Before you head off to a national education conference, take a moment to think about what you expect to find most valuable and determine the strategy or strategies you will use to get the most from your experience.
For many years I would go to a conference with colleagues and we would identify the the sessions we wanted to attend, divide them up, and bring back ideas and materials to share. Now with laptops and wireless access at conferences, you can start a discussion, perhaps in the Community Hub, and share quotes and ideas in live time, concurrently following what others are learning in different sessions. Do you tweet? Find out the conference hashtag and use it to share what you are learning.
What do you find most valuable about attending a national education conference? And how do you get the most from your experience?
You and Barbara make a great point. Professional networking online can make for some interesting surprises when you are able to meet at a conference.
Do you enjoy the learning sessions, the roundtable discussions, the featured presenter, or the casual connections most?
Is there something you would like to experience at a national convention that doesn't seem to be available?
I haven't been to a ton of national conferences, but a few around the states. Honestly, I just love it when there are things I can bring home and use. (lessons, ideas, projects, other). I dislike it when presenters don't write good descriptions of their sessions. I probably enjoy the learning sessions and the presenters the most. I am pretty techie, so being connected to a backchannel is awesome for me to explore and dive into more of the discussion and find related things. I loved being at ISTE and the abiltiy to really follow a couple of sessions if you wanted with people tweeting resources and things going on in a couple of them. During our smaller state tech conference, I love networking with people around the state and having time with collegues to explore what we are learning and plan for the new year.
I thoroughly agree with the use of Twitter at large conferences! If you go with several from the same organization, the use of Twitter allows you to learn about more of the sessions without getting to all of them. I have found that there are 3-4 sessions at ISTE at the same time that I would love to attend. So, if my cohorts go to the others, I will pick one they aren't going to and we tweet throughout the sessions to build a great set of resources for continuing the work back home. Also, if you have followers who can't attend, Twitter becomes their connection to the conference as well.
I thoroughly enjoy the workshops and learning sessions for gathering resources to take back to fellow learners in my state.
Also, we must not forget the Vendor Hall. I sometimes spend an entire day in the hall moving through the great 15 minute sessions they provide on specific resources. When attending the NCTM conference, I leave the vendor hall with so many activities and resources to share with the other math teachers!
And, absolutely, the connections face to face with individuals you have connected with online is so much fun!
FETC 2014 is being advertised now and I am gearing up for attending. It is a wonderful opportunity to network and meet people face to face that you may follow on Twitter or may have 'talked' with in the Verizon Thinkfinity Community. It is an opportunity to learn about new products, current educational trends and have discussion with others who are life-long learners.
I remember attending my first conference (which was the CUE- Computer Using Educators in San Diego) and feeling overjoyed with how much new information I was receiving from the breakout sessions and the keynote speakers. Unfortunately, I didn't attend my first conference until I was out of the classroom working at the University level. I then felt so short-changed that as a classroom teacher I didn't have exposure to all these innovative ideas and the opportunity to be inspired by all these wonderful presenters. When I was in the classroom, my principal would send out emails to the whole staff stating that she could send two teachers to a conference and asked us to email her if we were interested in going. I would always get excited and put in my name stating that I really wanted to go. Sadly, not once was I selected to attend a conference. Conferences just aren't something most educators can afford to attend on their own.
When working at the University level and as a Thinkfinity Cadre trainer I had the opportunity to attend about 4 large conferences per year across the country such as in AZ, CA, NY, FL, PA and TX. The more collaborative projects I worked on the larger my network of colleagues became. Then, like Jeanne, Leslie and Barbara stated above, one of the best parts about attending the conferences was networking with other educators and catching up with friends/colleagues whom you usually interact with online.
It really would be nice if more classroom teachers could attend more conferences.