I highly recommend the following posts by other educators.
A Nerdy Teacher's Guide to ISTE by @thenerdyteacher
Daring Conference Packing Tips & Tricks by @gwynethjones
ISTE for Newbies by @kcalderw
And after you read their tips, you should connect with them on Twitter! They'd love to connect with you!
Last year was my first year at ISTE. I was the only person from my district and read every blog post I could about the conference. ISTE was like a family reunion. I got to connect with great educators and created some great memories. And this year, my mom, @searslms, is coming with me! I am so excited!
Here are some of my tips and tricks for attending ISTE.
1. Bring a water bottle, a coffee mug & a power strip.
I usually carry around coffee and/or water at the office, so a conference is no different! Plus, who wants to pay for water when you could get it for free? Same goes for coffee from the hotel in the morning. Power strips are a great way to network too. Power strips at a tech conference can make you more popular than an Apple product.
2. Wear comfy shoes.
I am a fan of my Chacos. They have climbed mountains. They can help me at climb ISTE. Make sure your shoes are comfy because you will be walking A LOT.
3. Dress in layers and dress for comfort.
Conference centers are notoriously cold. Wear layers and you'll be fine. Plus, ISTE tends to be somewhere hot, so you may not need a sweater whilst trekking to the conference center, but it will be frigid once you enter. Also, I have seen some presenters in bow ties and some presenters in golf shirts. Atlanta will be HOT. And humid. Dress accordingly.
4. Have room for swag.
Michael Scott was right. Swag originally stood for "Stuff We All Get". It's at the Oscars, it's on Oprah's show, and it's quite plentiful at ISTE. Make sure you have room to accommodate all the swag you accumulate. Keep in mind if you are flying that you may have to pay for an extra bag. Last year, I got loads of swag that I used for door prizes in my schools for the following year.
5. Take time to connect.
The best part of ISTE is meeting other people like you - educators passionate about instruction, whether it uses technology or not. Now is the time to connect with people you never met face to face. Some of my favorite moments at ISTE 13 were when I connected with tweeps. Relationships are what it is all about, after all. Don't be afraid to talk to people who have scores of followers on Twitter. We are all people.
6. Take time for yourself.
Being an introvert (yes, me, an introvert), I like to take time to unplug. Often. ISTE will be overwhelming. Your brain will get overloaded. So make sure you schedule downtime. It's ok to not completely fill your schedule with sessions to attend. And make sure you get enough rest. ISTE is a lot of information and a lot of people in a small amount of time and space. I also like to run, so I will be treadmilling my miles
7. Use the law of two feet.
Edcamps have changed professional development for the better. Edcamps follow the law of two feet - go where you can learn. If you are not learning something in the session you are attending, go somewhere else! I left a paid workshop last year and went to ISTEUnplugged/HackEd instead. It was GREAT! I arrived just in time for the smackdown. I am looking forward to ISTEUnplugged/HackEd this year. Y'all come go with us!
8. Create an ISTE app page on your device or smartphone.
I have one screen on my phone with shortcuts to apps I will need during ISTE including:
- iPadio for recording audio reflections or notes from sessions
- Eventbrite for tickets to after ISTE events
- Google Maps for figuring out how to get around
- Voxer for sending walkie talkie messages to friends at ISTE
- Evernote & Google Docs for notes
- Google Sheets for my personal spreadsheet of all ISTE events
- QR Droid for reading QR codes
- Overdrive for reading during downtime
- Pandora for listening to music during downtime
- and, of course, Twitter for tweeting!
9. Use ISTE app to build your schedule.
Yes, I created a Google Sheet with dates, times, locations and descriptions of each event I am attending while in Atlanta for ISTE. However, I started building my schedule for ISTE through the ISTE app. It's a great resource! There is even a game for you to play and get points through the ISTE app! Find the app here.
10. Above all else, charge your device whenever you can!
During the conference, I will pack my backpack with my chromebook, tablet and phone. Take the chance to charge your devices whenever you can. I remember someone charging their phone last year during dinner. Bring your power cord with you wherever you go. It is perfectly acceptable to charge a device during a meal.
This is not an exhaustive list, but hopefully it's enough to help you ponder the ISTE experience and begin packing. If you have any questions, feel free to tweet me @theprofspage! I look foward to learning at #ISTE2014 with you!