A Great way to highlight conference sessions!
I’ve been fortunate to attend several conferences this year so far. Once January hits, conference season is in full swing and time flies. For the past three years, I have attended and presented at the Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC), held in Orlando at the end of January. Each year that I attend, I get involved with doing some presentations of my own, but also co-presenting with several friends, and have really enjoyed that experience. There is something about being able to present together, a kind of a balance that I have noticed that happens because we each bring different experiences and have different roles in education. I decided to use Synth to create previews of our sessions, sharing them out on Twitter, tagging friends, and then getting some feedback from attendees about how much they appreciated that “glimpse” of the session and hearing the excitement for it in my voice. It was a good start!
This year I also attended the Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) conference held in San Antonio the week after FETC. Like for FETC, I used Synth to create a promo for my session on Nearpod, and shared it out using the conference hashtags and also tagged some friends and Nearpod. I tracked the number of interactions with the tweet and the listens and felt like it was a good direction to go.
However, since I did not have a very busy schedule, it gave me more time to explore the program and to check out some sessions that members of my PLN and friends were presenting. What I have enjoyed the most has been the opportunity that these conferences bring for us to not only spend time together but also to attend one another’s sessions. Getting to see friends and educators whom we have connected with virtually share their passion for education, helps us to better understand what they do and connect in new ways.
The best thing about being part of a PLN is having that system of support available. Knowing that you have groups to share experiences with, to brainstorm ideas, and to have fun learning, makes a big difference in life as an educator today. But more than the personal benefits, I enjoy sharing the work of other educators, especially when it comes to members of my PLN, or highlighting topics that I think educators are interested in, sharing innovative ideas that I come across, and notice coming up more in conversations. While at TCEA, I came up with a new idea: find a way to highlight other sessions and the different conference events.
Sessions are listed in the program or can be searched online. Easy enough! But, can the session description really tell you enough about what to expect? Sometimes limited to a specific number of characters, the presenters have to summarize the session description and even their bio. Or sometimes the session itself has changed since the proposal was submitted. It happens. While presenters and conference program committees highlight different sessions by posting on social media and create graphics for these sessions, it still does not offer a good opportunity for true interaction, nor does it offer a glimpse at the presenter, their experience or passion for what they will be presenting. Knowing this, before I attended FETC I decided to find a way to change that.
Planning is a challenge with so many choices. So where should you begin? Start by checking out Twitter and following the conference hashtag, or exploring the conference website. Reading through the descriptions does not give a clear enough picture of what to expect, and it lacks that personal touch. Knowing this, I decided to change that by creating promos to let people know of some conference highlights for each day, by scanning the program for sessions and sharing those, and also by selecting some which were presented by friends or colleagues. It worked so well that others started to do it! There were some podcasts created and shared using the #TCEA and I was excited to see them in the feed. That was a sign that maybe I was onto something!
In our classrooms, we want our students to be able to connect with us and the content, and it is easier because we are in the same physical space and have opportunities for those interactions. When it comes to conferences, It’s hard to connect with the presenter and the content simply by looking at a web page or a booklet description of a session. How can we really know anything about the presenter, such as why they are passionate about the topic and what they hope to do during the session? How could we offer more of an introduction to our purpose and presentation than the character limit on Twitter or the program apps and booklets allow for?
Take a chance
Recording one’s voice can be scary, but that is how we can connect more. When we can hear the excitement in a presenter’s voice, or have an opportunity to respond to it by creating a thread, it will help us to better understand what a session is about and connect with the speaker. You can feel their passion and enthusiasm for what they are presenting.
An idea that is spreading
I have been impressed with Synth since I started using it in the fall. So many possibilities, whether to create your own podcast, for use as a class discussion forum, to have students brainstorm ideas for Project Based Learning and connect with students globally. These are just a few of the ways that I have used it so far, at least until my conference promos started.
Now that I have seen the benefits of creating these promos, for my own sessions, but more importantly, for highlighting the work of others, I plan to keep on creating. And the next step is creating some podcasts for takeaways from the conference. Check out the #PETE2019 hashtag and listen in as Zee and I preview our state edtech conference to be held in Pittsburgh in 2020!