The energy. The camaraderie. The learning. The ideas. So many ideas.
As anyone who has attended the ISTE Conference & Expo can tell you, the passion and energy of the event is contagious. While there, it’s easy to get hooked on the feeling – imagining all the things you want to implement in your classroom; getting excited about sharing what you learned with colleagues; pondering your new reading or research list guided by suggestions from impassioned presenters.
Turns out, there are several innovative ways to extend the conference experience and leverage it to assist your fellow educators.
The Rowan-Salisbury School System in Salisbury, North Carolina, sent 225 educators to ISTE 2015. “That’s four buses of very excited people,” says Andrew Smith, director of digital innovation for the school system. “Because we can send that many people, we think very purposely about getting the most bang for the buck.”
One way the district assures that bang, and spreads the fireworks, is to host an annual back-to-school conference for the district’s 3,000 employees. “We get the knowledge of 225 people to 3,000,” Smith says.
The mini-conference includes national keynotes, more than 200 sessions, a conference app and a vendor fair. All who attended the ISTE conference at the district’s expense are required to fill out a formal proposal, and a selection committee creates sessions from those proposals. Those who are particularly nervous about speaking at a session can present alongside their principal.
“People tell us every time, ‘We want to do this more,’ ” Smith says. “They want a spring conference, too. People thrive when we take away the mundane.”
Twitter chats are another way Rowan-Salisbury shares conference knowledge and enthusiasm. “We ask people who go to ISTE who are on fire to host a Twitter chat,” Smith says. District personnel hosted 20 post-conference chats last year at #rsschat.
Perhaps you learned about blended learning or 1:1 computing initiatives at ISTE 2015. Maybe your district is pondering adjusting the school day schedule or implementing new digital resources. Sure, you heard about these ideas at conference; but seeing really is believing.
That’s why Rowan-Salisbury uses a go-and-see model to drive home what is possible in education, sending staff to nearby schools and to sites as far away as Baltimore, Miami and Texas to see innovations firsthand.
“We can talk about it all day long, but if you don’t see it for yourself, you’ll never believe it,” Smith says.
A more spontaneous and highly interactive way to share conference learning is to host an edcamp. As Edcamp Foundation describes, unlike traditional conferences with schedules set well in advance by a conference team, Edcamp participants create the agenda at the start of the event.
And rather than a single presenter standing in front of the room talking for an hour, people are encouraged to have discussions and participate in hands-on sessions.
With the ability to run nearly 60 sessions in a single day on topics attendees are most craving, an edcamp is a surefire way to spread the intellectual wealth.
If a full presentation or mini-conference has you running for cover, instead create a trip report – a two- or three-page summary of the sessions you attended and the key takeaways gathered. The report might include presenters’ names, links to resources and implementation tips. Once complete, share the report throughout your school or district.
Key take-away summary
Another document attendees can prepare is a key takeaway summary, which might include projects to try, websites to visit, apps to download, ed tech products to research or just a list of the concepts you heard about. Better yet, turn that list into a blog post.
Remember those amazing people you met, the contact information you gathered, the note you jotted down about connecting with someone on social media. Do it now! Make those promised connections with the dozens of folks you networked with at conference. You’ll be surprised how quickly it will expand your educator ecosystem and how much it contributes to keeping the conference buzz going.
Didn’t make it to ISTE 2015? Don’t miss ISTE 2016 in Denver!