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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

It's June, and one of the biggest edtech conferences in the US is quickly approaching -- ISTE's annual conference & exposition in San Diego. I don't know about you, but I always get nerdily excited for opportunities like this to network and collaborate with likeminded folks passionate about education. ISTE currently has almost 700 sessions available to attend, some buzz-worthy keynotes including Sir Ken Robinson and Dr. Yong Zhao, and a HUGE edtech expo. With all of these events going on, it can be overwhelming to even the most tech-savvy educator. So, I've compiled some useful tips from my experiences at ISTE that can help you make the most of your trip.

Tip #1: Try Something New

Yes, there are nearly 700 sessions to attend but what about the other stuff? Sometimes, it's actually more beneficial to get involved in the not-so-official activities of the conference. Check out the ISTE Unplugged events, which include SocialEdCon (formerly EduBloggerCon), The Global Education Summit, The Blogger's Cafe at the Sails Pavillion (hint: Edutopia will be there passing out VIP badges), and ISTE LIVE. Plus, make sure you check out the ISTE Ignite sessions, the poster sessions and student showcases. Bonus points if you hang out in the Newbie or Social Butterfly Lounge and attend a Birds of a Feather session. And if you still have some downtime, make sure to head on over to the expo hall, where you can attend some cool demos and get free swag.

Tip #2: Plan Ahead But Allow Some Flexibility

Don't plan out your schedule to the minute. I've heard many people tweet that they have over 400 sessions in their calendar to attend -- don't be that guy/gal! If you are attending a good amount of sessions, make sure you arrive early and introduce yourself to the person you're waiting in line with. Some of the best conversations I had happened while I was waiting in line for a session. Always make time for conversation -- it continues to be the highlight of my ISTE experiences. Tip: make sure you look at the sessions that are being offered through video on demand. I'd make a point to not go to them so you can listen to them on the plane back.

Tip #3: Remember That You're Human

I know -- there are so many exciting things going on that sometimes things like eating, drinking water and, dare I say it, even going to the restroom get put aside. A good way to avoid this is to schedule some visits/meetings with colleagues/new friends over a snack. Make a point to explore San Diego with a bite to eat and carry a water bottle that you can refill at the convention center. Check out all of these restaurants and cafes within blocks of the convention center. Oh, and comfy shoes and sunscreen are key. And if you have a portable iPhone charger, you will be very popular!

Tip #4: Engage in a Back Channel

Make a goal to tweet at least once within a session you attend (and make sure to use the official conference hashtag #ISTE12 so you can connect with others and help #ISTE12 trend on Twitter). Also, it's worth noting that many sessions will use their own hashtag to focus the back channel -- I usually just ask at the session if there is one. I also use Twitter as a way to crowdsource notes and sometimes to even figure out what sessions to attend. Afterwards, I just compile the tweets using storify or a Twitter search and voila! -- instant notes that featuring highlights that I couldn't have begun to capture alone. Tip: remember that balance is key. This may be the one time you get to meet someone you've been tweeting with for years. Don't be anti-social and tweet at them. Just walk over and say hello -- without technology. Oh, and for you extreme tech multi-taskers (I'm also including myself in this bucket), don't get stuck in a corner checking in, tweeting, Instagramming, etc. while the conference passes you by. Note: If you run into me doing this at ISTE, you have permission to kick me.

Tip #5: Get Social (the Face-to-Face Kind) and Stay Connected

There's only so much information you can consume. Give your brain a break and let loose at some after parties and social events. Here's a list of social events at ISTE 2012, and here's a Ning where you can add your own social event to the list. And . . . try to find a way to connect with educators you meet at these social events through Facebook, Foursquare, Instagram, QR Codes, Google+ and more.

"Must-See" Sessions at ISTE

Full Disclosure: Many of these sessions are by Edutopia bloggers and friends. There are too many great sessions to highlight -- so here's my take of the "must-sees." Please add your "must-sees" in the comments below. And see you at ISTE!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

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