Making the most of ISTE sessions

Investing time in your presentation will have a big pay-off.
Investing time in your presentation will have a big pay-off.

Live ISTE Blog – Denver…where the air is clean and the atmosphere has us panting after walking a short flight of steps. It’s a great place to host ISTE 2010. My time at the conference began on Sunday morning where I had a wonderful opportunity to co-lead a 3-hour workshop entitled “Beyond Digital Storytelling.”

Presenting with Michelle Bourgeois and Bud Hunt of St. Vrain School District, we led a group of 24 participants through some exercises to help them focus on the story aspect of digital storytelling. From story spines to Five Card Flickr, we wanted our attendees to be creative and tell their stories. I could go blow-by-blow and tell you all the activities and how much fun the participants had, but I want to dig deeper and tell a story about what makes ISTE special for me.

I’ve presented at ISTE since 2005, and it never gets old. In general, I believe that most people are eager to learn, and ISTE attendees even more so, because they are ed-tech leaders in their respective district–they are early adopters and advocates of technology integration. So when you lead or co-lead a session, you get a lot of the cream of the crop, and the potential synergy in the room makes a workshop more than the sum of its parts because it goes beyond just the information. It’s for this reason that I believe speakers have a huge responsibility to be their best. They need to be organized during planning and presentation, and they need to exude enthusiasm. That’s why I think all presenters need to take their role seriously…and that’s different from merely being serious. Some of the best presenters are informative and engaging and fun.

This was the case today at our session. I could tell that Michelle and Bud take the presenter role seriously because of the amount of work they put into creating the presentation, thinking up engaging activities, and helping all the attendees. Like a good classroom, the learning was differentiated for individuals and groups, and there was a lot of time for independent practice and reflection.

One of the things that I really appreciated was the online resource page that Michelle set up for Bud and I to collaborate with her. This proved to be a great takeaway for the attendees as well. In the last three or four years, this has become the norm, but I’m always amazed when a presenter will spend more time than is necessary to create a site for attendees to visit afterward. Michelle set up, and I can tell that it will be a great resource for years as the attendees (and I) continue exploring how to create meaningful, memorable stories with their students. We challenged our attendees to go beyond the digital and really focus on the stories.

At the same time, what made today so successful was the amount of fun everyone had, and that wouldn’t be possible except for the fact that Michelle, Bud, and I were willing to have fun. Without presenter energy, there is no synergy. At the same time, we were willing to laugh and have fun with everyone without being goofy.

So why blog about this? For the simple fact that when it comes to the best and biggest ed-tech conference in the world, make sure you go beyond the tech information and make a connection with the presenter as well. Guaranteed, it will make the session more memorable for you, and you’ll be able to take more of the learning back to your classroom/school/district. Then when you begin presenting–or begin presenting to a larger audience–remember to bring the energy, information, organization, and fun.

Ted Lai is the director of Technology and Media Services in California’s Fullerton School District.

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