To say this has been “an incredible year” would be an understatement. Just 13 months ago the country was put on lockdown due to the Coronavirus. Life, as we all knew it would change in ways that we didn't think, would happen.
During this time, our face-to-face interactions were drastically curtailed. My wife and I hunkered down not knowing how long it would be with minimal interactions with family and friends. It really hit home for us when my brother was diagnosed with COVID. Although it was a mild case, it was a wake-up call for the severity of what would later become a pandemic.
People retreated to working from home, all face-to-face interactions were halted and PATINS as we know it was changed. We changed our routines to accommodate the rules set out by the CDC and as a result we worked together from home.
Zoom meetings replaced our staff interactions for meetings and working directly in person with those that we serve and support. We had previously moved to virtual staff meetings so this was not a real replacement for those in person.
Our first real test of the new norm was the rescheduling or our annual Tech Expo. The Tech Expo was a day-long event that allowed vendors from around the country to demonstrate technology and software to educational and support staff, parents, and students to get a hands on experience in a conference booth setting.
The Tech Expo was one of the biggest draws for PATINS to offer to anyone that registered at no cost and then came COVID.
PATINS had a decision to make, and it had to be a quick one. It was acknowledged that we could not have it in person, but would it be possible to have one virtually. That meant however no interaction with vendors, staff, parents, or students.
We had the tools, we had the staff, and Daniel McNulty and Jen Conti’s guidance formed the foundation. I would like to note here that the PATINS staff is a unique group that works like a well-oiled machine (had to add it) that pulled off several State and Tech Expo conferences in the past so the framework was there but the delivery would be much different.
On April 9th, 2020, the PATINS Project had its virtual Tech Expo with over 500 virtual attendees and more than 40 vendors. In the middle of a pandemic, the PATINS Project continued its support to stakeholders with creativity and adjustments to the challenge which is marked in the PATINS Project mission.
As the year progressed, so did the virtual meetings and in November we held our 2-day Access to Education Conference virtually as well taking from the success and what we had learned from the previous Tech Expo.
We are now more than a year into our virtual environments and as there seems to be a positive transition into normalcy with the delivery of vaccines and continued recommendations from the CDC PATINS had decided some time ago to hold our Tech Expo virtually again this year.
Our expectations are still lofty, but our commitment to bring support and assistance to our stakeholders remains forefront.
It has been a tough year for everyone. We have all missed those personal interactions with family and friends. I have also missed the interaction with people at our Tech Expo and Access to Education conferences. It is the personal “touch” and spontaneity of the interactions that cannot be achieved virtually.
As we move forward cautiously but with purpose, we may move closer to an ease in virtual visiting and more face-to-face interactions that we all so desperately need.
As I submit this blog, we have just held our 2021 Tech Expo! It was all I described above and more. We had 600 participants with 50 vendors either presenting or manning the virtual exhibition hall.
However, with all its success, it still had a somewhat sterile feel unlike our many in-person events.
Thoughts, prayers, and sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of the Indianapolis FedEx workers killed this day April 16, 2021. May they rest in peace.