George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Do you smell that? If you're like me, the scent of anticipation and innovation from ISTE's annual conference in Atlanta has been tantalizing your senses more and more . . .

I've written a couple of posts on how to make ISTE awesome and a suggested to-do list, but for this year, I've put a different twist on it. I'd like you to make one goal for ISTE (and really all conferences you attend): do it your way. Here are some helpful tips for taking ownership of your learning at ISTE and making it a truly memorable experience.

1. Take the Path Less Traveled

Some of my most memorable moments at ISTE were not the keynotes or the buzz-worthy sessions. They were the activities that truly seemed interesting to me. Make sure you pick topics that you're interested in and check them out, regardless of where your colleagues are going or what's trending on Twitter.

ISTE Tip: ISTE's app can be a great tool to find what you're looking for. Just use the search feature. So far, I've been able to find exactly what I want. If you can't find what you're seeking, see my tip on getting unstructured -- consider asking people and potentially making your own impromptu "session."

2. Use the Rule of Two Feet

I'm an edcamper at heart, and one of the best rules of edcamp is that you can use your feet to leave a session when you feel that you've gotten enough out of it. I know what you’re thinking: "If I leave, won't I be that rude person?" The answer is "No." Just trust me -- once you start attending sessions with the rule of two feet, you'll never look back. (And literally don't look back in case someone is giving you a dirty look -- just kidding!)

ISTE Tip: Use ISTE’s app or this online program search to pick two or three things you might want to see at the same time. You might even be able to see all of them with your newfound love for this edcamp rule.

3. Find a Way to Help Someone

What keeps me going all day, every day, on social media for Edutopia? Making someone's day. It sounds cheesy but it works, and it's incredibly powerful. I challenge you to ask yourself that question at ISTE (and then, well, hopefully every day).

ISTE Tip: Follow the #ISTE2014 hashtag on Twitter to see if anyone needs help with anything. Even if someone isn't directly asking for help, suggest a resource or share some advice. And the little things count. Sometimes you can feel like cattle at these big conferences. Go ahead and make the extra effort. Whether you hold the door open for someone or buy them a cup of coffee, it all goes a long way.

4. Get Unstructured

You spend your entire year planning and following a routine, and now's the time to embrace the unknown. It's OK to have some things planned, but make a conscious effort to be OK with trying new things and not scheduling everything out.

ISTE Tip: Check out all of the ISTE Unplugged events (including one of my favorites, Hack Education, an all-day unconference on Friday). There's also a playground where you can roll up your sleeves and get making. If you're looking for other nontraditional activities, wander by the poster sessions or attend an ignite or pitchfest session.

5. Be OK with Not Doing It All

No matter what you do, there's no way to take advantage of everything ISTE offers. That's what Twitter is for. You should also take advantage of the recorded sessions ISTE provides.

ISTE Tip: Follow the #ISTE14 hashtag and keep up to date on all of the amazing information being shared. (Pro tip: use the favorites feature to favorite the resources and any thought-provoking quotes you come across.)

6. Make Time to Connect

This is something that I wished I'd learned three years ago. I'm fairly ADD (especially when I'm at ISTE), and it's pretty easy for me to get sucked into Twitter all day and forget the face-to-face interactions. I've been to a lot of conferences, and I can say that the ones that I truly remember are the ones where I've made extra time to connect with someone. So if you’re having a great conversation, don't cut it short and go on to another thing -- consider skipping that other thing. By having deeper, more meaningful conversations you can really start to find synergies and ways to collaborate.

ISTE Tip: Make yourself available to meet new people. Hang out in the social butterfly lounge or bloggers' lounge (you can use the map section in ISTE's app to find social places to relax and connect). Also, make sure to attend the many social events ISTE has to offer.

7. What Happens at ISTE Doesn't Stay at ISTE

I'm not saying don't have fun, but just remember that it's a bit of a recipe for disaster when you mix alcohol and educators that are all dangerously good at social media . . . In all seriousness, we do sometimes need a reminder that fun is great, but when it gets in the way of the real reason you're there (to learn!), it can be a problem.

"Must-See" Sessions

As always is the case with ISTE, there are way too many great sessions to highlight, so here's my take of the "must-sees." Make sure to add your "must-sees" in the comments below, and see you at ISTE!

Full Disclosure: All of these sessions are by Edutopia bloggers, guest bloggers, facilitators, or organizations affiliated with Edutopia.

  • Saturday, June 28, 2014
    • 8:30 - 11:30 AM: Exploring the 4C's for Administrators (WBH208), Kyle Pace, Steven Anderson -- GWCC A307
    • 2:00 - 3:15 PM: ISTE Ignite Sessions, Round 1: Allison Finn, Amanda Sidorowicz, Courtney Pepe, Eva Harvell, Jennifer Kidd, Jennifer Magiera, Jennifer Roberts, Matthew Newton, Nicholas Provenzano, Rafranz Davis, Rurik Nackerud, Stacy Hawthorne, Tanya Avrith, Todd Nesloney -- GWCC Sidney Marcus Auditorium
  • Sunday, June 29, 2014
    • 8:30 - 9:30 AM: Saved by Twitter: 10 Ways to Use Twitter to Connect (BS100), Elana Leoni, Holly Clark -- GWCC A302
    • 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM: Engaging Today’s Preservice Teachers for Tomorrow's Students, Bethany Smith, Dean Mantz, Jayme Linton, Lisa Dabbs -- GWCC B313
    • 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM: Teaching Common Core Math with iPads, Monica Burns -- GWCC Murphy Ballroom Galleria, Table 4
    • 12:45 - 1:45 PM: From the Campfire to the Holodeck: Place Matters in Education, David Thornburg, Sara Armstrong -- GWCC B312
    • 12:45 - 1:45 PM: Genius Hour 20% Time: Best Practices Inspire Creativity, Not Chaos, Angela Maiers, Don Wettrick, Erin Klein, Karen Lirenman, Sylvia Martinez, Vicki Davis -- GWCC Sidney Marcus Auditorium
    • 12:45 - 1:45 PM: Mastering the Common Core: Rigorous, Relevant, Technology-Enhanced PBL, David Ross, Dayna Laur -- GWCC B309
    • 4:15 - 5:15 PM: Wonderful World of Wiki Teaching: Promoting Collaboration and Connection (BS119), Adam Frey, Theresa Allen, Vicki Davis -- GWCC A402/403
    • 5:30 - 6:45 PM: PBL Birds: Meet Your Flock, Make Connections, Jane Krauss, Suzie Boss -- GWCC B309
  • Monday, June 30, 2014
    • 2:15 - 3:15 PM: The Reflective Teacher's Tips and Tools for Guiding PBL, Suzie Boss -- GWCC Murphy Ballroom 3/4
  • Tuesday, July 1, 2014
    • 8:30 - 9:30 AM: Teaching and Assessing the 4C's in the Digital Age, Andrew Miller -- GWCC B309
    • 10:15 - 11:15 AM: Digital Citizenship, Now What? Frank Gallagher, Jason Ohler, Kelly Mendoza, Marialice B.F.X. Curran, Mike Ribble, Susan Bearden -- GWCC B207
    • 1:15 - 2:15 PM: The Tomorrow Toolkit: Free Web Tools to Support Student Creation, Adam Bellow, Erin Klein, Kyle Pace, Michelle Baldwin - GWCC B314

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

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Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Edcamper, Former @Edutopia, Founder of Social Media Marketing Consultancy aimed at helping educational orgs.

I've gotten some asks from people to talk about what to do if you are going to attend virtually. ISTE offers a virtual pass, called ISTE Live:

It's $219 and includes access to recorded archive of all ISTE Live sessions, plus additional video-on-demand (VOD) sessions for six months.

If you can't go, I'd suggest this to be able to listen to all of the live sessions. Also remember to actively participate in the backchannel. #ISTE14 is the official hashtag and many people will use #ISTE2014 and specific event hashtags like #ETK14 (for edtech karaoke 2014). Also, for those of you not going to ISTE, many people use the #NotAtISTE hashtag, where you can bond with others not at ISTE and hopefully collaborate and learn from each other remotely.

Can't afford the $219? Just jump on twitter during the conference. Seriously, any notes taken, and powerful quotes said will all be tweeted with the above hashtags. You can use tools like Storify to gather and curate tweets you like and you can even follow up with people directly to ask questions and network.

Any other questions I can help answer?

Lisa Dabbs's picture
Lisa Dabbs
Educational Consultant. Author. Speaker. Blogger.

Hey Missy...loved your post. Although I won't be there this year, I will be there virtually! Dean is going to video my part of the panel preso so that will be fun. :)

Also will be following the #iste14 hashtag and having fun with the #notatiste14, group.

I know Holly will do an awesome job as your side kick for the Twitter preso we were going to do together! Go #edusisters!

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Edcamper, Former @Edutopia, Founder of Social Media Marketing Consultancy aimed at helping educational orgs.

Edsurge just posted a blog about ISTE here:

The recommended the following sessions to attend:

Saturday, June 28

2:00 PM Global Education Day at ISTE: Take the opportunity to network with international edtech educators and stakeholders at this 3-hour event, hosted by Chicago educator Lucy Gray and Steve Hargadon.

4:00 PM ConnectED Private Sector Showcase & Back-to-School Webinar: Looks like Betsy Corcoran's article on ConnectED prodded companies to step up and deliver on their promises to educators. SETDA will host this session where ten participating companies that have committed resources to ConnectEd (including Adobe, Apple, and Verizon) will share information about where they are in that process. Worth checking out.

Sunday, June 29

11:00 AM 101 Free Tech Tools for Teachers: FREE. Can't get much better than that. Also, ISTE's 2013 Teacher of the Year Nicholas Provenzano recommends attending this session.

11:00 AM Tech Commandments II: The Revenge: Come listen and learn from Adam Bellow, former educator, current CEO of eduClipper, and last year's closing keynoter at ISTE 2013.

12:45 PM Our District's 1:1 Laptop Program: A 10-year Retrospective. Yes, you read that right--TEN years.

Monday, June 30

10:30 AM ISTE Pitchfest Final Round: Come watch four edtech companies duke it out for the ultimate pitch glory. Each company will have five minutes to present and two to three minutes to answer questions from the judges (one of whom will be our very own Katrina Stevens!).

10:45 AM Future-Ready Schools Campaign and Teacher Microcredentials: Digital Promise talks teacher badging and conducts a badge design activity. (Plus, there's that big announcement with EdSurge!)

2:15 PM EdTekTalks: If larger keynotes aren't your thing, check out these short TED-like talks. The five mini-keynoters include makers like MAKE Magazine's Dale Dougherty and IDC Media Invention Lab's Guy Hoffman.

5:30 PM Twitter 101: Build Your Personal Learning Network: Susan Bearden (#edtechchat moderator) and Jerry Blumengarten (#edchat moderator) are two Twitter titans in the education world. Learn their tips and tricks, create your own social media PLN and take to the Twittersphere.

Tuesday, July 1

10:15 AM Internet Access at Home: A frank conversation about how three school organizations have addressed WiFi equity issues both in school and at home.

1:15 PM The Emergence of the Self-Directed Digital Learner: Recommended by ISTE's Games and Simulations Network, Julia Evans from Project Tomorrow will cover personalizing learning both in and out of school from the latest Speak Up national findings.

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