How to waste your time at an edtech conference in 7 easy steps

Guest Blog

Guest Blog | Monday, March 11, 2019

How to waste your time at an edtech conference in 7 easy steps

Conferences are a great way to extend your learning and connect with other educators. So how can we get the most of the short hours we are there? Here are 7 steps NOT to take.

[callout]This post is written by Theresa Ellington, an Education Consultant in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. You can connect with Theresa on Twitter at @EllingtonEdTech and on her blog[/callout]

Last month I attended the TCEA Expo and Convention in San Antonio, Texas as a presenter and a super volunteer. I even had the pleasure of presenting in the room next door to Matt Miller!

Being a presenter and volunteer, allowed me the opportunity to observe some key behaviors that lead to a wasted experience at TCEA or other educational conferences. It is my advice to you that you NOT partake in the following suggestions if you want to maximize the learning and experience at your next education conference.

How to waste your time at an edtech conference in 7 easy steps

1. Wear shoes for looking and not for walking!

Leave the heels and boots at home and wear shoes that were meant for walking. These conferences are huge and require walking everywhere. In fact, I averaged over 13,000 steps per day while presenting most days and walking from session to session or through the exhibit hall. The size of the convention centers and the amount of walking you will do even became a running joke at TCEA 2019 with these awesome floor decals.

2. Attend with colleagues and all go to the same sessions

If you attend a conference with colleagues from your campus, district or area then maximize your learning! It is impossible to attend every session you want to learn about but with colleagues, you can divide and conquer then share the information back with each other. As a super volunteer at TCEA I scanned badges and time and time again I would see groups of teachers and administrators all from the same district and campuses attending the same sessions together. While it is true you might pick up on different things, think of how much more could the group have learned by going to different sessions at the same time.

3. Skip the opening keynote

I am totally a former practitioner of this mistake! I never used to attend the keynotes because there would be sessions at the same time or, if open, the exhibit hall would be less crowded. However, I attended the TCEA keynote for the first time in 2018 and then again this year. I finally learned what I have been missing! The opening keynotes have proved to be very inspirational and truly spark the educator drive that may be dwindling in early February. At TCEA they have super comfy couches up front so arrive early and snag a spot up close and personal with the presenter. The opening keynote for TCEA 2019 was Mae Jemison, a former astronaut, who even has her own LEGO character!

4. Visit the exhibit hall in a single day

The exhibit hall is the favorite place to pick up free swag from various educational vendors. But, exhibit halls can be huge. For example, the TCEA exhibit hall is around the size of three football fields put together. Trying to visit all of these booths in a single day will not only be exhausting but you are likely to miss out on awesome swag, booth sessions and book signings that happen throughout the conference.

Take note on the first day of booth schedules of events that don’t necessarily appear in the conference guide book or app. I also have to admit that due to my schedule, I had did visit the exhibit hall in a single day and my feet paid the price! Plus, I missed out on some booth sessions as well.

5. Don’t participate in conference-wide games or scavenger hunts

TCEA ran a great scavenger hunt looking for lightbulbs filled with tech tips. These light bulbs aligned to the conference theme of Fully Charged that once found & turned in “charged up” a display board full of lights and tech tips. Winners were also awarded an exclusive conference t-shirt that sported the Fully Charged theme.
For those that participate, not only do you gain some great swag, you also learn new tips and meet new people as well!

6. Keep to yourself and don’t interact with others

Conferences are the best time to network with other professional adults to grow your personal learning network. You have the opportunity to meet educators from all over the country and now even the world at TCEA and other conferences. Talk with other attendees in the hall, eat lunch or dinner with a new friend, and share your experiences on social media! By simply networking and meeting new people you never know what opportunities may come your way.

7. Keep all your new amazing ideas to yourself at the conference

This is possibly the biggest way to waste your time at a conference! You have the opportunity to learn so many new skills and ideas but if you never try them out in your classroom, or tell a friend back home, or share on social media then what was the point of learning in the first place? Don’t keep all these new amazing ideas to yourself. Take the learning back to your campus or district and spread the wealth!

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