This is part of our ISTE 2012 series. Be sure to check back for previews of ISTE Live, Engaging Ed Radio, tips for presenters, and more.
Ok, I don’t want to make it sound like I’ve been to every ISTE conference ever. But this year’s will be my third in a row. And over time, I’ve certainly learned a lot and I have some ideas about how you can get the most out of what can potentially be an overwhelming experience.
So here are five tips from someone who attended the 2010 conference as a complete ISTE newbie and who will be attending the 2012 conference as a co-presenter in 3 sessions. I’ve come a long way. Hopefully these ideas will help…
Would you believe that in 2010, I wasn’t on twitter? In fact, Engaging Educators wasn’t even on our radar at that time. We were just two guys at a conference…albeit the largest educational technology conference in the world. Last year, it was like a completely different conference. All due to one small difference…we were on twitter. Being there in person is a life-changing experience. Being there in person AND tweeting…it takes the conference to an entirely new level. The only way to describe it is to say that tweeting (and using/following the conference hashtag…#ISTE12 this year) allows you to be in multiple places at the same time. It’s pretty amazing stuff. So if you aren’t on twitter yet, sign up now. The #ISTE12 hashtag is already buzzing with activity. If you’re on twitter already, tweet early and often. AND make sure that the folks you’re going with sign up, too!
Resist the Pull of the Exhibit Hall
Ok, there are free pens galore. And it can be hard to resist a free pen, I know. You can even get free t-shirts and nicer swag if you sit through a product demo. AND some vendors will even be having drawings to give away…iPads! (I think we saw about 5 conference attendees with them at our first ISTE.) Free stuff is incredibly hard to resist, and I know that it’s the vendors and their big money that pay the bills. However, time is a valuable commodity. And there’s better value out there. In the sessions, the poster presentations, and the conversations. I’m not saying stay out of the hall completely. You gotta get a couple of free pens. I’m just saying that instead of wandering the hall aimlessly, be strategic. I have a couple of folks that I know from organizations like Ten Marks and Eye on Education that I’ll be stopping by to visit. And there’s a couple others, like Google, that are always interesting. But other than that, I’ll resist the pull.
Don’t Be Afraid To Leave
Not every ISTE session is going to be for you. You’re going to go to a couple where, 5 minutes in, you realize that you’re just not going to benefit from the content. Not because it’s a bad presentation or the presenter isn’t prepared/informed. Sometimes, it’s just not for you. As soon as you realize this, don’t be afraid to leave. My first ISTE, and even my second a couple of times, I stayed, and this was a bit of a waste. Usually, for every time slot, I have at least 3 sessions that appeal to me (if not more). You’re probably the same (and if you don’t have a couple of back-ups in mind for each time period, you should.). If the one you chose isn’t working, duck out and head to another. Trust me, no one’s feelings will be hurt!
Break Away From Your Pack
Many folks are lucky enough to come to ISTE with a group of colleagues. This can be lots of fun. But it can also make it so you miss out on a lot of opportunities. It happens all the time at workshops and conferences…teachers that attend together go everywhere together, sit together, eat together, and so on. I’d recommend thinking about breaking away, even for a little bit each day. If you go to a conference like ISTE and only interact with and talk to the people you came with, you are missing out on so much! So go to lunch with some new friends, split up so that you’re all going to different sessions, wander around solo for a bit. It can be a bit of a break from your comfort zone, trust me I understand. But in the end, you’ll benefit, I promise.
Explore What’s Beyond the Sessions
If I could go back in time, this would be the biggest change I would make at my first ISTE. I would explore the conference offerings that can very easily slip under the radar. These include poster presentations, the Student Showcase, Tech Playgrounds, Lounges such as the Social Butterfly and Newbie lounges, and ISTE Live, a conference within a conference that you can participate in as a presenter, too! Don’t forget to check these out, too. Birds of a Feather sessions, informal discussions around a central topic, are also great learning opportunities. I know it can be overwhelming, because there is just so much available. But keep these things in mind; they’re definitely worth it. And don’t forget the Bloggers’ Cafe, something I completely skipped my first ISTE. Luckily, I didn’t make that same mistake last year, and it led to great conversations with educators from my PLN that I genuinely admire. This year, make sure you don’t miss it. Stop by. Chat some people up. Meet new friends. And look for me in my snazzy Engaging Educators t-shirt…and be sure to say hello and talk teaching and learning with me!
Stay tuned for more #ISTE12 related posts in the days leading up to the conference. And lots of posts & tweets during my 3 days in San Diego. The best way to keep up is to subscribe to our blog and follow us on twitter. That way, even if you’re not attending, you’re still learning!