What's it like for a first time ISTE attendee? Did I think it is worth the almost 20 hours of travel there and back - not to mention the jet lag! What did I find interesting? Most importantly, would I go again?
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Hitting the Ground Running
For the unprepared, I can see how ISTE could be overwhelming. I did my best to be organised and make the most of my time, attending ISTE Unplugged and a Microsoft Teacher Academy session on the days leading up to the conference. Both of these events were fantastic and I made some great new contacts to add to my PLN on Twitter.
During the course of the three-day conference, attendees could choose 3 BYOD sessions to attend, which is no easy task as there were a buffet of interesting sessions on offer. Picking early ensures you get the sessions you want. Some filled up very quickly.
There are also a plethora of other paid sessions you can add to your ticket. There seemed to be plenty of other things going on to keep me busy, so I opted not to add extra cost to my already hefty ticket (when you consider flights from Australia and accommodation).
Posters, Playgrounds and Panels - oh my!
I was lucky to receive a tip from a fellow Aussie educator and ISTE veteran (Michael Graffin) recommending the poster sessions and playgrounds. This turned out to be a top tip. I found the Poster sessions especially engaging. Having the chance to speak with the presenters and collecting the mountain of shared resources filled my head (and my phone). The Playgrounds were equally fun and gave me a chance to get hands on with some fun new tools. Panels also offered relaxed discussions between industry experts, leaders and influencers.
Rapid Fire Learning
The ISTE Ignite sessions are short and fun. Presenters have 5 minutes and 20 slides to share their passion. If you think that's fast and furious just wait. The 1-in-3 sessions featured 15 presenters, each with only 3 minutes to share their best technology integration. WOW! After both sessions, my head was about to explode. So much passion in such a short time - it was fantastic! Equally engaging were the EdTek talks which was a similar format of fast paced mini keynotes. These were some of my favourite sessions by far!
...and don't forget the Expo hall!
The really satisfying thing about this conference was that is was powered by teachers. The most engaging speakers and people who made this event worth coming to, were the people who are walking the walk out there in the real world. The real value of this conference comes from the connections you make and the conversations you have with others.
I think the important thing to remember is that you can't do it all. Plan ahead and build an experience based on your interests and needs. There is something for everyone and the conference makes an effort to provide a variety of ways to engage.
Do I want to go to Chicago next year? You bet! Fingers crossed.