If you haven’t heard about it before, there is this event coming up in a few weeks called The Assistive Technology Industry Association conference. It happens every year. I’ve been before and, unfortunately, I have to be there again. For me, it is too late. I must go. You, however, might still have a chance to avoid it, which I HIGHLY recommend you do based on the following top ten reasons…
10. You’re sick of learning new stuff. Learning new things is so 2015. Why would you want to learn about the latest innovative approaches to using technology to help people with disabilities? It’s better to stay home and binge watch some show on Netflix.
9. It’s in Florida in January. The weather is horrible. The glare from the sun can be blinding. That much sun can have a drying effect on your skin let alone the risk of sunburn. Better stay home, especially if where you live is cold. If you really need a place to go in January, consider Buffalo. I hear they need your help shoveling. You could do way more good to the world there than by learning how to be better at your job of educating others (not to mention build some muscles).
8. Pre-conference overload. If your supervisor is forcing you to go to ATIA, whatever you do, DO NOT GO to the pre-conference sessions. Why spend even more time in Florida? What a waste! Especially avoid any pre-conference provided by Beth Poss and that guy she presents with sometimes (I forget his name, handsome though). They are doing something on UDL and 21st Century Learning. No one who has ever gone to one of their sessions before has come out happy, enthusiastic, or inspired to try the new tools and approaches they experienced. Who wants to learn best practices for engaging contemporary students? Pish posh. Long live worksheets! Afterall, that’s how I done learned all the things I done learned. Do not click on this link to sign up for their session – http://bit.ly/atia16precons Avoid it like you avoided spoilers for The Force Awakens.
7. MEGA pre-conference overload. Just who do these organizers of ATIA think they are? Offering the choice between two-one day pre-conference sessions and one two-day pre-conference sessions is ridiculous. I can’t decide what I want to eat in the morning let alone choose from all these different types of sessions. Don’t they know people want less choice, not more? Just tell me what to go to already! But whatever you do, don’t sign up to learn about how to establish, maintain, and grow your team from actual people who have established, maintained, and grown a team. Members of the Loudoun County Public Schools AT Team are the last listed pre-conference session on this page – http://bit.ly/atia16precons. Your team is already strong enough, large enough, and operates with practices streamlined enough that you don’t need to work with them to learn innovative service delivery design methodologies. If you’re like me, you’re too busy working harder to work smarter. Skip it like hopscotch.
6. It’s boring. Sessions are just borzzzzz. Sorry, fell asleep just thinking about all the face-to-face conversations I’ll be forced to have with professionals from all around the world who do what I do. Why, it’s absolutely mind numbing to think of the conversations where we’ll be talking about strategies and techniques that actually work for people. Choose to do something more interesting with your time, like watching paint dry.
5. Camping is not my idea of a vacation. Last year there was this free event AFTER the conference (like I wasn’t already completely drained from the experience of the actual conference) called Edcamp. It’s done in an informal “unconference” format where people just show up, throw ideas on a board, and then go to designated rooms to talk together about those ideas. What a nightmare! Who wants to sit around in large circles discussing the most important issues impacting people with disabilities…for free? This year, the organizers have the gall of doing it again and, get this, they are informally calling it “EdCamp After Dark” because it is in the evening. No. I’m sorry. I’d rather go clubbing than sit around talking with some of the “names” in the field about the issues that matter most. Avoid clicking here to register – http://bit.ly/edcampatia16 Call me an Uber and dial up the Taylor Swift. This guy is off to get his dance on.
4. Obnoxious vendors and their wares. Why do I need to float through the vendor hall touching hundreds of actual products, pushing the buttons, and interacting with the people who develop those products? I CAN GOOGLE IT! Vendors stand over their booths like trap door spiders waiting for prey to walk by so they can leap out and snatch them. Then, once they have you ensnared, they show you all the stuff their product can do to help all the people you’re supposed to be serving. Who would want to learn about the latest innovations and updates? They don’t want to hear about our practical consumer needs. They just want to further develop their products based on guesswork, not actual feedback from real people like you and me. If you have to be at ATIA, do yourself a favor and avoid the vendor hall altogether. Learning about products, new and old, from the people who actually make them is about as fruitful as punching yourself in the face. Instead, spend your time scrolling through your Facebook feed to see what your old high school buddies think about Donald Trump.
3. The facilities are disgustingly horrid. The constant sound of the waterfall pouring into the pool is irritating. The pool is surrounded by palm trees which provide way too much shade. There is even this tropical bird outside sometimes that makes this abnormal screeching sound reminding you that you’re not in Kansas anymore. What are you, a pirate? ARRRRGGHHHH!!! Don’t be fooled into thinking this is enjoyable, fun, or relaxing. It is just so stressful to have to decide how and where to position the lounge chairs. Avoid the hassle and stay inside, or better yet, home.
2. There’s a hashtag! It’s 2016 people! Haven’t you heard that conferences are passe’ and that you can learn everything online? Why BE at the conference when so many nerds will be posting their experiences using the #atia16 hashtag? You don’t need to actually be there interacting in person with people! Instead, you can just follow along online. People who have done that in the past have never ever stated a feeling of FOMO. They all say that it is just like being there. If it is just like being there, then why go? Prove the administrators right who said that you don’t need to travel to learn new things. They need the ego boost.
1. The selfish people. If you’ve been to ATIA before then you know the absolute worst part of the entire experience is how selfish the people are who attend. Presenters talking the entire time in their sessions telling you how great their ideas are is just one example of how conceited and stuck up people there can be. Without any respect for YOUR time, people interact with you to bring about real change in the lives of others. Some might think they do this out of a genuine concern and compassion for others; a desire to make the world a better place. But really, they just want to get their names out there. When you’re sitting is sessions, chatting in the hall, networking by the pool, and sharing meals with anyone at ATIA, just remember that they probably have some sort of secret agenda. They’re most likely looking out for number one, trying to manipulate you in some way, and have no genuine interest in actually helping you or people with disabilities.
I hope you heed my warnings. I hope I’ve convinced you to stay far away from Central Florida in early February. I have to be there but it might not be too late for you! You don’t have to click this link to register – http://bit.ly/atia16registration. You don’t have to sign up for the “awesome” pre-conference sessions. You don’t have to meet and hobnob with others in the field. You don’t have to succumb to the pressures of the pool. You don’t have to go at all, do you?
Some Upcoming Live Presentations
The Assistive Technology Industry Association Conference in Orlando, Florida – February 2016
One-day Pre-conference – Universal Design for 21st-Century Learning (with Beth Poss) REGISTER NOW!
One-day Pre-conference –Evolution of an AT Team: Real World Experiences Shaping Practices (with Sally Norton-Darr, Stacy McBain and Mark Nichols) REGISTER NOW!
ISAAC Conference in Toronto, Canada – August 2016
AAC Practitioners in the 21st Century: Leveraging Our Efforts through Social Media and Digital Technologies (with Carole Zangari)
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