In less than a week I’m headed to Denver, Colorado. I’ve not been to that city since I was a teeny tiny baby who slept in a hotel dresser drawer (no pack n plays in those days!!) so I’m super excited to explore the city.
ISTE is the “premier educational technology conference” in the world. Over 16K attendees, 500 exhibitors, 1000 sessions! That means soo many opportunities to learn and connect! As with other large conferences, it’s important to have a game plan. I’m sticking with the game plan that worked for me in Orlando in January for FETC, another big conference!
My first game plan is to connect! Some of the best learning happens at conferences when I meet up with folks from my PLN in real life and when I connect with new folks! Don’t be shy! Follow speakers and presenters. Tweet your questions to them. When you chat with colleagues, exchange information (follow them on twitter or bring business cards to pass out!) Your PLN is only as good as the folks you follow and interact with. Conferences are a great time to build that network!!
2. Don’t overdo it!
I think it’s a common feeling at a conference that you have to do EVERYTHING! Visit all the vendors, go to every session, attend all the parties. At a conference this size, there is no way to do everything and if you try, you will wear yourself out and not enjoy the week! Download the app and look through the sessions and mark every one you think sounds interesting! Then on the morning of the conference, make a game time decision. And listen to how you are feeling. If you need to take a break, go check out the bloggers cafe or walk in the expo hall or just sit quietly in the lobby or hallways (where you can charge your phone!)
3. Take notes!
It doesn’t matter how or what you use to take notes – some people carry a notebook or notepad and pen, others like to sketchnote (draw visual notes) using either a tablet or paper/pencil. Still others like to collaborate on notes in google docs with those in their PLN and others (like me!) like to tweet notes from sessions and keynotes. I always use two hashtags – one that is the official hashtag and one short one to describe the session/speech/topic so I can sort through my notes (using tweetdeck or twitter searches) later! The point is to choose a way to take notes that allow you to share and use the information later.
4. Talk about what you’ve learned!
Going to these conferences is only as good as the conversation and changes that it sparks in your work! Talk to your teammates, your colleagues in and out of your department, your PLN and push each other. Challenge the thinking you’ve held and and make the new learning part of the work you do every day.
5. Use the new learning to change how you work with teachers and students.
Not only the ideas you learn in your sessions, product information in the vendor hall but most importantly, the connections you’ve made. When the learning gets tough this year, when things you’ve tried don’t work quite the way you thought they would, reach out to those connections! Ask for help! Use twitter, facebook, voxer, emails and more. Write some reflective questions and see help what your PLN can provide!
Hope to connect with you at ISTE this year! Come find me and say hello 🙂 I am part of a panel discussion on Monday and a Poster session on Tuesday!