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!

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