I was recently involved in a #caedchat Twitter chat in which the question was posed – “What is the value of speaking at a conference? How does one go about doing so?”
This question got me thinking (as they usually do) and it probed me to do some self-reflection. Why present at conferences at all?
1. It (not so gently) pushes you to grow as an educator. Presenting wasn’t even on my radar until this past summer when I approached one of my close colleagues, Angela Barnett, and brought up the idea of submitting a proposal to a local conference. Why not, we said? What’s the worst that could happen – we get turned down? And we did…a few times. Until we didn’t and were asked to come present (for the first time EVER) at Gold Coast CUE’s Techtober event. That first proposal acceptance snowballed into a slew of others (California STEAM Symposium, SGVCUE’s Innovation Celebration, SDCUE’s Tech Fair, IACUE’s Tech Fair, and the Spring CUE Conference). Every time I get up in front of a room full of my peers, it pushes me to step a little bit more out of my box and comfort zone. (I am no public speaker!) It also teaches me some very valuable things about myself as an educator of adults – patience, positivity, and passion just to name a few!
2. Represent. I wanted to start presenting because I, as a special education teacher, felt majorly underrepresented at every conference I went to. I wasn’t seeing many SPED teachers showing up to the conferences that I was attending. And I was seeing even fewer up at the front room, talking about the things that I value and wanted to hear about. Gandhi’s “Be the change” words played over and over in my head every time I saw another conference schedule that lacked teachers with backgrounds or experience in teaching students in special education. If you’re not seeing the types of presenters you want to at conferences, apply, apply, apply! BE THE CHANGE!
3. Passion is tangible. I don’t consider what I do to be “innovative” or at the forefront of EdTech. But I have a passion for helping students, especially students who have long been marginalized. The tools and strategies I preach aren’t new. But I find that they work with the demographics I teach…and work well. I would hope that my passion and background in special education is what helps bring educators to our sessions. I absolutely LOVE when I see teacher attendees (and admins!) get excited about the material I’m presenting! It makes me want to go out and keep presenting – to share the knowledge!
4. Network with your Twitter PLN IRL! The power of Twitter is truly amazing. I have made more professional connections via social media than I have in any of the districts that I have worked for – combined. Not only do I have the privilege of chatting, tweeting with, and connecting with these educators online, but I’m also now doing it as a conference presenter, connecting with my professional learning network in real life! I’m meeting those individuals whom I follow and admire on Twitter – they are filling the seats of my session or workshop. Talk about having to bring your A-game!
5. Opportunities abound. I don’t think that I would have ever had the guts to apply to be CUE’s next OnCUE blogger had I not taken a chance with presenting. Presenting pushed me – and continues to push me – into becoming a better educator than I was before. I grow a little more confident in my craft every time I present and I have someone approach me and say, “Hey! That was a great session! I really learned something!” Presenting at conferences will definitely make you a better educator…and it can lead to other opportunities you couldn’t (or wouldn’t let yourself) imagine before getting into presenting.
If you’re looking to present a proposal for an upcoming conference (or would just like to attend one), here are some upcoming conferences that you don’t want to miss:
– CUELA Palooza, January 12th, 2019 @ National University, Los Angeles
– IACUE’s Tech Fair, January 19th, 2019 @ Bloomington HS, Bloomington, CA
– Cahuilla CUE’s Tech Fest, February 2nd, 2019 @ Desert Ridge Academy, Indio, CA
– MDUSD & EBCUE STEM & EdTech Symposium, February 23rd, 2019 @ Valley View Middle School, Pleasant Hill, CA
– Silicon Valley CUE’s Teach Through Technology, March 2nd, 2019 @ The Harker School, San Jose, CA
– Spring CUE Conference, March 14th-16th, 2019 @ Palm Springs Convention Center, Palm Springs, CA