I am going to the ISTE 2012 Conference in San Diego this coming weekend/week. That in itself is pretty exciting. It's my first time at ISTE, not for lack of wanting, more for lack of timing and cost. I am very excited knowing I am going to be immersed in technology, meeting other ed-tech enthusiasts, and just learning more about what's out there that can help me personally and professionally. Another reason I am excited is that I will experience a conference that has some very different options from the math conferences I usually attend.
I am not knocking math conferences. Rather, what I am pointing out are the many ways in which the ISTE conference differs in what it provides in the way of collaboration, networking and technology that is unfortunately, not often a part of math conferences. This may be true of other content specific conferences, but since I am most familiar with math conferences, that is my point of reference. I am sure a lot of it has to do with the fact that edtech enthusiasts tend to be more connected because of technology, so it's really great to see that the conference itself supports that in so many ways.
One thing that stands out in particular are ISTE's Networking Lounges. These are places for like-minded attendees to meet and greet and connect with others. Places to hang out, recharge devices - what a great idea! Instead of what I am use to, where you see folks wandering conference halls aimlessly looking for an outlet or a place to rest. These lounges are specifically themed so you can head to the lounge of most interest to you where you can connect with others, perhaps even those you have only met via Twitter or LinkedIn or Facebook. I myself am thinking the Bloggers Cafe or the Newbie Lounge or the Social Butterfly Lounge all sound like fun places to stop in and see what's going on. This type of free, available space where you can arrange to meet with others or just run in and meet the folks who are hanging out allows for some powerful networking.
Participating remotely I know has become a feature of many conferences, and even the math conferences have some events (usually just the main Keynotes and awards presentations) available virtually, but ISTE has some actual workshops as well as Keynote sessions available remotely. This is a great option for folks unable to attend live. Using ISTE's Remote Program you could spend a virtual day at the conference - pretty awesome.
What kid doesn't love a playground, and apparently adults are the same! ISTE provides Focus Playgrounds, where you can attend a single or all-day event and play around with interactive technologies. One of my tweeps pointed this out to me the other day (@gridjumper), specifically the SIGVE Playground, so definitely going to play there. There are several others that look interesting to me, such as the STEM & Computer Science Playground, or the Mobile Learning Playground. I guess this is like recess!
There are some Social Events as well, where you can meet with folks you connect with virtually (the Tweetup Meetup) or Global Happy Hour to again, meet up with folks. And, you can also see all the sponsor events in one location through the Sponsor Activities, which is terrific, especially if you are interested in those specific companies and their products. Makes life easy.
I am still discovering more as I explore the ISTE Conference site. There's the Blog Roll where you can follow others blogging about ISTE or the ISTE Communities, that allow you to follow conference news and updates and connect with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. This is definitely a networking, collaboration conference! It was suggested to me from one of my tweeps (@erinKohl) to use the conference planner and focus myself, so I plan on doing that. Though I just found there is a mobile app for the conference guide as well, so might have to do that on the iPad! And - WiFi is available throughout the conference hall and meeting rooms, though not in the exhibit halls. Gotta love a tech conference! Feeling like a kid in a candy store.
Really looking forward to the whole experience and hopefully it will be the first of many ISTE conferences. Hoping to meet many of my virtual colleagues and friends (#edchat meetup and live #edchat in particular) while there. If you are going, maybe I will run into you on the playground!