I have been in the Ed-Tech space for a while, and I have attended many events and conferences. As in-person conferences heat back up, I thought it might be good to give you some tips on finding the best learning experience for you. Obviously, funding and time vary depending on many factors, but these are the things I would tell any newbie getting started in the Ed-Tech community and world.
To find the right event, you should look at a couple of places. If you want to go big, you can always look at national events that will be close to you, but they may not be the best community experience. I started my EdTech journey at ISTE. That’s about as big as you can get. While it will get you incredibly into the Ed Tech world, I did feel very lost at ISTE in Philadelphia in 2011. It’s just too big, and I have realized the reason to go is that my friends go. If I don’t have that friend group established first, you end up missing a good deal.
That brings me to my favorite group of conferences: state-level ones. These conferences typically are big enough to feel like you are getting something but small enough where you are bound to see someone you know. It is a great way to see what EdTech can be and meet people who can affect your life. I personally love these, and all you need to do is Google your state’s version of this. You can also always email me, and I am happy to give you some notes and advice on the ones I have attended.
When you get into local conferences, the quality varies widely. I have been to some that I thought were amazing, but others that I thought were lacking. Attendance and quality of presenter can be vast at these conferences, so I would do your research first. I would also stay away from proprietary ones as much as possible. They could turn into sales pitches quickly.
The other option is to get out of the EdTech space completely. These can be events based on grade level, content area, or some specific education field. You can find different communities there. My struggle to attend them and avoid the registration fee is I always want to present. There then has to be a space for my sessions.
If money is a struggle, presenting can be a primary key. Most conferences will comp your registration if you do, and it’s one of the main reasons I have visited so many great events. You may also be limited in how much time you can take away from the classroom, so I would also encourage you to look for summer events. Yes, it means you have to do work stuff, but wouldn’t you rather get PD hours in a way you would love, rather than a way that annoys you?