetarian option.  Nowadays, it’s gluten free.

5)      We’ve got to do more of these

At the end of each Bridges LIVE!, we hear attendees tell us we should do more and we see it on our surveys too.  So next school year, we’re going to more places with more choices.  In 2015/16, expect Bridges LIVE in Saskatchewan and/or Manitoba, in the Maritimes and maybe even BC.

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