Over the past three days, The Washington State Convention Center has served as host for The 2014 Northwest Council of Computer Education (NCCE) Conference. Attendees gathered together in Seattle, Washington, for sessions, workshops, summits, and keynotes covering topics ranging from practical PD and blended-learning to STEAM and BYOD initiatives. While this year’s conference theme was for educators to “Start Your Engines”, as the thousands of tech-savvy teachers in attendance made their ways home, it was apparent that starting engines had been replaced by an eagerness to put the pedal to the metal.

Katherine Livick (@MsLivick), a teacher from Battle Ground, Washington, says that the message she took away from this year’s conference is to “give up control, be a guide, [and] start by just doing something differently.” The general consensus of NCCE2014 was to do exactly that, start.

Unique to this year’s experience was an observable increase in educators’ willingness to start connecting over social media. Mike Agostinelli (@mikegusto), a middle school technology teacher from Helena, Montana, laid the groundwork for this in his session Twitter 101. “Getting people on Twitter enables those connections to grow stronger. Strong teacher connections equals strong teachers,” he says. Agostinelli adds, “Conferences remain relevant because of the personal connections made, built, and fostered.”

In addition to the formal learning opportunities provided by the conference’s schedule, attendees found value for professional development and growth through socializing and sharing ideas in the hallways and at various social gatherings throughout the week. From a Tweet-Up on Wednesday, where conference-goers exchanged usernames and people to follow, to a dinner on Thursday, where educators took a local two-story video game arcade by storm, the common site for many was teachers and conference organizers connecting with each other and one another’s ideas on a professional and personal level.

Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal), one of the conference’s featured keynote speakers, alluded to this idea in his opening address. As part of his message, Sheninger reminded conference attendees that “The beauty of the world where we live is that we can learn anytime, anywhere, and from anyone we want.” To emphasize this point, Sheninger explained what lays at the foundation of his own professional growth as an educator. “I don’t find the time to learn and get better. I make the time to learn and get better. . . Time is not an excuse to not move forward.”

At NCCE2014, everyone was moving. By doing so, they added greater value to their personal approaches to teaching and learning as well. Jeremy Macdonald (@MrMacnology) captured this nicely, saying, “I appreciate the conference experience. I always walk away valuing the human connections made and the reminder that we still have a lot of work to do.”

Fortunately for conference-goers, after attending NCCE2014, many now have a larger network of tech-savvy teachers to do their work with. As each returns to his or her district, school, and classroom, the key principle for them to remember is to take what was learned in Seattle and start doing something differently. Their engines are definitely running. Now, it’s simply a matter of putting the pedal to the metal.

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