Getting the Most Out of a Conference #ISTE13

mariachiisteOn June 23rd, the ISTE conference came to my hometown, San Antonio. Over 18,000 participants invested in education came to participate. For me, this meant that I would get to meet and host friends I met online and have collaborated with for the last 4 years. It’s taken awhile to write about my ISTE experience, because I’m still processing the incredible experience. For me, it was the first time that I had a conference held in my city. This meant I was able to show members of my PLN the real San Antonio, which is full of friendly people, culture, and great food. It meant I walked away with many incredible memories.

How do we get the most out of a conference?

Get Connected

When we decide to participate in online professional development, we often do not realize the journey we are embarking on. In April 2009, I began connecting with educators on Twitter as @ShellTerrell. At the time I was teaching in Germany and felt homesick. I needed to connect with others and Twitter didn’t seem like a huge commitment. I could lurk and follow others and hoped one day they’d follow me. Soon, I was brave enough to participate and connect. Once I began connecting, my life transformed.

Hug Your Heroes

One of the first people to follow me and support me at the time was Sue Waters, @SueWaters. She’s my edtech hero. Reading her blog and tweets, attending her webinars, and joining her projects inspired me to blog and start my own projects including the online conference, The Reform Symposium. Sue was one of the first people to comment on my blog when only a handful read it. I still often refer to her work when I need to find answers. She always has the answers and helps anyone who asks for support. However, Sue Waters lives in Australia and so I never thought I’d get to meet her. I was astounded when our mutual friend, Ronnie Burt (@RonnieBurt), introduced us to each other at Karaoke. I still find it amazing that 2 people who had communicated for 4 years from 2 different continents got to hug each other in person!
I was also able to meet and spend time with Lisa Dabbs, @TeachingWthSoul, for the first time. Lisa and I have developed a close relationship over the years collaborating on The 30 Goals Challenge for Educators and The Reform Symposium. For years, we Skyped weekly and chatted online daily. I loved meeting her husband and that she got to meet my family.
Other Edtech heroes and gurus I got to meet for the first time and spend time with included Peggy George (@Pgeorge) who offers endless support and mentors many and Jackie Gerstein, (@JackieGerstein). I often mention Jackie in relation to mobile learning and flipped resources. Her ideas and her blog are inspirational.

Laugh, Dance, Conversate, Create Memories

Memories like these are what I carry away from ISTE. Meeting new people and feeling like they are lifelong friends because we have communicated for years. Also, meeting again with very close friends like Jerry Cybraryman (@Cybraryman1) who even brought gifts for Rosco, my pug, and my #Edchat co-founders who inspire 1000s, @TomWhitby & @Web20Classroom. I walk away with memories of the conversations, the shared laughs, the exchanging of cool tech knowledge and apps, the hugs, the silliness, and inspiration. I don’t go to conferences just to discover tools or see how teachers use them. I see this daily on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, blogs and the various other social networks I participate in. I go to get to know the people that I communicate with and who often know me better than most people. I go to bask in their brilliance, celebrate their achievements, witness their creativity, and feel at home with a community who gets my nerdiness and my passion to improve the world one learner at a time. There’s always that moment at conferences like ISTE where you stop and take it in. You are among friends who come from various places around the world who are transforming the world and you’re laughing with them, dancing with them, eating with them, smiling with them, and celebrating that in life there are people like this who exist.

Be Open to Unexpected Invitations

One of the best memories was having some of my Twitter friends join my parents and me for a mariachi Sunday brunch- @TeachingWthSoul (Lisa Dabbs), @JoAnnJacobs68 (JoAnn Jacobs), @mkurashige (MelvinaKurashige) @ElanaLeoni, @Holly_Willis, @lackeymartha (Martha Lackey), @DuncanBilingual (Jake Duncan), and @Angela_Watson. I met many of them face to face for the first time even though we had several online exchanges and I was excited that they accepted my last minute invitation to eat brunch with me. Having my parents meet my online friends and experience in person the conversations and connection we have is priceless. My parents were very proud and honored for the company.
I kept asking people at the last minute to join me for lunch or breakfast and was surprised how many accepted the invitations. Another great memory was taking @Philip_Cummings, @Edrethink (John Spencer), and @edutech83 (Chad Segersten) to eat and see the art at the Pearl Brewery. We had great food, a nice walk, and passionate conversations about education. I also appreciate my co-presenters,  @LHerr (Lynne Herr) and @DanCallahan spending quality time with me and doing a 3 hour workshop with me. Congratulations to Dan who is having twins. And of course who wouldn’t enjoy time spent with my two favorite Edubros, @TheNerdyTeacher and @TGwynn. They were super busy but I still managed to join their party and dance with them.

Applaud Other’s Achievements

Conferences like ISTE are big moments for members of our PLN and it is a time to support and honor them. Make it a point to see some of your PLN’s workshops, keynotes, presentations, award ceremonies, etc. I loved being in the midst of such a supportive crowd applauding Adam Bellow as he did his keynote. Adam and I have ran into each other at other conferences and had great conversations about education. He was in my opinion, the best keynote at the conference and not because he’s a friend, but because he is just that inspirational. I have often found that connected educators tend to give the best workshops and presentations. I know that we think because they share online we don’t need to attend but often when I see a presentation from a non-connected educator, I walk away disappointed.

Thank YOU!

There are many incredible memories I didn’t get to mention, people that I met for the first time who I have admired for so long, and friends who I love running into regularly at each of these conferences. Thank you to each of you who took the time to say hi, hold a conversation with me, attended one of my 3 sessions, took a picture with me, and spent time with me.  I enjoyed creating memories with you. Thank you to my incredible co-presenters @LHerr (Lynne Herr), @DanCallahan, @BillSelak, and @KleinErin. They truly awed the audiences with their ideas and practical tips. Thank you to Jake Duncan, @DuncanBilingual, for saving my own presentation and coming to my rescue.

ISTE 13 Memories on PhotoPeach

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