It's education conference season. Years before I'd perk up at the mention of ISTE, SxSW, or ASU+GSV, there was the Scholastic book fair.
A new month meant a new catalog. I remember circling each book, take-apart eraser, pack of smencils, and diary I wanted.
The wishlists I make now are filled with conferences to develop my professional skills in edtech.
I'm lucky to feel just as excited by these events as my book wishlists once made me. Here's how my relationship with education companies evolved from childhood to enteringtx the edtech industry.
Book fairs and catalogs get kids excited about buying to learn
Book fairs came to my elementary school once in a blue moon.
Usually any books and trinkets I ordered from the Scholastic catalog were delivered straight to my desk, tied together by a rubber band.
This made the fairs that much more special.
I already liked my school library's regular setup. The book fair transformed it into a pop-up shop/ learning carnival.
I have cloudy memories of strolling around and even hazier ones of the random adults in my school (aka reps) who helped me with my transactions.
Book fair purchases energized me. The books themselves gave me new knowledge and extra reading practice—after I soaked in the thrill of the buy.
Here's where the differences between the book fairs and edtech conferences begin.
Making professional gains at education conferences
Branded buttons, pens, and notepads are cool perks. I'd still enter events from their sponsored companies without them.
As a kid, the prep work that went into purchasing education company-branded books (filling out the catalog, bringing money to school) was almost more important than showing up to the fair and making the transaction!
The main outputs of attending edtech conferences aren't as materialistic. My main focus as an attendee is on getting knowledge:
for my professional development
to bring back to my organization
to fuel my natural industry curiosity
And making the effort to network outside of the scheduled sessions has opened up more opportunities to take away new ideas.
Channel your edtech kid at education conferences
As you prepare to attend conferences in person or virtually this season, make strategic plans. You'll get more out of the events by planning a little in advance than by just showing up.
Remember circling the books you wanted in the book fair catalogs?
Bring that same energy to annotate speaker sessions that jump out at you on conference agendas by:
researching the speakers
writing out questions to ask
recording the time and place of the event!
Speaker sessions are the core product of these conferences.
But just like the fun add-on toys in the book catalogs, watch out for some in-person/virtual swag and souvenirs and don't be shy!
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