NCTIES 15 – Tips For Making the Most of Your Conference Experience

I’m currently snuggled up on my couch, under a blanket during snow day #6! I love following my PLN on Twitter and staying connected during all of this time off. Today I’ve noticed many posts from people who are attending various conferences. They’re sharing their experiences (including tools and resources) through great tweets and pictures. I love seeing these tweets because it reminds me that you don’t always have to be present somewhere to learn.

Speaking of conferences, who’s going to NCTIES 15!?! If you’re like me, you have been looking forward to the annual NCTIES conference for a while. With all of this extra time at home to connect and learn, I’ve gotten even more pumped to attend sessions, talk to and meet people who are a part of my PLN and most importantly, capture these moments in a way that allows me to bring them back with me and share!

Whether you’re a tech conference expert, or someone who is attending for the first time, the sheer amount of information you encounter at an event like NCTIES can be very overwhelming. I am naturally more introverted in large settings such as conference sessions, but that hasn’t stopped me from finding ways to make the experience awesome and memorable.

Since NCTIES 15 is next week, I thought I’d share some tips that can help to make this time of learning and connecting more awesome for you. Here they are in no particular order.

1. Utilize the NCTIES 15 App
Have you downloaded the NCTIES conference app yet? If not, be sure to put this on your phone or mobile device as soon as possible. It will be your road map to the conference and an awesome way to connect with other attendees. It also allows you to be virtually paperless while moving from session to session, which is important as you are walking and moving from room to room all day. You can download the app in the iTunes store or in the Google Play store if you have an Android device. I like to download the app on both my iPhone and my iPad, this way if one of my batteries dies or gets low, I am not left feeling lost and unable to access information. Once you download the app, explore and play with it! Don’t wait until you arrive to your hotel the night before or in the car the day of to start using this app. If you take time prior to your arrival, you can use the app to plan out your schedule, set reminders on your personal calendar, update your profile and map out locations. I’ve already added tons of sessions to my phone’s calendar so that I can get a head start of what I want to attend. Another thing to keep in mind when you are using the app to add sessions to your schedule or calendar, don’t be afraid to add multiple sessions for the same time slot. You never know when a session will be full or not quite what you were looking for and you’ll quickly need to make your way somewhere else. The app allows you to give yourself options. Here are some screenshots from the app:
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The schedule option allows you to access the full conference schedule, by date, and view each session that is offered.

 

The my schedule option allows you to see the sessions that you’ve added to your schedule within the app.

 

 

 

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On the session details page, you can either add the session to your schedule within the app (1), or add it to your phone or device’s calendar (2). I prefer to add it to my calendar, so that way it appears in my Google Calendar which is where I chronicle all of my day to day scheduled activities.

 

 

 

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The NCTIES app also allows you to update your profile with information that will make it easier for others to connect with you. I always think it’s a great idea to add a picture (1) to your profile to make it easier for people to recognize you. You can also add information to the biography section (2) to give other attendees more information about yourself. Since I utilize Twitter so much, I chose to put my Twitter handle in the biography section of my profile.

 
You can find more information on the NCTIES app on the conference Web site.

2. Decide How to Curate Information

I’m sure I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but it’s very easy to go into information, resource, tool overload while attending a conference like NCTIES. You will see some AWESOME presentations that will not only give you information, but hopefully inspire you. However, with the pace of each conference day and the amount of sessions most people attend, it is easy to forget things that you heard/saw or for them to get lost in the myriad of awesome stuff flying around. This is why curation is so important. Before you leave for the conference, try to decide how you want to collect, curate and save the information you receive, as well as, your own thoughts and notes about each session you attend. The NCTIES app allows you access to a notes function for each session that you add to your schedule inside the app. Some people will choose to take notes this way. For me, it is easier to type on an actual keyboard during the quick paced sessions. I’ve curated and taken notes in different ways over the years. Many times I’ve set up a NCTIES folder in Google Drive and then created a document for each session that I attend that includes all the links and resources from the presenters, and notes that I took. This year, I will be utilizing Evernote to curate all of the information from NCTIES. I will start by creating a Stack for NCTIES 15 and then create notebooks within that stack for each session I attend. The function that I really love about Evernote is that by using this tool to curate, I am able to tag each note, link, article, etc. that I add to a notebook so I can easily search and categorize things. I also like that I can add things to the notebooks (such as articles, bookmarks, photos), rather than just having to type my notes out the whole time. This allows me more time to listen and engage in the presentation. Whichever tool you choose to use, be sure to have a plan for how to curate before you go to your first session.

3. Think About How You Will Share the Information You Curate
Attending NCTIES is so much fun. You get to learn, engage and connect. Once you arrive in Raleigh, the conference will fly by. It is very easy to get lost in the sheer excitement of each day. I usually see so many things that inspire me and cause me to begin to think of ways to implement things into my own school. But this is only one part of the conference’s intended outcome. We are there to learn and share, but we are also there to be inspired to go back to our own schools and begin implementing innovative learning experiences. To put it simply, the conference is not about consumption, it’s about creation and application. Before attending NCTIES 15, think about how you will share the information you’re learning. Here are some of my ideas for sharing this year at NCTIES 15:

  • If you have numerous colleagues that utilize Twitter for professional growth, create a unique hashtag that you will use during the conference anytime you tweet an original thought, a resource or tool, a photo, someone awesome to follow or a retweet that is valuable. By sharing this hashtag with your colleagues, they can follow you, in real time, as you make your way through the conference sessions.
  • Consider using a tool such as Canva to create an infographic that outlines some of your most interesting thoughts, ideas and discoveries during the conference. Infographics are visually appealing, and with a combination of text, images, charts, graphs, etc, it will be easy to catch your colleagues’ attention. You can also use this infographic to advertise for professional development opportunities that you might want to lead in your school or peak someone’s interest in attending the conference next year.
  • Unfortunately, most districts don’t have enough funds to send all interested teachers to the NCTIES conference. There will probably be some people in your own school who wish they could be there learning along with you. At the end of each conference day, think about the possibility of doing a live Google Hangout that your colleagues can attend, where you go over highlights of what you saw, learned and discovered that day. This is as easy as advertising to your colleagues the time and date when each live hangout will happen, and then sending them the link to attend. Your hangout doesn’t have to be long and you don’t have to try and recreate each session you attended. Highlighting awesome things that you will share and the trends that you’re seeing might be enough to peak people’s interest.

I hope these ideas are helpful! So let’s all beg Mother Nature to end this snowmageddon and give us all safe travels next week to Raleigh! I hope to see you there!

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