Navigating ISTE 2016: A Cheatsheet for Attendees

Navigating ISTE 2016: A Cheatsheet for Attendees

Mary Jo Madda

I have had the opportunity to attend ISTE four times, and each time I attend, I discover new ways to make the most out of this wonderful experience. Each year, ISTE invites dynamic keynote speakers, conference presenters, and a huge exhibitor hall. Attending this conference connects visitors to educators, technology leaders, innovators, and edtech products from around the globe.

Last year, I created an ISTE cheatsheet for newbies attending for the first time, but if you have attended ISTE at least once, you are now a veteran—and no longer a newbie. Hence, here are a few more “Do’s and Don’ts” to keep you on the right track and make the most out of your ISTE experience.

If you want to connect...

DO: Make a plan, but download the ISTE Mobile App to stay open to other possibilities.

Now that you have attended ISTE once, you might know what to expect. However, it’s still a good idea to plan out your schedule, especially so you don’t overbook yourself connecting with old colleagues from last year. View the program online, follow the conference hashtag #iste2016 on social media to keep up with the latest information, and use the ISTE mobile app to enhance your ISTE experience even more. The app will help you discover sessions, stay abreast of updates, browse conference news, save your resources in the “digital tote,” and play the mobile app game for a chance to win a trip to ISTE 2017.

Get active on social media, as well, for official ISTE updates and information by connecting through Facebook,Google Plus, and Twitter and Youtube.

And if you’re looking for a few choice sessions, here are two of my personal recommendations to start:

DO: Contact people you want to meet up with prior to ISTE.

I cannot stress enough the importance of having conversations at ISTE—when it comes to talking to people and making connections, you never know where something will lead professionally. But here’s a tip—research and connect with presenters and companies you know will be exhibiting ahead of time, and schedule time to talk about your classroom needs.

DO: Find your tribe.

Connect to a ISTE PLN online community and engage in discussions, with like-minded individuals that share your same passions. The community can connect you with others, so swap information right away by sending an immediate tweet or quick email to let others know you want to stay in touch.

If you want to learn...

DO: Explore an innovative session model.

It’s not just about panels. Poster sessions, Playgrounds, and ISTE Campfires are informal, yet powerful. They consist of small group presentations where you can interact on a more personal level with presenters, explore the flexible learning spaces, and ask more questions, which can spark more conversations.

For more formal learning opportunities, check out Ignite Sessions, Snapshots, the Edtech Startup Pitch Fest, or (new this year) 1-in-3’s, where you'll hear one great idea every three minutes. The beauty of these learning spaces is you can always use the rule of two feet, and navigate your way to a different session once you gain the information that you need—without feeling guilty.

DON’T: Wait until you get home to start reflecting.

Use your downtime to reflect on your experience as it’s happening, so you don't forget any of the important details. Take pictures of things you want to remember, and create video blogs, and use note-taking apps like Evernote to organize your information.

If you want to share...

DON’T: Be afraid to go live.

A great way to savor your experience is through video streaming. There are so many live streaming apps and ways to share your experiences. You can stream live video using Google Hangout, Facebook Live , Snapchat, or the Twitter livestream app Periscope.

DO: Volunteer.

When it comes to sharing, you prefer to share your time over sharing online. If you’re looking to get even more invested in ISTE, sign-up to volunteer. Edtech companies also look to recruit presenters and volunteers for their booths. Just reach out to them prior to the conference, sharing your availability; it’s a great way to meet new people, and you might get a few goodies.

And last, but not least...

DO: Work hard—then play hard (and take advantage of the free stuff!).

Bring a small carry-on bag, or leave room in your suitcase for all your goodies, and here are two pro tips:

  • The exhibitors don’t want to take anything home, so revisit your favorite booth on the last day and ask for the leftover giveaways.
  • Print labels, or business cards to easily share your contact information for special prize drawings and scavenger hunts.

And lastly, take some time out to enjoy the local sites in Denver. Consider arriving a day early, or staying a couple of days after the conference. This can also be a great way to unwind and reflect—or create a plan of action to implement the great ideas you acquired at ISTE 2016.

Patricia Brown (@msedtechie) is a technology integration coach, a professional development specialist, an adjunct graduate professor, and an edtech consultant. She is also an official EdSurge columnist.

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