Which EdTech Conference Should You Attend This Year?
While Jan 1 marks the New Year for most, it kicks off the second half of the school year for teachers and students. Within the first month back, many schools celebrate with the 100th day of school. Around this same time, due to the cyclical buying cycles of schools, some of the larger education conferences take place (see our complete list of education conferences).
Several in the first half of the calendar year are focused on “edtech,” educational technology. Now technically, a pencil — yes the yellow, wooden, non-digitized or wired one — is considered a piece of technology. But in recent years, the edtech landscape has taken off with a focus on websites, platforms, digitized content, and interactive tools. In order to avoid adopting technology just for “technology’s sake,” it is helpful to keep up on the latest and greatest in the field:
- What technology helps you redefine learning experiences for students?
- What technology helps personalize and individualize learning?
- What technology helps make your classroom practices more efficient, more engaging, and more effective?
3 ways to attend conferences
One of the biggest hurdles to attending a conference is finding the time off. Luckily, many education conferences span a weekend and weekdays, so that you may only have to find a sub for a day or two of classroom teaching. Here are some suggestions for helping your school embrace the professional learning and networking that occurs at these state, national, and international conferences:
- Rotate between grade-level teams and members to send a representative from your school (then your school only needs one substitute teacher). Just make sure to provide an opportunity for that teacher to share learnings to the whole school in a future staff meeting.
- Send a whole grade-level team (yes, more sub cost), so the team can then divide and conquer as the conference days are often jam-packed with interesting workshops, presentations, and sessions at competing times. Find ways to ask the other grades what they are most interested in learning about, and then make those your conference objectives as a team.
- It can be tricky depending on your district contract, but sometimes education-focused companies will pay your travel and conference expenses if you will present on their behalf or help out at their booth. Obviously, think of those tools or companies that you truly believe in. Then make sure your attendance won’t be a conflict in interest and will let you represent yourself as an educator and school employee in the best light possible.
Here is a helpful cheat sheet, in chronological order, for some of the larger edtech conferences — oh, we love our acronyms in education:
JAN: FETC (“F-E-T-C”): Florida hosts arguably the second-largest edtech conference of the year, the Future of Education Technology Conference. With lots of educators from the east coast, FETC draws more than 10,000 attendees. This year’s event is earlier than normal on January 14-17, 2020 in Miami, FL. Check out the attendees’ tab to see the current schedule of speakers, topics, and exhibitors. If you go, make sure to check out the Shark Tank-like Pitchfest!
JAN: Bett (“bet”): The largest global edtech conference organization is Bett, which hosts its premiere event in London for more than 34,000 visitors and 800 global companies. This international crowd comes from more than 146 countries, and also includes the public — even children — for free! So get ready to crowd surf January 22-25, 2020 as the huge exhibit floor tends to be crowded with many families; but you can hear right from kids themselves as they test out and evaluate the newest offerings from around the world.
FEB: TCEA (“T-C-E-A”): The original Texas education conference is held each February in Austin, TX (February 4-7, 2020). The Texas Computer Education Association’s Convention and Exposition boasts five days of content and is framed as professional development, with lots of opportunities to engage and network with other innovators. Take a deep dive into the event’s benefits according to your role.
MAR: CUE: CUE, formerly known as Computer-Using Educators (no one calls it that anymore though) offers many conferences around the country, geared toward various education audiences. One of their most popular though is their long-running spring event in Palm Springs, CA, each March. Designed for educators from preschool to college, the event takes place at the end of a week and on a Saturday (March 19-21, 2020) to help mitigate days off.
MAR: SXSW EDU (“South by Southwest E-D-U”): An offspring of SXSW, SXSW EDU Conference & Festival in Austin, TX, is celebrating 10 years of advancing teaching and learning March 9-12, 2020. SXSW EDU offers thematic tracks of programming that includes a myriad of workshops, keynotes, podcasts, book signings, film Q&As, performances, meet-ups, and more. You can even claim CPE credits for attending!
MAR & APR: ASU/GSV (“A-S-U-G-S-V”): The ASU/GSV Summit is known for its thought leadership Just check out the keynote speakers past and present on the site’s homepage. Held in San Diego, CA, each year, this conference brings together a pool of global talent that intersects education and business innovation. Register to join more than 5,500 attendees this March 30-April 1, 2020.
JUN & JUL: ISTE (“iss-tee”): The annual International Society for Technology in Education is the largest national edtech conference, and rotates between a handful of cities reaching more than 16,000 educators, including classroom teachers, tech coordinators, media specialists, and administrators. This year’s event is June 28-July 1, 2020 in Anaheim, CA (side note: discounted tickets available for Disneyland!). Do make time to get lost in the exhibit hall with more than 550 companies and organizations, in between a packed schedule of presentations and workshops, plus a robust nightlife of networking and socializing events.
5 best practices for conference goers
- Register early: Most conferences have early-bird specials for registering. Plus, nearby hotels can fill up quickly since conference announce their dates a year in advance (do see hotel discounts on the organizers’ sites). Airbnbs are a popular alternative. But do get a jumpstart on your planning if you’re able to!
- Attend a day or two: Often you can buy single-day tickets versus a full conference ticket if you aren’t able to attend a full event. Also, see if the hosting organization has a membership discount too.
- Cruise the exhibit floor: An educator’s paradise is the exhibit hall as you can talk with company reps and educator ambassadors, peruse new content, try out new tools, and walk away with a plethora of freebies for your classroom treasure chest. Do make sure to ask companies if they are offering a “freemium” or special conference trial or discounted rate. And if you’re not in a buying mood, you definitely will be inspired to riff off and try some of the novel ideas on your own, when you are back home.
- Earn credits: Many conferences have partnered with graduate schools or credit-awarding organizations to offer you CEUs. Dig around a bit on the conference sites or blogs to find out how to track and verify your attendance and time for professional advancement within your district.
- Network at night: Check with your favorite edtech companies as many host free happy hour events. But do register online beforehand as sometimes the rented venues fill up. Not to be missed at ISTE is the overwhelming teacher talent at the annual EdTech Karaoke #ETK20 … you won’t be sorry!