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ISTE Frame of Mind: Five Tips to Prepare for This Year’s Conference

By Esra Murray

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.

“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.

“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

Here” is ISTE 2017. The first time I walked through the hallways of my first ISTE conference some years ago, without making extensive preparations whatsoever ahead of time, I thought to myself,  “I got this.” Well, that was until I ran out of my first keynote session, overcome with emotion. What I heard in that keynote resonated with me at such a deep level. I was overwhelmed to find such kindred spirits packed in one room.  My head was spinning in every direction.

That’s when my Alice in Wonderland kicked in. I realized that everyone at ISTE was mad. But mad in a good way, about what they believed in so passionately. They were “here” and present. Very much so.

When I talk with colleagues who are planning to attend ISTE for the first time, I give the following five tips to manage one of the most amazing roller-coaster rides that they will experience, both professionally and personally:

1. Empower yourself:  Stop and ask yourself, “What do I want to get out of it?” ISTE has the potential of being your most personalized PD if you prepare ahead of time. Login to the conference website and start with the Program Highlights, and then navigate the programs, academies, playgrounds, etc.  using the online tools. Favorite the ones you align to your goals.  Closer to the date, remember to download your ISTE app and all this info will be at your fingertips.

2. Do not miss certain sessions: Until you develop your own personalized favorites, you should attend the Keynotes, Ignite sessions, EdTekTalks, Playgrounds, Poster Sessions, and Social Events such as EdTech Karaoke. For instance, this year, don’t miss  Jad Abumrad from NPR’s beloved and thought-stimulating @Radiolab, @GirlsWhoCode’s Reshma Saujani, and Jennie Magiera who will be “joining EdTech Team this July to focus on equity and school change.” 

3. Plot Your Course. The Exhibition hall is a maze, and you will certainly feel like a mouse who doesn’t know where its cheese is. Locate it. Think of what your District uses and plan to stop by those vendors. Often they have something new they’re launching, or an update they would like to share. At times, the exhibitors plan social gatherings – these are great opportunities to connect with people who are probably walking down the same path as you are. Also, be sure to check out tools that you might have heard of and want to explore.

4. Create a system to input useful information.  I use @Google folder for photos, and @Google docs to jot down notes. I later use what I have gathered as a reporting/sharing tool with my colleagues and my District. Each session, playground, etc. has a digital toolbox. Click on the toolbox to save it into your digital tote. I also snap photos of everything that interests me from attendee badges (so I can connect with them later!)  to posters, to inspirational moments such as hugging it out with Moby from @brain POP Jr., connecting with the author Peter R. Reynolds of the most recent Happy Dreamer fame, or taking selfies with @gcouros, the innovative educator of The Innovative Mindset. They are all such influencers in their fields. You can do a little homework and check out their bios on the conference website and start following them on @Twitter beforehand.

5. Connect digitally.  It’s incredibly helpful if you’re connected on social media – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. One of the most powerful ways to maintain your connections long after the conference is done is to network via social media. I cannot tell you the number of times something I heard at ISTE became relevant and I needed to reach out to who had said it. I have also used my Twitter feed to review and reflect on the conference. Quite powerful.

If you plan ahead, you will get the most out of the experience. But be open to surprises, to shifts that you will make during the day. I have certainly gone rogue after bumping into an EdTech crush and changed my mind mid-day. Many times I’ve gotten lost in a playground and skipped a session. And that’s ok.

Alas, in the ever-evolving world of learning, there is already some buzz about some changes coming to #ISTE2017. Cannot wait! There is also some continued and thoughtful work around the revised ISTE Standards for Students. ISTE now offers new online professional development course to support learning and working with these standards. In addition, ISTE also helps educators locate high-quality products and services that are aligned with ISTE Standards.

Overall, I realize my Alice in Wonderland riles up around this time of the year when I am getting ready for ISTE because I know, “It’s no use going back to yesterday because I was a different person then.”


Esra will be presenting at the Full STEAM Ahead Playground at #ISTE2017 on Monday, June 26, 8:00–11:30 am.

Be sure to read Esra’s previous articles for the Level Up Village blog:

Trending at ISTE 2016

Top Summer Recharge, Refresh and Refuel Books for Educators

Top Reads to Kick Off Your School Year


Level Up Village (LUV) is the first organization to receive the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE®) Seal of Alignment at the Proficiency Level for the 2016 ISTE Standards for Students.  

Here’s our schedule at #ISTE2017:

  • Booth #2762 in the Exhibit Hall throughout the week
  • Sunday, June 25th: ISTE Seal of Alignment Networking Mixer, 4:15-4:45pm, Room 217A
  • Tuesday, June 27th: ISTE Seal of Alignment Poster Session, 4:00-6:00pm, Table 44 in the Tower View Lobby
  • Wednesday, June 28th: Global Playground Poster Session, 10:00am
  • ISTE Mobile App Game

And…. stay tuned for BIG news from Level Up Village on Monday, June 26!