On Sunday, I (along with some of my favorite colleagues, as well our newest member of EduTechnically Speaking, Lacy) head to Orlando for the Learning Forward annual conference. I am excited to connect and learn with over 3,400 educators from all over the country! It’s my first Learning Forward (#LearnFwd17), but definitely not my first conference, so I wanted to share some EduTechnically Speaking Conference Tips!
Check out the options for sessions here. I’m looking forward to so many sessions- if you want specifics on my schedule, please reach out to me on Twitter (@TechinTeaching). This conference is a little different from others I’ve been to in the past, in that you have to register for sessions ahead of time. As a former presenter, this sounds like an amazing idea so that you can effectively plan for the number of people that will be in your session…GENIUS! So, if you haven’t registered yet, get on that! I think these valuable words from my teammate, Margaret (@TechyMargaret) ring true for sure:
Remember that every session won’t be exactly what you need. But EVERY session has something you can learn and take back to your classroom or school. Listen with that filter and you will find those valuable nuggets!
Pack your bag now!
After nearly a dozen conferences, here are a few of our “must haves”.
- A comfortable bag. There is no shame in carrying your backpack. Margaret’s been to conferences where she carried a cute tote bag, but it sure wasn’t comfortable!
- Don’t forget cords to charge your devices!
- Pro tip – have a small power strip? Tuck it in your bag and you’ll be a lunchtime/session hero!
- Devices – bring whatever you’re comfortable taking notes with! That may be a laptop, phone, tablet or even a notebook/pens! It’s different for everyone and believe me, you’ll want to jot notes down! For me, I’ve learned that my prime device is my iPad. I have carried a laptop with me year after year and not gotten it out. I bring my laptop, but typically leave it in my room so I can use it at night. I also don’t get tempted to get into emails & work projects. Try to travel light!
- Comfortable shoes and clothes. You’ll be walking a lot! Be prepared!
- A sweater or wrap or other layers – we never know what the temperature will be. Way better to be prepared!
- But really, pack your luggage now…that way you won’t forget stuff!
Prepare to be away from your school/office
This is CRITICAL: Put up your away message on your email! Schedule that right now (I just did mine). Evenings are a great time to catch up or check in if you absolutely have to. Use your time to connect and network with other educators, rather than being buried in work drama. Be engaged. Have conversation with someone you don’t know (yet). You’ll get out what you put into the conference. You’re taking this time away from your life to be there…so be there!
Make time for conversation
At conferences we often worry about attending EVERY session and getting to every bit of learning that we can. But often the most meaningful bits happen in the hallways and during meals. One of our mentors, Tim Stahmer (@timstahmer) always pointed out that the connections you form with other educators and what goes on in the hallways is the REAL work of conferences. You can learn so much during real conversations. Remember, you are gathered together with empowered and engaged educators at every turn at this conference. Take advantage, don’t be shy, ask your questions and learn together! (Same goes for heading out to dinner or evening events – join in with others and be sure to talk about what you learned during the day!).
How Will You Share What You Learn?
Think about how you’ll capture your learning. A device? Consider taking notes collaboratively using Google Docs. Two sets of ears listening in/taking notes are better than one! What can you share with your team when you get back? Does your school have a planned session for you to share what you learn? Knowing these answers can help you set an intention and path for the conference!
Process & Connect
I can never stress enough how important Twitter can be at a conference. Know the conference hashtag and USE IT! Post photos, ask questions, and make connections virtually. I’ve met some amazing educators that have become valued members of my PLN from Twitter at conferences. If you aren’t on Twitter yet, join now! Download the app on your phone and be ready to use it.
Finally, don’t forget to have fun! I’d love for you to find me and say hello- I’ll totally take selfies with you, too. Conferences can be such a wonderful way to step away from work and learn.
What’s your advice for conference attendees?