Guide to surviving #edtech conferences
Excitement is in the air and twitter is full of edtech hashtags. This can only mean one thing…the #edtech conference season has started. If you look at @jrsowash ‘s edtech calendar for this year, there are plenty of chances to check out what’s going on with technology in education. I have always had a love/hate relationship with conferences. I love checking out the vendor hall- even if I tried to avoid eye contact most of the time(I’m now one of those weird looking vendors, but I’ll get into that later). I loved free buttons, t-shirts, pens!!! and anything else that could benefit my classroom. Being cheap, I often wasn’t really looking to buy anything. I just wanted to window shop.
I loved looking through the event guidebook to plan out what sessions I wanted to attend. The first few years I ran myself ragged trying to absorb as much knowledge as possible. I stayed through every session, even if it was horrible. I felt I owed it to my school, who was paying for most of my trip, to attend every session that I could. I normally left the conference feeling overwhelmed and somewhat inferior to all of the these presenters.
Time gave way to perspective, and feeling grounded in my teaching, I had more confidence to ignore the advice of those pushing the next big thing without any thought of how it can change learning. A danger of any technology conference is that you will leave with new, expensive ways to change your classroom that have no direct effect of on student learning. Many new apps, technology, or strategies are just substitutions for the same way we have always done education.
So, my advice wading through conference season- avoid the fads. Ignore the sessions on the top 50 apps because you can do your own web search to find that information. If you need app training, look for a session that is using an app to transform the classroom and will take that app and use it in ways you hadn’t even considered. Don’t go alone. Go with someone from your school, or if you do go alone connect with other educators who are pushing the boundaries. ←- I use twitter to find these people, many times way before a conference ever starts.
Explore the vendor hall. I love shiny things. I want to be wowed by cool stuff, even if I have no intention of ever buying it. However, I look for vendors that have knowledge beyond a product. I want vendors who understand education and I look for pieces that might be missing in what I want to accomplish in my classroom. Much like conference sessions, I look for vendors who understand pedagogy. Push vendors to explain how their new product or service will increase and inspire student learning. How will it equip you to be a better teacher? If it can’t, then just keep looking for free pens!
On a side note, stepping into a role of a vendor has been pretty awesome. Our company, eTechCampus, is all former teachers. We understand what it’s like as a teacher and realize just how much training is needed to help you stay up to date. We plan trainings that go beyond just an app. We love being in the schools and working with administrators to develop comprehensive plans for successful technology integration. Our new learning management system is shaping up to be pretty awesome and have a ton of practical ideas for teachers who need a digital infrastructure for the classroom. As a company, we have worked hard to develop relationships with book publishers to offer textbooks- hard copies or digital version- at cheap rates. We have positioned ourselves to be the digital learning solution schools need and want. I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings!