At the end of July, a mix of teachers and training industry professionals will converge on the four-star Caribe Royale hotel and convention center in sunny Orlando, Fla., just down the street from Disney World. This particular IT crowd, however, isn't being convened for the purpose of visiting the brand new Disney Springs attraction (formerly Downtown Disney), or soaking up some poolside rays. It's going to be a working vacation for all concerned.
The 2016 Partner Summit, hosted by leading IT industry association CompTIA, is a meeting of the minds. It's a three-day interaction between IT educators and representatives of the training and certification providers who create learning materials, teaching tools, and other cutting-edge means of assisting learners on the always tricky path from IT ambition to job-ready knowledge and skills. The summit is an IT lifeline for educators fighting to stay afloat in the constant and rushing tide of IT evolution.
"What we're hoping is that teachers will come to the conference and leave with several great ideas to take back to the classroom," said CompTIA executive Kirk Smallwood. "We want to help them prepare their students to pass our exams."
That's not to imply that teachers will do nothing but listen to presentations and panel discussions, or sit through artfully rehearsed spiels from certification media providers. Much of the interaction at the Partner Summit, Smallwood said, is between the teachers themselves: "It's not us telling the teachers what they need to be doing. It's other teachers who are sharing their best practices." Such peer-to-peer interaction, indeed, is a common and popular feature of professional gatherings for educators.
While so-called "content partners" generally attend the Partner Summit to promote their products and build relationships, they too can benefit form the exchange of ideas and atmosphere of discussion. With most (if not all) of these firms driven by a continual focus on creating new and more effective certification training tools and methods, the Partner Summit represents a laboratory of ideas, a place to get a bird's-eye view of the IT classroom environment while gathering the seeds of new IT instructional media.
The Partner Summit doesn't have a formal theme, but Smallwood said that there's a general spirit of emphasis on the link between IT certification and IT employment, the idea that "certification equals jobs." "It's true now more than ever," Smallwood said. "If you look at industry job postings, anywhere from 75 percent or more of them either reference or require specific certifications." The "big three" core CompTIA certifications — A+, Network+, and Security+ — have a particularly strong presence in employment listings.
That popularity, actually, is behind one of the big innovations at this year's Partner Summit. For the first time, Smallwood said, CompTIA is offering one-day boot camp-style training intended to immerse educators in teaching tactics for one of the three powerhouse credentials. "We've created what we're calling a seminar day," he said. "Attendees can choose of of those three credentials and take a very deep dive into some best practices for helping students get those certs."
The one-day seminars, which will feature noted CompTIA training experts like Mike Meyers and Jill West, have been a popular item among educators registering to attend Partner Summit. "We've had really good uptake on those sessions so far," Smallwood said.
With Partner Summit scheduled to take place July 26-28, as the summer break interval for most U.S. schools is winding down, educators will be able to jump into preparations for the new school year with ideas from the summit fresh in their minds. Registration and discounted hotel accommodations are available right now at the Partner Summit website.