It was nearly a year ago when I had the privilege of going to an EduTech conference in Brisbane. It was my first massive conference and so I was going in pretty blind. I had read some information about conferences online but experiencing it was a very different kettle of fish. Therefore, I would like to share what I discovered in hope that others can maximize their experience.
Pack light: My suitcase ended up breaking on the way home. I didn’t anticipate how many free products and tools that I would come home with. In short, I over packed. Keep it to light essentials!
Don’t get caught up in taking too many notes: I was so busy writing info that when I look back, I wished that I had just listened more. Notes and information is often available after the conference.
It is easier to take photos: By the second day, I had worked out that it was just quicker to snap a photo. However, make sure that you have the correct settings on your equipment or the photos will be quite dark.
Sleep and take Panadol: The whole experience is exhausting. You are on the go all day and some of the conference centers are large. You could be walking from one end of a building to another up three flights of stairs. All in between workshops as well as carrying bags, technology, free products etc. By the end of the day, you are beyond exhausted. Your brain is fried. We went to the dinner that was offered and didn’t get home until eleven. The days are long and exhausting so make sure that you rest.
Take the time to look around at the stores: At first, I just thought that they were selling things to schools. Therefore, I skipped over the stores. Then, I started to hear people speak about what they saw. It was worth checking them out. Not only did I see what was current but also some of the brilliant technology becoming available. What other schools were using and what we had access to was a real eye opener. There was also a huge amount of free products!
Do not be shy, ask questions: One thing that I learnt quickly was to ask questions. After all, having access to experts and assistance is great. However, having ten minutes during the day to do so was even better. Don’t go home regretting that you did not ask for help or demonstrations while you had the chance.
Be careful what workshops you sign up for: The titles sound so good. I picked workshops based just on the titles and brief description. As a result, I ended up signing up for two product selling workshops. Products were being marketed. Yes, a few workshops are simply targeted to sell software or packages to schools. I ended up at an administration one, which had nothing to do with my role. When you get there, check your workshop locations. That will be the giveaway as the ones that sold things were often in small makeshift marquees.
Divide and conquer: I was lucky enough to be part of a small team. As much as you want to stick together, we worked out that it was better to split up. That way we had more information and learning to share at the end of the conference. I was then able to hear and see what others workshops did. I certainly learnt a trick or too from my colleagues as well!
Build in time to feedback and share: Once the excitement and dust has settled, build in a time to feedback and share. We met after the conference a few times. This allowed us to share resources, information, tips and techniques. More than that, we were able to select what was the most important information to feedback to staff. We also set a few small but achievable goals to ensure that it was not just another conference with no real action.
Share information and experiences with staff: It needs to be a leading mindset. Not that you went to the conference so you know things. Sharing with staff who didn’t go is the main purpose. To connect what you discovered with your school, your staff, your kids and their needs. Otherwise, you just went to a great conference.
Do the mini workshops offered during breaks: Google and Microsoft offered some amazing little demonstrations. There were mountains of people to ask questions too as well. I found these one of the most beneficial parts of the conference. I checked in with Adobe and was stunned by the amount of educational things that they offer. Overall, the major technological companies do more than I expected to help education worldwide. This was a real eye opener. The amount of online support and courses was surprising.
Take your own water and snacks: Often there was long queues. The conference did the best that they could with the amount of people there. The food was good but then the queues were huge. By the second day, I made sure that I did not rely on the conference to provide me food etc.
The experience was intense. You don’t have five seconds to stop and think. Information will fly at you from every angle. Would I go again? Absolutely!! The learning that happened was more than I had in a long time. My eyes were opened to the supporting technological tools and techniques that can help enrich and enhance learning. If you do go, remember to stop and enjoy the experience. It is certainly a rare experience for educators. I walked away inspired.
#EduTech #conference #twocreativeteachers