Wacom’s taking our first trip to ISTELive and we can’t wait! We’re excited to be a part of one of the largest and most influential education events each year. As first-timers, we wanted to make sure that we were able to make the most of our experience, which led to a lot of research: scanning social media, reading blog posts from ISTE and our favorite educators, and watching YouTube videos to make sure we’re prepared. And whether this is your first time going to ISTE too, or you’re still getting back into the swing of in-person conferences, this post is for you!
If we’ve taken one thing from our research, it’s this: Plan. Planning is essential to getting the most out of your ISTE experience.
Plan your schedule
When selecting your sessions, try to get in a variety of types to get the full ISTE experience. Looking for a hands-on experience? Perhaps you should spend more of your time on interactive sessions, the playground, and the creation lab. Want to focus on the facts? A research paper session may be a good fit. Looking for some perspective? A panel discussion is a great place to hear from multiple educators on a topic. Take your time planning your days, considering what you need as a learner.
Take an ISTE practice day. Pretend you’re at ISTE and use the convention center map to draw the route you plan to take between sessions. Check out where the nearest restrooms and coffee carts are located along your path.
Plan to make connections
Just as important as your sessions is who you want to see while at the conference. Personally, the Wacom team is looking forward to connecting with our favorite educators like Monica Burns and Reshan Richards. Who else in your personal learning network is attending ISTE this year? You might reach out now to plan a lunch or a common session. ISTE is a great place to connect with new people as well. Everyone you’ll meet on the convention floor, everyone you’ll run into on the bus, and probably most of the people at your hotel are there for the same reason as you. So talk to them! Introduce yourself, ask questions, find out what they are excited about.
Add your social media handles to your name badge. This is a great opportunity to grow your PLN.
If you’ll also be connecting through social media during the event, use the event’s hashtags, and don’t forget to @ the presenters and the people you meet along the way. And most importantly for making connections, don’t forget to follow up! Get contact information and reach back out to the folks you meet. Continue to share and connect.
Plan for the Exhibit Hall
The exhibit hall is an enormous place buzzing with excitement. It could be easy to get lost! You can view the exhibit hall map online, with a list of all the exhibitors that will be present: They often announce new releases or product updates at ISTE, so you might want to look for the companies that your district already uses so you can be up-to-date on the latest versions of your tools.
You’ll probably want to check out new tools as well. Many exhibitors have hands-on product demos that you can engage with: For example, Wacom will be doing product demos with our partner Pear Deck in Booth 716 at 4 pm, and we’ll have demo stations set up at Foxit in Booth 2051 through the show. The exhibit hall is also a place of great swag: pens, stickers, samples, goodies, and so much more! So be on the lookout for drawings and giveaways.
Plan to take notes
There will be too much information shared during your sessions to retain it all, so make a plan for how you’re going to track your learning. Are you getting a new notebook and pens for the occasion? Or if you’re taking digital notes, will they be solo, or collaborative with peers attending ISTE? What platform will be best for you to track your new learning? By planning ahead, you can establish an organizational structure for your notes, whether digital or paper.
Have you thought about where or how you will organize any photos that you take when in sessions or the exhibit hall? Some ISTE attendees use social media to track and share the aha moments they have in sessions tagging the presenter and using the #ISTELive hashtag. (And for ones specifically relating to the subject, #EdTech is also common.)
Plan for the unexpected
ISTE is such an amazing event, it is easy to get overwhelmed and stressed out. Accounting even for that, and bringing a few key supplies with you, can help ease those feelings.
- Lines can be long for the coffee and snack carts, toss an extra water bottle and snacks in your bag.
- You will be walking a lot. Wear comfortable shoes.
- Want to make friends forever? Bring a charging cable or two to share during a session.
- Make a plan for what you’ll do if you lose Wifi access – phone hotspot?
- After the conference, plan for some time to organize what you’ve learned, and, you guessed it, plan how you’ll implement it.
The Wacom team has been hard at work planning for our ISTE learning experience as much as possible, and we’re looking forward to being inspired and energized by all the great educators at the conference! …And to connecting with you at sessions and in the exhibition hall.