When I went in 2011, it was an overwhelming experience. You just want to see it all, and be in great sessions all day. There is just not enough time for it. I was a newbie to the ed tech world, and this was baptism by fire. If you worry exclusively about sessions you miss awesome things on the show room floor, and you miss one of the main thing's ISTE is about, networking.
So I thought I would use this blog post to gather my thoughts, add some tips, and maybe in the process organize myself. Here Goes
My Main Tips
1. Watch what you wear- I am from the ATL and the World Congress Center is HUGE. Remember this place hosted multiple Olympic events in the 96 Olympics. It's literally that BIG, and ISTE will take up the whole building. Wear comfortable shoes. If not you will be sorry. Wear Layers. The place is always cold. You might catch me in business casual clothes some of the time because of my night schedule, but for the most part this is a shorts and shirt kind of thing.
2. Pack Light- Again...The world congress center is HUGE. You don't want to be carrying around a huge backpack with all of your wonderful tech gadgets all day. As much as I love my Macbook Pro (those who know me know, I nerd out for Apple), it is probably going to stay home most of the time. This is an Ipad kind of conference.
3. Pack Snacks- Conference food can put a major hurt on a teachers wallet. Pack snacks for the conference. Food is expensive in the Congress Center and you don't want to waste time standing in line for it
4. Pack an Extra Battery / Power Strip- I finally gave in and bought a Morphie power pack for this weekend, and I am going to be so glad I did. Also, extra power strips go a long way. You don't want to be stuck missing stuff because your battery is dead.
5. Plan some time away from sessions- You have to get out there. Meet new people. Meet the companies that are providing the coolest stuff on the show room floor. The sessions are great and all, but make sure you get the right mix.
6. Make sure you see the nationally known speakers- There is a reason they go to conference, after conference and keep getting to go back. They are GOOD. I mean very good. Leslie Fisher and Adam Bellow are two of my favorites, and you will see me at several of their sessions. There are so many more though.
7. Don't Freak if a session is full- There is so much good stuff, find something else that is awesome. You can always ask for that sessions resources on the hashtag #iste2014
8. Don't try to see every booth on the exhibit floor- There are just way to many, and remember they are there to sell their product. You go to them, even if its for a free give away, you are going to get sucked in for a few seconds. If its a product you don't care for, that's precious time wasted.
9. See the exhibit floor though- It is a sight to behold. Almost everyone you would want to meet is at ISTE in some capacity. I think I am going to limit my time in the biggies like Google, Microsoft, Smart, Promethian, and others though. They tend to be the most crowded. Can't nerd out for Apple though, they don't come, because well they don't have to.
10. Search out the Companies you Truly Love- some are at ISTE, but they are not exhibiting. I can't wait to talk to the Class Dojo and Touchcast crew. Contact them on Twitter to see where they will be. Most respond.
11. Seek out special events- There are all kinds of special events going on through out the weekend. Don't let the conference be the only thing you do. Get out there and Network. Look to the twitter hashtag #ISTE2014 for ideas. You will find me at the Starbucks coffee talks with @alicekeeler at least one morning. (They are early, might be more than one if I was not coming from my house)
12. MOST IMPORTANT ONE! VOTE WITH YOUR FEET- YOU PAID ALOT OF MONEY TO BE HERE. IT'S NOT RUDE TO LEAVE A PRESENTATION YOU HATE. MAKE THE EXPERIENCE COUNT
13. OH WAIT! ONE MORE SUPER IMPORTANT! TWITTER! TWITTER! TWITTER!- YOU HAVE TO BE ON THE @ISTE2014 HASHTAG. YOU WILL NOT GET A FULL EXPERIENCE WITHOUT IT. THERE ARE PLENTY OF PEOPLE TO HELP YOU WITH THIS IF IT'S A STRUGGLE. REMEMBER NETWORKING HERE IS HUGE. TWEET DECK IS A GREAT APP FOR THIS!
The Top Things I Want to See
1. The Google Playground- would love to see me some Glass, and would love to see a demo of Google Classroom
2. The Leslie Fisher Smackdown- I have seen this at GAETC and its an awesome way to get ideas and have some fun. Can't wait to see what the national crowd brings to it. (Jun 29 8:30-9:30)
3. 101 Free Tech Tools for Teachers- We all love free. I also do similar quick hitting presentations, so would love to pick up some new ideas (Jun 29 11-12)
4. 60 in 60 app attack!- I have had some success doing similar presentations. I really want to see it from another perspective (Jun 29 4:15-5:15)
5. The tomorrow toolkit- Great panel of national speakers between Erin Klien, Adam Bellow, and Kyle Pace. A Must see. (1:15-2:15 July 1st)
6. Meeting my favorite companies- Class Dojo, Touchcast, Remind, and Edmodo all on the list. Maybe I will find a few more on the show room floor.
Some ATL Tips
1. Use CNN center for meals- has a major food court with all the restaurants you would want. They are regular price to. You can pay the major price at the conference or simply walk across the street for this.
2. Things to See- Gotta see the World of Coke. No experience like it. If you have a car and some time on the beginning or end of your trip, the Stone Mountain Laser show is really cool. For the history buffs, you can always got to the MLK center and the Jimmy Carter Library. The CNN tour has its appeal to, and it's right across the street from the Conference center.
3. Things to Skip- I would skip the Georgia Aquarium. It's pricey, and you can see cool stuff at other aquariums all over the US. If your in to sea life it could be great, but there is so much other stuff out there
4. Food- I live about 45 minutes into the suburbs, so I am no expert on ATL food. I would however look up BBQ and Soul Food spots. There are some great ones downtown. Also, make sure you go to the Varsity. It's an experience.