“Making Inroads” at NAGC’s Annual Convention: Five Tips for Maximizing Your Experience

By Dina Brulles, coauthor of  Teaching Gifted Kids in Today’s Classroom

Dina BrullesThe National Association for Gifted Children’s (NAGC) 61st Annual Convention & Exhibition takes place in Baltimore, MD, November 13–16, 2014. Are you ready? Whether this is your first NAGC convention or you are a returning attendee, the massive amount of events, sessions, and vendor resources may seem overwhelming at first glance.

Check out the following tips to maximize your time and energy:
1. Take advantage of the resources
2. Create a straw agenda
3. Visit the vendors
4. Use social media
5. Network, network, network!

1. Take advantage of the resources

  • NAGC Conv 2014 LogoAttend the major events: the Opening and Closing Keynotes, the General Assembly, Network events, featured speakers, etc.
  • Join a network. (NAGC members may select three free networks to join.) Look at the Networks’ sessions and read about their goals on the NAGC website. Decide which you would like to learn from and support. Then sign up to receive information from your selected Networks. This is a great way to learn more about specific areas and connect with others who share similar interests.
  • If you are already a Network member, attend a network meeting. Meeting details are listed in the convention book.
  • Approach those with ribbons and ask how you can get involved!

2. Create a straw agenda (and be flexible)

  • Use the planning schedule template available on the NAGC Convention site.
  • Select two options for each time slot. Then narrow it down based on what you are hearing and learning and on logistical considerations. Your first choice may not be accessible, or you may change priorities based on other sessions you are attending or people with whom you are connecting.
  • Remain flexible about the many possibilities that will open up after hearing speakers and connecting with other attendees.

3. Visit the vendors

  • Peruse the major publishers. They can offer advice on the types of resources that would be most appropriate for your needs.
  • Attend author book signings at the publishers’ booths. Several publishers schedule book signings for their featured authors, providing a personal opportunity to speak with the authors whose works influence your teaching and learning. (Book signings are typically scheduled at lunchtime in the Exhibition Hall.)
  • Are you interested in graduate or certification programs? A myriad of offerings in gifted education degree programs exist for all levels of experiences, locations, formats, and purposes. Some exhibitors waive registration fees for conference attendees.
  • Speak directly with the publishers of the most prevalently used gifted nomination and identification tools. Learn more about which resources would better identify gifted students in your school or district.

4. Use social media to spread the word!

  • App How To-OpenAccessHelp inform your colleagues at home. Sharing information has never been easier. While in sessions of great interest, tweet and post your thoughts.
  • Consider in advance which social media tools to use while at the convention so that you have immediate access for communicating with fellow educators.
  • Prepare by downloading the NAGC Convention app.
  • After the convention, continue to post and respond to others who are sharing what they learned at the convention. The Networks you selected may also have their own social media venues.

5. Network, network, network! Take advantage of your time at the convention.

  • Connect with other attendees you meet in your sessions. This will help you gain more from the presentations.
  • Speak with Network leaders to determine which Networks you would like to join and learn how you might contribute to their efforts. These NAGC leaders want to share information about their networks and recruit new members to participate.
  • Meet informally with the presenters. Don’t hesitate! The presenters enjoy speaking with their session participants.

It’s not too late to register for Thursday’s preconference event, “Effective Program Models,” which features successful programs for low-income and/or underrepresented populations that you can consider adapting for your school or district. There are also “Expert Perspectives,” small-group sessions with an extended presentation time where you can learn in depth from leaders in the field. Visit the NAGC Convention site to register in advance for these events.

Having attended a dozen successive conventions, I can offer my best advice: Explore, connect, have fun learning, and bring comfortable shoes! If you are like most, you will be strategically planning your schedule to maximize your convention experience.

Enjoy making inroads in Baltimore!

Teaching Gifted Kids in Todays ClassroomDina Brulles, Ph.D., is a school administrator and the gifted-education director for Arizona’s Paradise Valley Unified School District. Recognized for her expertise in creating and supervising schoolwide cluster grouping, she also assists districts throughout the United States in developing gifted-education programs, including those districts serving culturally and linguistically diverse gifted students. She holds a Ph.D. in gifted education and an M.S. in curriculum and instruction and serves on the faculty of the Graduate College of Education at Arizona State University. With Susan Winebrenner, Dina has coauthored The Cluster Grouping Handbook: A Schoolwide Model–How to Challenge Gifted Students and Improve Achievement for All, and Teaching Gifted Kids in Today’s Classroom: Strategies and Techniques Every Teacher Can UseTeaching Gifted Kids in Today’s Classroom Strategies and Techniques Every Teacher Can Use/

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