Scenario: There is a Tech Expo and Workshop Day in your state, and your school decides to send you. Which description best fits you?
- You spend the day deeply involved in workshops, hit every vendor table that your fellow teachers asked you to, and take copious notes. You come back armed with materials to share and are excited to try at least one new app or program in your own classroom. Soon you are gathering fellow teachers to share new ideas and helping them start to use new tools, too.
- You spend the day in workshops and visit vendors’ tables, but come back feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. There are too many ideas, and you do not understand how to use the new tools. Finding the time to master the new tech and integrate it in your classroom seems unrealistic. You have no idea how to share the info with other teachers, since you don’t really understand how it works yet yourself.
Wherever you fall—1, 2, or somewhere in between—here are ten things you can do to walk away from your next tech conference ready to incorporate some new tools and ideas:
Before the Event
1. Learn more about the conference. Scour their website and Facebook pages. Review the speaker and workshop info as early as you can. Plan which workshops you want to attend. Use their social media—if they have a Twitter hashtag, start following it now so you get updates. Check to see if your targeted speakers use Twitter and start following them as well.
2. Talk to your coworkers. Have any of them attended this conference before? They should have tips for you. Are others looking for specific information? Discuss how you can help get it. If you are a humanities teacher and the physics teacher wants the scoop on a new set of apps, it may be over your head. But, you can take an envelope with her name on it in your conference bag and gather brochures and business cards for her.
3. Have a chat with your school or district tech person or media specialist. It will do you no good to come home with a new program or app only to find that it’s not supported by your district. Know your platform—Apple or Google? District Cloud or school-based server?
4. Set yourself a goal. Narrow the topic list. If classroom management is your special interest, pick out all the vendors and workshops on that topic, then narrow down the list—decide just what you want to bring home and use. While you may have more than one goal, the more focused you are on what you want to bring home and use, the more you will get out of those workshops and vendors.
At the Conference
5. Make the most of workshops. Hit every workshop and vendor that will help you reach your goal. Ask lots of questions! Take notes.
6. Keep records. At workshops, if the presentation materials are not available online, ask for a copy from the presenter so you can share with your coworkers later. Get contact info from speakers and vendors and make a note of why you wanted to stay in touch with them. That odd business card in the bottom of your bag will wind up in the trash if you don’t! Take notes during the keynote—watch for inspirational quotes or anecdotes to share with your coworkers later.
7. Be comfortable. Yes, you should wear comfortable shoes. You should carry a bag that won’t get too heavy as you fill it. But, you should also be comfortable talking to the experts; they are there to help you learn about their approach or product.
8.Confirm that you understand. If a hands-on workshop on screen-sharing software and apps leaves you still confused, speak up! No one wants you to walk away without understanding how to use them, how to set them up, and what they can and cannot do.
When You Head Home
9. Review your notes. Do this as soon as you can, while the day is still fresh in your mind. Then you will be able to find that vendor’s info for the physics teacher, look up the other suggested screen-sharing apps, and send an email off to a presenter with a question while your mind is still on the training.
10. Share with your peers. Put up a summary bulletin board in the teachers’ lounge. Email some notes to others. Set up a block of time to sit with fellow teachers and go over the things that impressed you most. Share your handouts. See if another teacher would also like to test that new app and compare with you. If you find something that works great for your class, let your principal know, and email that info to the tech support person you talked to before the conference.
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