Notes From a Really Big Conference

Is edtech actually sort of small fry?

December 8, 2013

This weekend I’m accompanying my wife to her American Society of Hematology (ASH) conference in New Orleans.

The scale of this conference is amazing. Over 20,000 docs, researchers, pharmaceutical and medical execs, publishing and government people crammed into the Morial Convention Center.  

ASH is about three-times the size of the EDUCAUSE conference.  

While EDUCAUSE is certainly international, with something like 55 countries being represented, ASH is international in a different way. ASH feels like an international conference that happens to be in U.S., rather than a U.S. conference with an international presence. Walking around the convention center the conversations are as often in Chinese, German, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Spanish, Korean, or Dutch as they are in English.  

And if you think that the exhibitor floor is over-the-top at EDUCAUSE then you should get a look at the ASH vendor floor. Let’s just say that pharmaceutical and medical supply companies seem to have much higher profit margins than edtech and publishing companies. Nobody dresses better than a drug company salesperson.

The gift of getting to walk around a conference where you have no professional connection, where you know nobody and have no responsibilities, is the opportunity to step out of your own world.  

My overall impressions of ASH as compared to EDUCAUSE is that edtech is relatively small fry. 

The number of people and amount of money flowing through this gathering of hematologists and the people who work for the pharmaceutical and medical companies is simply at a different scale than what we see in edtech.

And ASH is not even a particularly big medical conference. The American Society of Clinical Oncology gets over 30,000 attendees. The Radiological Society over 50,000.

The size of the U.S. higher education industry (2.6% of the GDP) is something like 15% the size of the what we spend on health care (18% of GDP)

Does health care have an EDUCAUSE equivalent?

What is the big health care technology (hTech?, HCTech?) conference?

What are the health care technology journals?

Are health care technology people like education technology people?  Are they thinking about structural issues of productivity, costs, access, and quality? Or are they mostly talking about electronic medical record (EMR) systems and new diagnostic and scanning technologies?

Does anyone from edtech attend health care tech conferences? Vice versa?

When is the last time that you hung out at a conference totally outside of your discipline?


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