Presenting @CanConnectEd on Thursday, April 28, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. It will take place in the exhibition hall. Presentation 101. Touch, Type, Swipe, Zoom...What else can a Tablet do? Fostering 21st Century Skills within an Interdisciplinary Science and Language Arts Unit. ACCESS TO FREE DOWNLOADABLE PDF RESOURCE on interdisciplinary apps to enhance knowledge construction.


Keep Calm & CONNECT On

Conferences can be overwhelming yet enlightening at the same time. There are usually hundreds of presentations and sometimes thousands of exhibitors. How is anyone supposed to navigate it all? No matter how you feel about conferences, it never hurts to be one step ahead of the game and prepared to conquer workshops, sales pitches, long sessions, and after parties! With some simple preparation and the right mindset, conferences can be a transformative experience!

Not too long ago after I attended the Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC), I confessed all of my feelings and provided my recipe for conference success. Check out Conference Confessions.

I am writing to all my readers specifically to prepare for CONNECT: Canada's Learning and Technology Conference. I am honestly so overwhelmingly excited to attend and present at CONNECT this year. Not only is CRIS HADFIELD a keynote presenter, but we further get to hear from the lovely ANGELA MAIERS! Also in the spotlight is my friend Zoe Branigan-Pipe and DSBN edtech guru Todd Sneizek. This conference has been intellectually catapulted with the current line-up of speakers! If you have not already registered, click the image below.

After attending the CONNECT conference for the past two years and presenting for the first time last year, I have compiled some simple strategies to help upcoming attendees get the most out of their experience at CONNECT.


Tech conferences are unlike any other conference in their ability to digitally connect thousands of attendees. Of course you edtech gurus out there will basically treat your device as a second limb, it is important that first time edtech conference attendees know the value and importance of having your device ready for action! First, make sure you have set up a Twitter handle and downloaded the Twitter app. Your handle (i.e., @RochelleTkach) is what you will provide people when you CONNECT with them digitally. When you arrive at the conference, make sure you know the wifi password and the conference hashtag for Twitter (i.e., #canconnect...not sure what it actually is yet). As you attend the conference, you will find it to be very reflective and collaborative to share pictures of what is happening in your presentation (i.e., an app you are working on, a resource you received, or even a picture of one of the presenters' slides). Make sure to tweet any cool give aways or after party passes on the exhibitor floor!


As I mentioned above, conferences can sometimes be overwhelming. Probably the most exciting yet
overwhelming experience at an edtech conference in the exhibitor floor. It is by far one of my favourite places to explore at conferences. This is the place where you can see pedagogy turned into something more concrete and applicable in your classroom. Make sure that when you attend CONNECT, you take some time out of your day to explore the edtech companies on the exhibitor floor. The biggest tip I can give you for tackling the exhibitors, is to browse, target, and engage. Before talking to exhibitors, walk around and browse what is out there. After coming across some exhibitors that you seem interested in, target them as the key exhibitors you would like to learn more about. The occasional random exhibitor is obviously going to happen! Exhibitors will rightfully try their best to get your attention and pitch their product. It doesn't hurt to talk to some exhibitors that you really do not know anything about! However, keep your interests succinct and engage with the exhibitors you are really interested in.

One of my mentors while attending conferences, Dr. Camille Rutherford, always stressed to me the importance of going into a conference with a key topic of interest. If you try to learn everything about edtech in the one or two days while you are there, your mind will explode, and you will most likely leave the conference feeling even more confused and frustrated with edtech. Basically, reflect NOW about what you really want to learn at the conference. Are you targeting sessions and exhibitors related to flipped classrooms or are you interested in iPad apps? Are you hoping to learn more about Chromebooks? Do you want to learn more about learning management systems (LSM like D2L)? Narrow in on your focus. This will not only help you navigate the sessions you select to attend, but it will further help you when targeting the exhibitors and engaging in conversation with them. Your experience will be much more fulfilling and richer this way.


This tip will make your life so much easier! Type in Connect Conference into the app store and select the app that says CONNECT Education Conference 2016. Once you login, you will have access to a digital copy of your schedule. This will allow you to follow and change your schedule as the conference progresses. You will also be able to view the speakers at the conference and their bios. Make sure to check the schedule in the morning to ensure that your sessions are still running. Some sessions have been added in last minute...some new ones popped up this week! Check to make sure they are not ones you would like to attend!

In the app, you will also be able to look at the exhibitors. This is a shortcut for my tip above. If you do not feel like wandering around the exhibition floor, you can target certain exhibitors through the app and go to their location on the exhibition floor.

The app is also a fantastic way to start connecting with individuals. You can usually find presenters' and other attendees' twitter handles or blog URLs in their bios. If you are attending the event with someone or know some people who are going to the conference, you are able to see who are at certain events within the app. This is a great way to reconnect with people! There is a section to create your own bio for other presenters and attendees to view. Make sure to upload a selfie!

Finally, you can use the conference app like Twitter. You can post updates and share comments or feedback about sessions. This will show up as a real-time feed like Twitter. It is just one more way to see what people are up to! I have found that these feeds help me to see more of the conference than I would have without digital networking. You become more aware of what is going on at the conference and won't miss out on the exciting opportunities going on all around you!


While at the conference, keep an eye and ear out for any events being held later in the evening after the conference day is over. I have found the these events are extremely fun and strengthen
relationships that have been built throughout the professional conference day. Sometimes it is karaoke night and other days it is drinks and appetizers at a restaurant. Often times these events are sponsored by edtech companies so you may stumble upon some exhibitors inviting you to an event that evening!


As teachers, reflection is a given. CONNECT is a practitioner conference full of teachers, instructional coaches, administrators, and researchers. The majority of the conference is made up of teachers who will implement the suggestions and resources discovered at CONNECT. You will leave the conference feeling like you were just hit with hundreds of spinning ideas, resources, contacts, and questions. Make sure to go home and write down the take-aways that you want to explore in your classroom. This may be as simple as the name of an app you want to download, the contact info of someone you would like to connect more with, or a teaching tip you received from one of the sessions. My favourite way to reflect after a conference is through blogging...of course. I find the process of writing online for myself and for my readers pushes me to think about my own personal goals and further helps me conceptualize my ideas for knowledge sharing. Please check out one of my conference reflections while attending the International Society for Technology in Education conference: The Newbie @ISTE

I hope you have gained some simple tips and tricks for CONNECT. The biggest take away I can leave you with right now is to keep calm and CONNECT on! Conferences are meant to network and meet new people. Soak up everything around you, but do not lose sight of the powerful opportunities to collaborate and share knowledge with other professionals in education!


Rochelle :)

P. S. My presentation is on Thursday at 9:30 called Touch, Type, Swipe, Zoom...What else can a Tablet do? Fostering 21st Century Skills within an Interdisciplinary Science and Language Arts Unit 

Conference Confessions

Well it has been a while since I have posted on my personal edtech blog. I have been busy blogging away for Learning Bird and working on my M.Ed. thesis! Over the past year, I have had the opportunity to attend many conferences related to edtech, special education, and social science research. While engaging and networking with other professionals in my field, I believe there are certain experiences that have really enhanced my professional learning and networking. On the flip side, there have been some experiences overemphasized or lacking while attending conferences.

I decided to write this blog post for the regular conference attendee. This may mean you are a teacher, researcher, administrator, or other professional. However, my perspective comes from that of a new teacher just on the cusp of my teaching career. I have really pushed myself to present at conferences and engage in as many as possible. I hope that this blog post can inspire more people to attend conferences and get the most out of their experience.


The term conference itself is defined as a meeting to discuss. While attending conferences, ensure that your experience goes beyond that of attending lectures and browsing vendor floors. After sessions, CONNECT with the speaker or someone who maybe raised a good point you were interested in. Make it a goal to connect with at least one person in that room before you move on to the next session. If you have a business card to give out, make sure it has your social media listed such as your Twitter handle or blog link. Even if the connection you make results in one more follower on Twitter, it is progress in your digital network and one more person who will see the knowledge you push out through social media.

Another way to connect and meet new people at conferences is on the vendor floor. I have attended mainly educational technology conferences, which as many of you probably know, are extremely intense, flashy, and overwhelming at times. Here is a link to an older blog post I wrote about my first experience at ISTE: The Newbie @ISTE. I recommend engaging with vendors to see what is new and innovative with regards to resources and tools. Although I am an advocate for thinking pedagogy before thinking tool, it is still important to understand what tools will be up and coming and made available to you in the near future. Scout out the vendors first to narrow in on a few that you definitely want to engage and talk with. If you try talking to every single vendor at some conferences, you will never actually attend conference sessions! There are just too many vendors so keep your interests succinct and personalized based on what you want to learn the most about. You will find the conference feels a lot less overwhelming when you decided to only listen to a couple company's pitches.


I have found that after attending some conferences that vendors are very good at roping attendees into their challenges, games, and giveaways. This is of course fun and enjoyable when attending a professional getaway. However, I have found that spending an hour trying to collect flying stuffed pigs and lightsabers to be addicting and a complete waste of time. And yes, there were literally flying stuffed pigs and lightsabers as giveaways...I was not successful in getting them. So lesson learned? If you are meaningfully engaged in the vendors and happen to be offered a challenge that results in some exciting fluffy giveaway, go for it!! However, don't get sucked into the swag giveaways just because they are free. You are at the conference to connect and learn! This should take priority.


Some of my most meaningful memories at conferences have come from the professional networking events held after the long days of presenting and learning at conferences. When I attended the ISTE conference in Philadelphia in July 2015, I connected with some fantastic educators during the Discovery Education Canada event. CONNECT 2016 is coming up in Niagara Falls. If you plan on attending, I highly suggest looking on Eventbrite to see if there are any events being held by edtech companies or other organizations. On the vendor floor, you may also hear about some events happening during the evening or later in the week. They are a fantastic way to relax and socialize with other educators and companies! If you are active on Twitter and other social media outlets, don't be surprised if you run into some popular edtech professionals! I have attended events and ran into some of the inspirational edtech teachers who inspired my own blogging and passion for 21st century learning. On another note, you may also hear about some sessions that were overlooked when planning your conference schedule!


As I reflect on my conference experiences, I often feel like my ability to consume knowledge becomes overwhelmed. It is really hard to soak up so much information all at once in 2-3 days without having a chance to debrief and make sense of it all. I have attended some conferences alone and have found myself going crazy from a lack of professional collaboration and reflection. I find that a lot of conferences lack the space and form of events needed to foster professional collaboration during the conference itself. The best conferences I have attended were in groups where I could constanttly bounce ideas off of other professionals in my field. I found myself being able to make sense of the knowledge I consumed and truly reflect on the whole conference experience. I hope that some future conferences foster more small scale collaboration among professionals with similar interests.

I highly recommend attending conferences in a small group rather than attending them alone. The ability to always talk and construct new knowledge as a group is so much more beneficial than just attending a conference solo and consuming, consuming, consuming. Groups foster more creation of new knowledge. At the end of FETC 2016, the group I travelled with created two solid pod-casts. It was extremely reflective and inspirational. I saw so much more of FETC through the lens of my colleagues' and friends' perspectives. If you are interested, here are the pod-casts we created:

Overall, conferences are meant to be enjoyable, enriching, and exciting! Soak up every new experience and networking opportunity. Do not forget to take everything you learned and reflect on it. This can be as simple as writing a mind map to connect some new ideas or writing some new goals for your future practices. Blogging is always a great way to reflect!

I hope to see you at the CONNECT 2016 conference in Niagara Falls. Click the image below to find out more information on the CONNECT 2016 conference and registration:

Keep Calm & Tech On!
Rochelle :)