Today is the last day of ISTE. I’ve learned my lesson and am sitting in the first session of the day (8:30am) 45 minutes early. Unfortunately, lines have been part of the memorable experience that is ISTE. Even with the lines, it has been a fabulous experience and my mind is so full of ideas and promise. I’m already excited for #ISTE19.
As a first timer, I was quickly overwhelmed with the whole conference. I spent some time reflecting on the Uber to McCormick Place on what recommendations I would make to future first timers.
First, don’t let yourself feel any pressure to get more out of the conference than you can. I understand that if your school or district is paying for you to attend, there might be some expectation of making it worth their while. Yes, get as much out of the conference as you can, but don’t stress yourself out doing it. Following Twitter, seeing all the lines, overhearing excited conversations, seeing people walking around with great swag can make you feel like you’re missing something. No matter how hard you work to pack learning into every minute, you are STILL going to miss something. So embrace the FOMO. Plan a full day, but also don’t hesitate to plan a break and/or processing time. Whatever the number of sessions you attend, you are walking away with some amazing learning. Focus on what you got and how to take it back over what you missed.
Second, think about your conference strategy. What are you here to get? For me personally, this year, I focused on learning and sessions. I know there is SO MUCH more including networking, the Expo Hall, before and after hours social events but I needed to get comfortable with the conference itself before I could tackle some of the other things. I’m hitting up the Expo Hall today, on the last day, but I’m not walking in with any expectations. With a billion vendors, all I’m looking to do is explore the layout, get a feel for how things work, and maybe pick up a free gift or two. (C’mon, we all know teachers LOVE their free stuff.) It’s OK to not do everything.
Think about what kinds of topics you want to learn about. Browse through the conference schedule to get a feel for what’s being offered and go from there. I knew I wanted to hit up some AR/VR sessions so I found a couple of those to add to my calendar. Don’t get overwhelmed with the HUNDREDS of session offerings. It is literally a logistical nightmare trying to decide which session to attend at which time. I relied heavily on the ISTE app using the Favorites and Agenda feature. I browsed through the session offerings for the day and anything that sounded interesting and related to my goals, I favorited. Once narrowed down, it was much easier to decide what to attend and when and these were added to my agenda, almost as a “final draft”. Also, be prepared with a backup plan. If your session fills up, be ready with a second choice.
I’m not sure if this is the case for all ISTE conferences, but the lines for sessions were an issue this year, especially anything from Google and Apple. If you want to get into the Google sessions, plan on getting there at least an hour early. Apple sessions sold out almost immediately in the morning, so go EARLY to get tickets.
Hit up the Poster sessions. Seriously. They’re basically like big science fairs around different themes. For instance there were poster sessions on STEM/STEAM, Early Learning, Libraries and Media, Coaching, etc. I was skeptical as I am not great at talking with strangers and I love a sit and get lecture, but some of the best learning was here. I found it easy to talk to the “presenters” and networked like crazy here.
All in all, I had a blast. Some sessions were better than others, which is to be expected, but I am walking away with so many ideas and so many things I can’t wait to take back to my team. I am very fortunate that I have been able to attend.