Written by CUE Member and ISTE’s 2014 Kay L. Bitter Award Recipient Bill Selak @billselak
It’s almost time to hang out with 20,000 of my closest friends. Well, there’s me, 5,000 exhibitors, and 1,000 sessions. And there’s you, of course!
If you’ve never been to an ISTE Conference, I need to warn you: it’s big! Really, really big. I know you’re not supposed to use the word “really” twice in a row, but it’s that big.
The first thing you want to do is spend some time with the Conference Planner. I like to begin my search by looking for presenters. If I recognize someone from CUE or my PLN, I automatically save their session. Who you learn from is as important as what you learn. My next strategy is to pick a few topics and only save those. With 1043 sessions, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. If I decide to only attend sessions that focus on Minecraft or music in the classroom, there is less pressure to see everything. The most important thing when planning is to plan ahead of time.
ISTE has several strands that it recommends. New to ISTE 2014 is the Young Educator Strand. If you’re under the age of 35 (or feel like you are), these hand-picked lessons are your new BFF. (Young people talk like that, right? OMG. LOL.) It’s hard to find your place with huge organizations like ISTE. The Young Educator Strand, created by members of the Young Educator Network (aka YEN), helps the conference feel more personal.
If you like the Internet, follow the hashtag #ISTE2014 on Twitter. Some folks are also using the hashtag #ISTE14. It’s shorter and rebellious, but the official hashtag is #ISTE2014. If you’re feeling like a real #EduRebel, you could always start using #ISTEtwothousandfourteen, or #internationalsocietyfortechnologyineducationtwothousandfourteen.
Most likely, #ISTE2014 will have the latest and greatest before, during, and after the conference. The always-entertaining #notatISTE is another hashtag to connect with folks not attending the conference in person.
Now that you have a gameplan and starting connecting with other educators, it’s time to address the real world. Bring comfortable shoes, comfortable clothes (capris are optional for men), snacks, water, and extra charging supplies. Your devices will always have a low battery, so bring a way to charge up and you’ll be much happier… and connected.
There needs to be a place where you mentally set up base camp. That place is the Blogger’s Cafe. Anyone that is at the Blogger’s Cafe will be happy to talk to you about ed tech. If you’re connected online, and you probably are if you’re reading a blog post on CUE, your PLN will be hanging out at the Blogger’s Cafe. There is always water and power strips, and occasionally mints. There are several lounges/cafes at ISTE and each year brings a different personality to them, but the Blogger’s Cafe is consistently a great place to connect with others.
There are a few events that you simply must attend. Ignite sessions kick off the conference on Saturday, June 28 2-3:15 p.m. During an Ignite presentation “Each speaker gets 20 slides, shown for 15 seconds each on an automatic rotation for a total of 5 minutes of fame.” It’s the perfect way to kick off the conference. And if you’re hooked, there are more Ignite sessions Sunday morning and Monday afternoon.
The other must-attend event is Edtech Karaoke. It’s Monday, June 30, 2014 7:00 PM-midnight. You need to register beforehand because this sells out every year. CUE’s own Infinite Thinking Machine is one of the sponsors, so be sure to support us supporting you as you belt out your worst impression of Neil Diamond while sporting an orange ITM sticker.
Conferences are about connecting with like-minded educators. Often, folks feel pressure to attend an epic session every single time slot every single day. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your PLN that you met in Palm Springs at Annual CUE and enjoy a long lunch together. A conference this big requires a marathoner’s approach. Don’t overdo it on mile 5. Or if you do, be sure to at least wear comfortable shoes.
Editor’s Note: Bill was ISTE’s 2013 Emerging Leader and this year’s Kay L. Bitter Vision Award winner. CUE also recognizes Barbara Nemko, Ph.D., Superintendent of Napa County Schools and Member of CUE’s Legislative Advocacy Committee, for being awarded ISTE’s 2014 Public Policy Advocate Award. Finally, congratulations to past CUE Board Member and Platinum Disk recipient Hall Davidson who will be joining ISTE’s Board of Directors for a three-year term.
Bill Selak is an elementary music teacher and an adjunct faculty member at Azusa Pacific University and University of La Verne. He served on the California State Superintendent’s Education Technology Task Force, and is on the EdCampSFBay and EdCampLA planning teams. He earned his Master’s in Educational Technology at Azusa Pacific University. You can find Bill online here.