I felt like I’d just unpacked my suitcase from ISTE 2018 when Edsurge came out with 60+ K-12 Education Technology Events in 2018-2019. So instead of doing what a sane person would do by sticking a beach chair in the sand and soaking up the summer rays, I plugged conference dates into my Google calendar!
Much like teachers all across the country, edtech leaders like me attend conferences to learn about innovative and trendsetting edtech programming and strategies. Here is my advice for making the most of your time at conferences and bringing back valuable resources that will drive your district’s edtech decision making for the upcoming school year.
Find your people
Take advantage of the national/state chief technology officer (CTO) sessions at all the major conferences. These CTO sessions are geared toward superintendents, technology directors, and curriculum leaders. It’s a great way to meet new colleagues and share best practices and solutions to our common edtech challenges.
It’s all about me
Who has not been guilty of moving towards shiny objects on the expo floor that result in a very exhausting and unproductive experience? Prior to attending a conference, work with your district technology committee to develop a list of vendors that focus on your upcoming initiatives. Emailing or direct-messaging companies to set up one-on-one meetings at the conference will ensure that the sales reps have technology solutions that are personalized for your district.
It’s all about them
If you can, bring a team of teachers to a conference. Who better to drive edtech initiatives than the people who teach our students? Not only will you develop strong relationships within your district, but your teachers will come home re-energized and focused on new strategies for developing rich, engaging, personalized curriculum. Your teachers may even represent the district by presenting at future edtech conferences—just like mine did.
The sessions, the keynotes, the expo floor, oh my! We convince ourselves that we will remember everything or understand our shorthand notes when we get back to the office but that doesn’t always happen. Find a quiet space such as the blogger or leadership area where you can take time to reflect and journalize what you have learned that day. This journaling will be invaluable when developing district tech plans or presenting to the leadership cabinet.
We are family
You should never feel alone at a conference! Join an ISTE or CoSN professional learning network and develop connections, discover available resources, and attend conference meetups. Peruse the conference schedule and follow speakers, presenters, and edtech companies on Twitter and Linkedin so the conversations and learning can continue well after the conference is over. I would suspect that you will have many new followers in return.
Feed your stomach while feeding your brain
I can’t say enough about the leadership workshops and summit events at the conferences. Check out event-planning websites such as EventBrite for small forums and events that usually take place early in the morning or at lunch time during the conference. These opportunities are designed so that attendees have the time to network and have small-group discussions with experts in the edtech world.
Again, it’s all about you
We sometimes forget about the most important thing at a conference: you. Our days are long and we are in constant motion, so prioritize self-care. Bring a pair of running or walking shoes to tour the city, drink plenty of water, and don’t skip meals. This is your time to learn, connect, re-energize, reflect, and plan for the future of edtech in your district. Last but not least, I give you permission to take your shoes off and sit in a lounge chair by the pool at least once during the conference.