Wednesday, January 26, 2011

10 Ways to Get the Most out of Educon

This will be my fourth Educon conference. It is my favorite conference of the year. My PLN comes alive. I love seeing everyone in person. For many of us, this is the one time a year we get to connect face to face. For those of you who are new to Educon, here are a few suggestions for how to get the most out of your experience.

1. If you have time, visit SLA while it is in session. You will get a chance to see how amazing the students are during the conference, but it is truly incredible to discover that they are like that during the regular school day. SLA student love to talk about their school. They give great tours and will answer any and all of your questions. If you don't have time, don't worry, you will still get a sense of the school throughout the conference.

2. Say hello to everyone. If you see people you know from your Online life, don't be afraid to introduce yourself. If you see me wandering around and you read my blog, please say hello to me. I met Lisa Thumann at my first Educon and we have become great friends. Educon is not a place to be shy. Everyone is friendly and hoping to meet you. The most powerful part of the conference is the people. Don't let that pass you by.

3. Go to the social events. Friday night before the panel there are usually people at TGI Fridays.
After the panel, people often hang out at Mace's Crossing. Saturday night at Rembrandts is definitely worth the cab ride over. It is a very casual atmosphere and it is a great time to talk about what you learned during the day.

4. Dress warmly, casually and wear comfortable shoes. You will probably be walking back and forth from the hotel to SLA. Some lazy people (like Lisa and I) drive in the morning, but most people walk. From the Windsor Suites it takes about 10 - 15 minutes. It is a little further to the Franklin Institute. It is cold in Philly and the sidewalks are likely to be slushy. The general vibe at Educon is very casual. Some people change for the evening activities (like me), but it is still a very laid back atmosphere. I also suggest layers in SLA, as some rooms are warm and others can be cold.

5. Take time to reflect. Towards the end of the day on Saturday you will likely be feeling some information overload. Don't be afraid to skip a session and sit in the library at SLA. Write a blog post, talk to some people or just follow the #Educon twitter stream. You can't do everything and you might find your conversation there is the high point of your trip.

6. Tweet lots! If you have never used Twitter before, Educon is the best place to give it a try. Search the Twitter Hashtag #Educon or follow my Educon Twitter List (let me know if you need to be added to it) and let the back channel be part of your learning experience. And don't just lurk, join in. Share something you have learned, an interesting idea, a good link, a question or an answer. Take full advantage of this PLN developing opportunity.

7. Be fully present. Educon flies by. The weekend will be over before you know it. Try to experience it fully. Go to lots of sessions, go out with people you have just met, hang out with people you never see, stay up as late as you can. It only happens once a year. Make the most of the experience.

8. Find a different staircase. The elevators can get really crowded, as can the front bathrooms. There are additional bathrooms hidden on each floor and staircases too. Don't be afraid to ask a student to show you a secret back way.

9. Don't be late for lunch. The lunch line gets really long and the tables fill up. If you can, get there early. Head right for lunch after your session. This is not the time to stop and chat. You can always talk after you get your box lunch.

10. One thing you can skip. If you have to miss something, the Saturday morning keynote is the thing to miss. It is usually a district administrator (this year it is the deputy superintendent) and tends to be on the political side, ie- lots of words signifying nothing.

Most importantly, have a great time! Please leave a comment with your suggestions. Hope to see you there!


Hadley said...

Make your own name tag with your Twitter picture on it. It makes it much easier for people to know that it is you. I learned this from Tom Whitby!

Liz Davis said...

Great suggestion Hadley. What do you use to make it?

Howie DiBlasi said...

Tks LIZ- Great suggestions- Last year was my first EDUCON... What a GREAT! experience. I was disappointed in the FRI night session last year- tooo academic. Hope it is better this year. I would also spend time at SLA in the classrooms. I did several podcasts with the kids last year - THEY are fantastic. It was great to meet you in person, Will R, Chris L , @woscholar ,@crafty184 , and so many others- but watch that @djakes guy.... he will get you into trouble ( but have lots of fun doing it)
Howie DiBlasi @hdiblasi

Bill Gaskins said...

I look forward to seeing you again at Educon. Thanks for the post!


Liz Davis said...

I agree about the panel on Friday night. It has never really lived up to my expectations, but I still think it is worth going to. Educon isn't really about the keynotes it is much more about the sessions. It was great to meet you last year. I'm so glad you will be back. I also keep my distance from Jakes. One can't be too careful ;-)

I'm looking forward to seeing you too!

Michael Walker said...

Great post, Liz! Another suggestion: Go on the Educon Site and start following people attending on Twitter. You will be amazed by the connections you will make. I know I was. Definitely spend time in the classrooms, talk to the teachers about their instruction and the students about their learning. They will knock your socks off!

Howie DiBlasi said...

TKS LIZ.... I want to put the experience in a bottle and take it to other conferences that I present at and show them the way their conference could be so much better. Have to leave early Sunday to head to FETC in Orlando. On the program with Hall Davidson, Chris Dede,
Steve Dembo,Julie Evans as featured presenters. Maybe I could share with them about EduCON Hmmmmm

Howie DiBlasi

Shelley said...

Great suggestions, all! I've been collecting some others over here, as well...

Looking forward to seeing everyone!

dgende said...

Follow Liz's Twitter list:!/list/lizbdavis/educon2-3

Best way to find great people to follow!

Christian Long said...

Liz: A lovely list for those coming for their first time or their 4th time. Thanks for putting this out there!

Of the 10 suggestions you share, the first hits home the most.

If there is ever an Educon-based criticism I feel at my gut-level, it is one of attendee 'ommision' that takes place on the Friday at SLA when kids / teachers are actually working and in classes. [note: this is not something the Educon hosts themselves have any control of]

The criticism is the (hopefully) unintentional way that many attendees overlook / fail to embrace the unique opportunity on Friday to actually connect with the SLA kids directly. This is why I truly value the #1 piece on your list, Liz.

Too often the "Twitterification of the moment" takes over, with well-intentioned attendees using SLA on Friday as simply a convenient meet-up spot to seemingly 'confirm' their PLN, while missing many opportunities to just sit down with real SLA kids and have real conversations about their world / learning experience.

Educon -- no matter what it's potential or realities for we professional types -- IS a conference about 'student learning'.

Everything else is just value-added.

Additionally, it is one of the rare moments to have these robust conversations about the 'future of learning' actually taking place IN a legitimately thriving / authentic high school with real kids doing real work in real time...

...who (oh, by the way) are actual co-creators / co-managers of the conference itself.

Educon is NOT just an excuse to simply confirm one's Twitter network or blog readership or PLN cohort, as can so often 'seem' to be the point while watching the Twitter stream unfold minute by minute.

It is, instead, something much richer. And ideally, student-centered.

So, kudos to you for highlighting this on your list right out of the gate. Had your list stopped right there, it still would have been the best recommendation any Educon attendee (new or veteran) could receive.

Thank you!

And look forward to seeing you on campus this Friday (and at Educon as well).

Kyle said...

Thanks for the post Liz. I found this very helpful as this is my first Educon. I look forward to meeting you!

NYFA Photography said...

thank you for the post, its very useful!

Beth Knittle said...

Hi Liz,

This too will be my fourth. I love the list. I would emphasize introducing yourself and talking with everyone, students and educators. The attendees tend to be deep thinkers and very passionate. This is the place to sound out your ideas and hone your thinking. So looking forward to it.

Philip said...

Thanks, Liz! I cannot wait to meet you and participate in my first Educon in person. (I was online last year.) My tip is that I am bringing a name tag (sticker) with my Twitter profile photo on it and a QR code link to my contact information. See you soon.

Lisa Thumann said...

Liz - can't wait to see you!

One more thing to add to this great list. Consider going to a conversation led by someone you have never heard before. There are many voices out there worth listening to.

See you at #educon!

Christina Henson said...

Hi there! My name is Christina Henson and I am a K-6 Education major in Dr. Strange's EDM 310 at Univ. of S Alabama. I have been assigned to follow two of your most recent blog posts in which I will write a review that will be posted on my personal blog by Feb 6.
I am very excited to be assigned to your blog, it seems as if the topics of the Educon conference are going hand in hand with what we are learning in our EDM class. We are convinced as future teachers that we must be willing to "co-create and learn together" with students as well. We are learning to use all of the networking tools in order to learn from others in our field. I just set up my twitter account and will definitely follow you. I love the idea of creating new things, but something has to be said for not re-creating the wheel as well. I expect that I will enjoy following my peers on twitter for this exact reason-to follow people such as yourself who have experience. I hope to be able to add valuable knowledge from experience someday!
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