Thursday, April 12, 2018

ISTE 2018 Tips and Tricks - 10 Tips For The Engaged Educator

The Epicenter of EdTech - Chicago 
June 24 - 27

I was lucky enough to attend my first ISTE Conference in 2017. It was an incredible learning experience, but I am haunted by how much I might have missed. I am excited to attend and present this year close to home in Chicago. Last year, I created this post before attending in 2017. Now that I have experienced the conference I wanted to share some updated tips for anyone who will be attending this year. 

I know there is a lot in this post, so my advice is to explore one tip at a time and not try to run through this whole post in one sitting. I hope there is something here that can help everyone make the most of their ISTE experience. I will also add additional resources in the comments as I discover new posts and resources. 

If you have any tips, events, or questions to share, please post in the comments below. 

Tip 1: Know Your Why
Planning and organizing your days is important (Tip 3), but if you are only focused on the where and the when you might miss out on a more complete learning experience. Last year I spent too much time micromanaging my day without really connecting my plan to bigger learning goals.  This year I plan to develop a mindset connected to these 3 quotes.

Make Connections and Have Conversations - Be Present
"Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don't.Bill Nye

Create a Complete Experience - Don't Forget That Doing Something Fun Can Be a Learning Experience. Explore and engage outside of the conference sessions. 
"Don't forget to stop and smell the roses."Walter Hagen

Learn Something New Whenever, Wherever, and From Whoever - Build A Bigger and Better PLN
I have no special talent, I am only passionately curious.- Albert Einstein

Tip 2: Engage in the Conversation Today
Don't wait until the conference is here to start engaging in the learning. The ISTE 2018 Network Discussion Board is a great place to get started on your learning path for the conference! 

Tip 3: Right Place - Right Time - Start Planning Today
Explore the ISTE Learning Guide, Download the Conference App, and Online Program 
  • Understanding the different session formats is an important first step to planning which sessions you will attend. The ISTE Learning Guide will connect attendees to the learning formats. 
  • The Conference Mobile App is typically not available until June. ISTE will email attendees and post information on the when the App is up and running. The App is a great resource to help you organize your day. 
  • You can start to create a list of sessions that catch your interest using the ISTE 2018 Program Search. Be sure to register for any BYOD sessions that catch your interest in advance. These require a ticket and frequently sell out.

Tip 4: The Organized Learner
Google Keep is a great resource to create reminders, notes, and checklists. If you use the extension you can even save links to resources. The Keep Notepad in Google Docs is a great bonus if you are using documents for your conference notes!
Learn More About Google Keep in this post: Google Essentials - Google Keep

Tip 5: Collaborate and Share
There are many great tools educators can use to create collaborative notes and share resources. Google Drive has become my goto collaborative resource, but it can quickly become a cluttered mess if not organized. Check these to learn more about staying organized with Drive.
Organizing Files and Folders in Drive
Creative Organization of Google Drive with Google Keep
Organizing Files and Folders in Google Drive - Move vs. Add

Tip 6: More Than Just Posters
Don't Miss the Poster Sessions! I did not discover the poster sessions in 2017 until the second day of the conference. I learned more in 1 hour in a poster session than I did the entire previous day. I was fortunate to help ISTE and ICE evaluate the poster sessions in 2018 and you will not be disappointed by the incredible poster session facilitators this year. 

Tip 7: Be Present - Find Your Tribe
Connect with your digital PLN. Connect with vendors. Connect with presenters. Connect with new people. Don't be the anonymous person in the back corner of the room. You will miss too much alone. Find someone new to talk to. Step out of your comfort zone and grow as a teacher and a learner. 
"We learn best when we learn together." - Seth Godin

Tip 8: Organize Your Social Feed
The hashtag this year is #ISTE18 and it will be going fast one the conference gets rolling. Jumping into the Twitter hashtag stream can quickly become overwhelming.  I always try to remember that it's ok to miss some tweets. Here are a few tips to help organize your social media engagement. 
  • Hootsuite and Tweetdeck are great resources to manage the stream of information. 
  • Create a Twitter list of anyone who catches your interest. Lists are a great way to narrow down some of the clutter that such a busy conference hashtag will generate.
  • Have a heart and like the tweets that catch your interest. An unliked Tweet is a sad thing. Looking back at your 'liked' tweets at the end of the day is a great reflection for learning. 
  • If you connect with a tweet leave a comment and start a conversation. Most educators on twitter are looking to do more than just post and run. 
  • The site 'If This Then That' (IFTTT) has some great Twitter Recipes to help you save and organize tweets.
  • Particpate is a great place to keep up with your Twitter Chats and Hashtags. They will be a great ally for anyone at ISTE18. Follow Participate on Twitter to get updates on the sites ISTE 18 resources. 
  • Another great place to share is the ISTE Facebook Community.

Tip 9: Have Some Fun and Take Some Breaks
ISTE is an incredible learning experience, but you will need a break. There are a lot of great tour guide books for the Second City, but one of my favorites is 100 Things to Do in Chicago Before You Die by Molly Page. If you are heading to Chicago this Summer, this might be a book to see if you can track down and add to your library?
Here are a few of my favorite things to do in Chicago.
There are of course many great restaurants and taverns to explore.

Tip 10: Reflect and Share
Whether you blog, share via social media or share your notes with a colleague it is important that you share your learning. You never know what connections you might make if you share your ideas and resources. 

The More You Share, The More You Learn

It's hard to grow as a teacher and a learner if a daily reflection is not part of your learning process. Take time to look over your notes and make connections to your teaching every day. Don't isolate the conference from your classroom and school. I've been to too many conferences and sessions where I took some incredible notes, but then never went back and connected these notes to my teaching and learning experience. 

It's O.K. to leave ISTE 2018 with more questions than answers. The best questions lead to new questions and more learning. This is why we are all life-long learners. 


  1. Thanks for the tips Steve. I'm about to experience my first ISTE conference and need all of the tips I can find. From having attended similar conferences, like the GAFE Summit, I can say that the two most important tips is to have a purpose each day (as you said, your WHY) and to also have a short list of sessions you are most interested in attending (Right place, right time). To not have a plan ahead of time will make for a less pleasurable experience.

    What session are you presenting?

    1. Thanks Matt! Great points! We are presenting on Formative Assessment on Wednesday. The search feature (Tip 3) is a great place for search for presenters or topics.

  2. Add visiting the Playgrounds to your list. You can learn more new ideas in just a one hour visit or stay for the whole 3 hours. Meet the best of educators in the ISTE learning network presenting to small groups where you can ask questions, grow your PLN, and just plain have fun! Search for your tribe here: Under Learning Guide> Explore and Create> Playground. I highly recommend the ISTE Librarians Network Playground on Monday morning from 8:00 - 11:30.

    1. The Playgrounds are great! Thanks for sharing!

  3. When you register for your BYOD sessions make sure your hit the SAVE button. I had to do the process twice. I am so excited to attend. I am a classroom teacher. I paid on my own. This may be a one and done event for me because of cost. I live in the Chicagoland area and can ride a train to ISTE2018 daily. I feel so blessed.

    1. Great point! Thank you for sharing this. I did not understand the need to pre-register for some of the ticketed sessions and missed out last year.

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  5. Thanks for the tips Steve. My first time at ISTE as well. Looking forward to learning and connecting.

  6. It is a great experience even if it is a bit overwhelming at times. Let me know if you have any questions? See you there!

  7. Great tips! Thanks for sharing! 2017 was my first ISTE too and my experience in regard to the Poster Sessions was very similar - sooooo much to learn there! This year I hope to venture out of my comfort zone a little more and try harder to identify and connect with my tribe (Tip #7)!

    One other tip I would share is pick just two or three topics you want to learn more about and try to focus on sessions, activities, expo vendors, etc. that will inform those topics. There are LOTS of shiny things at ISTE and you can easily go down one rabbit hole after another and get completely overwhelmed. In Courageous Edventures, Jennie Magiera talks about having a "dance card" with only three open spots. There might be other things you'd like to explore more later, but for this "dance," pick just a few!

    1. Great tip Kris! It is definitely tough to not get pulled in too many directions. Thank you for sharing!

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  9. Love the blog article! For a newbie like myself, it gives me permission to explore and encourgement to to make new connections. I shared this with our team of 18 that will be attending ISTE 2018 - many of which are also newbies to ISTE and some who are new to going to any professional educational conferences. This is a great help and reminder to be curious, make connections and enjoy the experience!

    1. Thanks Peggy. Looking forward to see you all at ISTE this year. If there is anything I can do to help, please let me know.


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