Before anything else, preparation is the key to success. –Alexander Graham Bell
The highlight of my year begins in about 3 weeks. I passed being excited a long time ago. I was excited last October when I purchased my airline ticket. It became real when I got the hotel reservation confirmation. When I first heard about ISTE, I knew it was a place I had to be. I had no idea how I was going to get there; I just knew I had to be there. My first ISTE was in Atlanta in 2014. I was unprepared. I had just been hired as an instructional technology coach, and I had no idea what to expect. I was a little better in Philadelphia for ISTE 2015. ISTE 2016 in Denver was much better. I plan to totally rock ISTE 2017 in San Antonio!
Make A Plan
Here’s how my colleague Robin Harris and I navigate ISTE. Without a plan, it is very easy to get overwhelmed and miss out on events and opportunities. Since it is such a huge financial investment, having a roadmap helps. We used Google Sheets to create
schedules for ourselves and then we shared with each other. We listed everything we had to do (our presentations, volunteer obligations, and BYOD sessions) and filled in what we wanted to do (sessions, meetups, and exhibit hall time). We also decide ahead of time what our focus will be for the conference. I am trying to learn more about STEM, and Robin is adding to her blended learning knowledge base. Once we identified our focus, it made it easier to build our conference schedules. Of course, we may change some things once we get to San Antonio, but it sure does take away a lot of anxiety knowing that for the most part, we have planned what we will do.
Limit Your Gadgets
I know. Die hard tech people love their gadgets and travel with as many as possible just in case. Who knows what you will need, and who wants to be unprepared? I have been guilty of taking too much to previous conferences. Every time I do, I regret it. Extra technology means extra scrutiny going through airport security. I understand the need for airport security, but I hate having to pull all of my devices out of my bag. In the past, I have carried a laptop, iPad, a Chromebook, and two cell phones. I used all of the devices but could have made do without some. The last day of the conference when I had to store my luggage, I did not feel comfortable leaving my devices unattended, so I carried everything in my backpack. My back was so not appreciative. I was not appreciative when I was pulled aside for extra screening on the return flight home. I even had to go to a separate area to retrieve my laptop. It’s not worth the hassle. This year I will have the cell phone, the iPad, and the Chromebook. That’s it. I don’t need more.
Protect Your Wallet
Hi, my name is Leslie, and I purchase too many t-shirts. It never fails. I say I won’t, but I do. I buy one or two conference shirts, shirts from the city, and at least one sweatshirt. I also purchase other souvenirs. Why is that bad? Well, for one thing I never have enough room in my suitcase and I also don’t need most of what I buy. I have way more t-shirts than can be worn in my lifetime. Really. Just ask Robin. Save yourself some money. If you want a shirt, go to the exhibit hall and ask. A lot of the vendors have shirts to give away. It doesn’t hurt to ask. Also, you can get a free conference one if you volunteer to help out. I am a Conference Volunteer and will get a cool shirt to add to my collection. Plus I get to talk to other attendees. That’s a win-win for me.
Might I also mention food. ISTE is a conference held at a convention center. Eating at such may require a second mortgage on your home. Seriously, plan ahead so that you don’t spend a lot of money eating at the conference. There will be a free continental breakfast in Exhibit Hall 2-4 on Monday and Tuesday. It’s usually pastries and coffee. Vendors will also have events in which they provide hors d’oeuvres. Find one or two and go. You will no doubt have to listen to a sales pitch, but free food can be worth it.
The conference itself is huge. You will do a lot of walking in the convention center and outside of the convention center. To help combat foot issues, please wear comfortable shoes and stay hydrated. There will be water stations located throughout the convention center, so you can fill up your water bottle. There will also be a lot of places where you can sit and rest your feet for a bit and talk to other conference attendees. Don’t pass up the opportunity to meet new friends.
How to get around San Antonio? In the last couple of years, I have tried a couple of different options. The first year in Atlanta, I drove my car and parked it at the hotel. My hotel was not on the bus route so I had to take a cab every day. I was concerned about my safety, but my concerns were unfounded. There were other conference attendees staying at my hotel, so I was able to share a cab with someone every day. If you are staying at a hotel not on the bus route, ask around (Twitter, Voxer, ISTE 2017 Network). Somebody else is looking just like you are.
As far as getting to and from the airport, we have done it both ways. In Philadelphia, we took public transportation. It was cheap and gave us a chance to see the city while riding the train to the hotel. In Denver, we split the cost of a cab since there were five of us. It was pretty easy to grab one at the airport on the way into the city, and we had the hotel secure one for us the day we departed. We had a little extra time in Denver that Wednesday after ISTE ended, so we chipped in and rented a car. Robin, Will (our network administrator), and I wanted to go to Rocky Mountain National Park. We only spent about $25.00 each and had time to get out and explore. Make sure to leave some time to see something. I am not sure when I will be back in San Antonio, so I am taking full advantage of the time I have during ISTE.
Even if you are going by yourself, you are not by yourself. I am saying this as a shy person. Talk to someone. Talk to someone else. Keep talking to a new person every single day. Share what you do at your job. Ask them what they do. I know it’s hard, but it will be so worth it. I promise you will be glad you did. People talk about the power of the PLN. It’s real. It’s as real as you and me. My go to PLNs are #Edumatch and #ETCoaches. My involvement with Edumatch resulted in my becoming a published author. I did not know any of my fellow authors before I got connected with Edumatch. Now I have a global group of friends that I can go to with any question and get an immediate answer. Working with the ISTE Ed Tech Coaches has given me a group of fellow coaches who constantly push me to do better and be better. We all need someone in our corner who will help bring out the best in us. Having a PLN will help you be better at whatever you are doing. I promise.
I do not profess to be an ISTE expert. I am just someone who has been a few times and wants others to have a good experience. By no means is this list all-inclusive of what you should and should not do while at ISTE. It’s a starting point. If you have questions about anything else, please reach out. I can be found on Twitter, Voxer, or good old-fashioned email email@example.com. If you are wandering around the convention center and want to talk to someone, send me a message on Twitter. I would be glad to meet up with you and chat.
One last tip: Have fun!