George Lucas Educational Foundation
Teacher Leadership

5 Tips to Make ISTE 2013 Awesome

Photo credit: croland via flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

    It's almost officially summer, and if you’re an edtech nerd like me, you always start twitching with excitement when June rolls around (seriously, picture Elaine dancing in Seinfeld). ISTE's annual conference and exposition starts June 23 and, for me, ISTE is the best way (edcamps excluded, of course!) to meet inspiring and like-minded folks passionate about education. So how do you make the most of the conference? And how do you know if you're being realistic about your goals and schedule? And is there room for fun?

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    I've created these handy (and hopefully a little funny) tips on how you can navigate ISTE like a pro. (Oh, and make sure to check out my tips from last year.)

    Tip #1: "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." - Benjamin Franklin

    OK, so it's not that serious, but preparing for any conference goes a long way. Here's what I do (which honestly isn't a lot): I always try to read a book by one of keynote speakers on the flight over. It gets me excited about the conference and really helps set the tone of what I'm going to learn. Check out our Pinterest Board to see some book suggestions by ISTE's keynote speakers. Steven Johnson's Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age is on my in-flight reading list. Also, make sure you have a rough agenda of what social events and sessions you want to attend. (Take advantage of ISTE's personal conference planner.) Tip: make sure you look at the sessions that are being offered as video on demand. I'd make a point to not attend those so that you can listen to them on the plane back.

    Tip #2: "All generalizations are false, including this one." - Mark Twain

    Sometimes I'll hear things passing by like, "I don't like going to sessions," or "I don't learn anything at unconferences." Trust the wisdom of Mark Twain and don't knock it until you try it -- and honestly, every year can be different. What didn't work for you last year could work this year. I always recommend ISTE Unplugged events, which include Hack Education (formerly SocialEdCon), The Global Education Summit, The Blogger's Cafe, and more. Some other things that might not be on your radar: Ignite sessions. I'm a bit ADD, and it's hard for me sometimes to commit over an hour to just one topic. However, Ignite sessions are not only quick (each is just five minutes), and they're entertaining (you try to speak to 20 slides in five minutes)!

    Tip #3: "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." - Maya Angelou

    I had the pleasure of hearing Maya Angelou speak at ASCD's conference this year, and it was amazing. A captivating storyteller, Maya urged everyone to tap into their own inner storyteller and connect with others. If you go to ISTE and don't meet and connect with one new person, that's a missed opportunity. I'll be volunteering at the Social Butterfly Lounge, which is a great place to get to know like-minded educators. Look for the people with the ISTE volunteer shirts, and tell them your story. And take a walk to hear students' and other educators' stories through poster sessions and student showcases. Last thing -- Birds of a Feather sessions are also an awesome way to authentically connect and get the answers you need. And next year, perhaps you can even propose a session.

    Tip #4: "Limits, like fear, is often an illusion." - Michael Jordan

    As much as I love MJ, I have to disagree. We're not all Michael Jordans, and we need to pace ourselves at big conferences like ISTE. Be sure to make time for things like eating, drinking enough water (bring a water bottle with you) and yes, even making sure you take restroom breaks. I usually carry some granola bars on me and make plans with friends (old friends and new) over lunch or dinner. Check out all of these restaurants and cafes within blocks of the convention center. P.S. -- make sure to wear comfy shoes because you'll literally walk tens of miles every day (and this year I’m wearing a pedometer to track it!) and sunscreen will be key in the San Antonio sun.

    Tip #5: "A day without sunshine is like, you know, night." - Steve Martin

    Take advantage of San Antonio's nightlife. Going to social events is a great way to connect with people and have fun. And once you bond over a social event, it's very easy to collaborate with them later on. Every night there's a social event happening and -- shameless plug -- Edutopia is co-hosting the biggest party of ISTE: Edtech Karaoke on Tuesday night. Make sure you RSVP and grab your badge at ISTE -- no badge, no entrance. I also make sure to follow the ISTE hashtag (#ISTE13), and here's a list of all of the social events on the ISTE ning.

    Bonus Tip: "My tastes are simple: I am easily satisfied with the best." - Winston Churchill

    Learning is messy -- don't let perfect be the enemy of good, especially at a conference. Dive in and try something that makes you vulnerable. I might join a Birds of a Feather session that I know nothing about, or go to an ISTE-affiliated party alone just to meet new people.

    "Must-See" Sessions at ISTE

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

    Monday, June 24, 2013

    Tuesday, June 25, 2013

    Wednesday, June 26, 2013

    Still want more tips on the conference? Check out these blogs I've found useful:

    Ending Tip: "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." - Dr. Seuss

    There's no crying at ISTE! Make sure you tell your colleagues how beneficial it was -- and convince them to come back with you next year. And make a goal to implement at least 5% of what you learn at the conference.

    And I just had to end with this quote:

    "Happiness is a warm puppy." - Charles M. Schulz