Friday, February 1, 2019

Why Every Educator Needs to Attend an Educational Conference

I just spent the last few days at the Future of Educational Technology Conference, so I am still coming down from my "learning high".  If you don't know what I'm talking about, then you probably haven't been to a great conference in a while.  It was an incredible opportunity to learn new things, see new products, and connect with some of the most influential innovators in education.

You see, when I go to conferences I try to get to as many sessions as possible and absorb as much learning as I can.  I find joy in listening to engaging speakers and gaining new knowledge from their experience. I'm also the kind of person who gets mad when someone knows something that I don't know. In turn, my thirst for knowledge grows.

I NEED to learn more.

Share your knowledge with me, please!

I don't know about you, but I like to surround myself with lifelong learners who can make me better. I find myself drawn to educators who have the passion for teaching and the drive to continue their own learning. This is why it's disappointing when I talk to educators who never get out of their buildings to learn and grow from others. There may be lots of reasons why educators don't get out to conference more often:

"My district doesn't have any money to send me to a conference."

"It's too much work to prepare for a sub while I'm gone-----if I even get a sub."

"I don't know which conferences are the best ones to go to."

Let's get rid of these excuses!  I know, conferences cost money, but there are options out there.  Some conferences (like @FETC) offers free registration for educators who are willing to present.  Many others provide group discounts when more than one educator attends.  Some conferences will offer a discount if you volunteer a certain number of hours at the event. Need another way to get yourself there? Maybe you are connected to an educational company?  Are you an Ambassador for Microsoft, Buncee, or Osmo?  Ask them if they'll provide you with a sponsorship or a stipend.  Every little bit helps.

So, grab a buddy and plan your road trip to the next big conference.  Start saving up now if you have to.  Find an inexpensive Air B&B and join in the learning!

Not sure which conferences are right for you? Check out Cybraryman's  always-amazing collection of resources.  He shares upcoming EdCamps, Conferences and other regional PD.  You are sure to find the right event for you!  The Education Calendar site is also a helpful tool, as you can search by state/location for great event near you.

We all need time to recharge our minds and refocus on our educational role. Time away at a conference fuels my need to learn and grow.  It allows me to connect with enthusiastic educators who love what they do.  I also get the opportunity to hear from thought leaders in education. When I map out my schedule, I look for the educators who I follow on social media and am rarely disappointed when I get to meet them face-to-face.  If you don't follow Heather Lister or Jaime Donally, check out their work. I've followed them for a while and was ecstatic to finally meet them in person!

Educational conferences are just one pathway to personalized professional learning, but it is a path that every educator needs to explore. While every conference experience is unique, it is a time to reflect on your practices, refresh your mindset, and rejuvenate your practices.

Teachers--take time away from your classrooms and attend an educational conference this year.  It will be worth it. You will return to your students filled with new ideas and a renewed sense of purpose.

School leaders--remember the importance of helping your teachers to learn and grow. Carve out time and money to make sure that opportunities exist in your district.

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