Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Summer 2017 Learning Series-3 Rules For Attending Any Conference

For the next several weeks I’ll be sharing posts that you can use for your summer learning. School may be out for many but the learning we do as educators can last even outside the classroom. These posts will take us through several different ways of extending your learning. We started with Twitter chats and how you can participate in real time or whenever you want. Next we will examine some ideas on how to get the most out of any conference you attend this summer or beyond. We will then move to some non-educational books that you can use to grow as a learner and a professional. Then I’ll give you some ideas on how to better engage parents this upcoming school year. Finally we will finish the series by looking at some new and exciting tools to try in your classroom. Each post will offer up some basic information along with several learning challenges you can undertake. Happy Learning!

As the end of June approaches that means the annual ISTE (International Society for Technology In Education) Conference is around the corner. ISTE is one of my favorite conferences because I get to catch up face-to-face with those I haven't seen in the past year, I get to learn with some incredible educators and I get to see the latest gadgets and must haves for the classroom.

If you are a social media user or a blog reader you may have seen several posts related to getting more out of ISTE. Many who attend have loads of great ideas to maximizing the impact you have while you are in attendance. Before many conferences, there is advice about how to follow the conference hashtag or to drink lots of water because you’ll do lots of walking. All the advice you hear is great and definitely worth a follow.

But I want to go deeper. When I go to conferences, either as a presenter or a participant, I challenge myself and my audiences each day to get the most out of the conference experience. Many will save all year long to attend or travel a great distance. How can we make the most of the conference learning, but still remembering our purpose to extend the learning for others?

I think there are 3 things to remember, not only for ISTE, but for any conference or learning event you attend.

Put Your Thinking Cap On And Push The Boundaries Of Your Thinking
It is easy to attend conferences like ISTE or any conference and only go to the sessions lead by our friends or go to sessions where we already know a lot about a specific topic. While there isn't anything wrong with that, are you doing the most with your conference experience? Push yourself. I am still a skeptic of flipped classrooms. So I make a point to attend at least one session where it’s discussed so I can widen my perspective. Try to find those gems of sessions that you might just walking away thanking yourself for attending. Make a point to attend at least one session where you disagree or are a skeptic about the topic. Go in with an open mind and make the most of your experience.

Reflect, Often
Because you are going to challenge yourself and your thinking, it will be important for you to reflect on your learning. Review your notes at the end of each day and write down your thoughts. I love Evernote for this. I can compile everything there (notes, drawings, pictures and handouts) and have it on all my devices. Many conferences are also creating shared Google Docs so that anyone can add in their thoughts and reflections collectively. It’s also a good idea at the end of the day, when you are exhausted and walking back to your hotel to just take some time and think. What did you see that challenged you? What do you still have questions about? How can you take what you learned and apply it to your students?

Don't Be A Hoarder, Share Your Learning
Think about if you shared what you learned with 5 people and those 5 people shared with 5 and so on. The learning becomes so much more valuable. Find many ways to share both at the conference (social media is great for that) and when you get back to your school/district. Did you go as a member of team? Have your team take 5 mins and share all the resources with those that couldn't attend. Flying solo? Post your Evernote notebooks to Twitter or to your blog. How ever you decide to share, just be sure to share!

Summer Challenge
  1. Do you have a blog? If you do awesome! If you don’t take attending a conference as an opportunity to start one. Make a post (or your first post) about the top 3 takeaways from the conference. Add in your reflection about how you want to grow from here. 
  2. Did everyone from your school attend the conference? Probably not. Arrange a #CoffeeEDU where you can invite colleagues for a coffee or a lunch and share what you learned. Discuss what you saw and how you can begin to implement what you learned. 
  3. Do you have something to share? Of course you do! Begin thinking about how you can add your voice to the conference next year. Brainstorm session ideas and write them down. Was there something that you went to that you can improve upon or add your own spin? Then you have them ready when the Call for Proposals opens up next year. Presenting and sharing with audiences is a great way to grow yourself and others. 

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