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.

1. CHARGE UP THOSE DEVICES!

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!

2. SOAK UP 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.

3. DOWNLOAD THE CONFERENCE APP


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!

4. ATTEND EVENTS

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!

5. REFLECT

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!


SEE YOU ALL AT CONNECT! CANNOT WAIT TO MEET YOU!

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 

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