Thursday, June 12, 2014

Planning for #ISTE14 - Check out these tips from an OCD educator to stay organized!

Planning for ISTE 2014... can be a bit overwhelming!

I am organized to a fault.  I rely on my planner... yes, a paper planner.  I use sticky notes.  I color code agenda items, and most importantly, I L.O.V.E marking lines through completed items on my lists.  There is something about that satisfying sense of accomplishment that helps me feel a small sense of success.  

We are all busy, especially this time of year.  As the flyers flood in through your mailbox, emails crowd your inbox, and the conference date looms over your mind, planning for such a large conference can be a bit intimidating.  That is why I've decided to share the process for my planning with all of you.  I'm fully aware that by putting myself out here in this way will completely expose my OCD tendencies (yes, I have been formally diagnosed).  Keep in mind that I'm probably your "obsessive planner" that takes organizing for a conference to the extreme, but I have found that most teachers share this sense of being obsessively organized.  I hope you find a few ideas that will benefit your planning process.  Additionally, if you have any tips, please share them in the comments or contact me through the contact page on this blog.  

My 2013 ISTE Paper Planning Roadmap

Getting Started with Your Planning
Before you begin to plan, you may wish to set up a timeline for the days you're going to be attending. I do this in a very sloppy way that is quick and easy, yet effective for me and the way I plan.

Tip 1: Don't Look at the Emails Until You are Ready
I really don't like emails sitting in my inbox.  However, I often don't have time to sort through them as they flood my account.  So, I set up folders within my email and slide all of the information into the corresponding folder until I have time to go through it.  I do jot reminders in my planner for me to look in certain email folders... just so I don't forget.  

Set Up Email Folders for the Event

Because much of the preparation for ISTE typically occurs during the last week or two of school, I simply can't even look at those emails.  I have to wait until reports are submitted and my district duties are fulfilled before I begin planning for my summer.  

Tip 2: Check out the ISTE "at a glance" Schedule
I like seeing an overall map or timeline of the conference events prior to setting up my daily agenda.  I find by looking at this first, I'm able to see the "shell" of my planning start to form.  You can click here to see this schedule.  

Schedule - At a Glance
I go through and see when registration opens to when the last session is held.  Then, I start to jot down the main information onto my paper planning pages.  Each person considers certain parts of the conference to be more beneficial than others.  For example, I love seeing the keynotes in person.  However, I have several friends that watch these sessions from a separate room with television monitors set up.  Some even choose to skip the keynotes.  It really just depends on what you are most interested in taking advantage of while you are at the conference.  

Each day, I do jot down the time each session starts.   I also record each keynote.  This year, I'm doing a poster session.  This is the first time I'll be doing a session of this format.  So, I've also jotted down to check out some of the poster sessions on Sunday.  This will give me a better idea of what to expect for my session on Monday.  Another item I record are the Ignite Talks.  These are some of my favorite sessions.  I've been fortunate to give an Ignite Talk for the past two years.  This will be my third year.  I really enjoy the fast paced, dynamic style these sessions offer.  You get to hear several presenters all talk for 5 minutes within the hour.  They're inspiring!

Tip 3: Plug In Your Sessions or Your Friend's Sessions
Next, I go through each day and write down each session I can't miss.  These are sessions I'm giving or sessions that I know will be incredible.  They are my "must-see" or "must-attend" sessions.  I simply jot down the session time and title on my paper planning sheet.  

My ISTE 2014 Sessions
I would love to have you at one of my sessions this year.  You can click here to see the sessions I'm hosting with some amazing co-presenters.  I am so excited to share some of the ideas we've prepared to highlight in these sessions.  Be sure to say hello!

Tip 4: Enter All of Your Social Events
After I have the important information recorded, I then go into my "ISTE 2014 Events" email folder.  I start looking at the social events I've emailed myself from Twitter or received from companies.  

Search the Hashtag without Having a Twitter Account

I can't stress the importance of being connected on Twitter.  If you haven't done so already, start following the #iste14 or #iste2014 hashtag.  You don't even need a Twitter account to do so (click here to see).  To get started with Twitter, I've prepared this 10 minute video (click here).  

By being on Twitter, you can start to connect with fellow educators and companies that will be at the event.  You can also find out about certain events that will be happening during the conference.  During sessions, you can follow the conversations happening while you're collaborating and learning together.  Twitter has been a transformative tool in my professional career.  

Some social events include: company sponsored events, Tweet-Ups, interviews, podcasts, Atlanta sight seeing with friends, dinners you've set up with groups of friends, state affiliate sponsored gatherings, and more!  They're really whatever you decide to plan!!

Looking for social events to add to your calendar?  Be sure to check these out (here and here).  

Tip 5: Find Gaps and Openings in Your Schedule 
After I have entered all of my must-see sessions and social events, I start to re-organize my overall planning sheet to more of a daily planning guide.  

I go from this...

To this...

Once I've developed a sequential timeline of each day's events, I find gaps to do some of the following:
  • eat
  • visit the exhibit hall
  • connect with others
Once I have this information on paper, I take a photo of it and save it in my camera roll for easy access at ISTE.  I also add a typed version to my "notes" app in my phone. 

Tip 5: Filling in your Sessions
For me, this is one of the last items I do.  I am there to learn and connect.  So, after I have each timeline completed for each day, I begin to look at the times I've blocked off for sessions.  For example, in the image above, you can see from 11:00 - 12:00, I have to fill in which session I plan to attend.  I also have to do the same for session 4 from 2:30 - 3:30.  This is when I will go to the "Program Guide Search" to start looking for session that will impact my current practice as a classroom teacher.  You can access that tool by clicking here.  I like that you can search sessions in a variety of formats: presenter, day, time, topic, format, etc.

ISTE Blog Post: Highlighting 2014 Sessions
ISTE recently featured myself along with two other amazing educators in an article that highlights some of the sessions we are looking forward to at this year's conference.  You can access that article by clicking here.  This may be a good place to start since sometimes the multitude of sessions can be overwhelming.  

Be sure to click the "heart" next to your favorite sessions to save them in your planner.  I recommend saving more than one session per time slot incase the session fills, you can't find the location, you're with a group that wishes to go to another session, or any similar reason.  

Tip 6: Find the Gaps and Make them Meaningful - Connect!
Sometimes I skip sessions.  I find that I get so involved in group conversations that truly become so practical to exactly what I have questions about for my own professional growth.  Don't be afraid to deviate from your schedule.  

While it is nice to plan and be organized, my #1 piece of advice is to be flexible, have fun, and connect with others.  

I find that when I pre-plan ahead of time, I can relax more when I'm there.  I rarely follow my schedule 100%, but it's nice to know I can depend on it if I need to.  

Tip 7: Create a Voxer Group Before You Head to Atlanta!
What is Voxer: a free social app (think of it as voice texting with a group)

Why Vox? to stay connected with a group of individuals and build relationships

Who to Vox? you can click here and check out the amazing list of EduVoxers

How to get started? simply click here to download the app in iTunes and set up your account

Want to know more?  be sure to click here and read Joe Mazza's recent post on Voxer for edu

Am I using Voxer? YES!  Daily!  I even set up an ISTE Girls group for some of my closest friends so that we can chat before hand about what to wear, where to go, which sessions to plan for, and more!  While we are there, we can chat to meet up for meals, events, or even ask questions or get directions if we are lost (that will be me!).  You can click here to get Voxer on Android.  

In closing, I'd like to share a recent post I ran across from Jennifer LaGarde.  Jennifer shares her bucket list for ISTE 2014.  It's a pretty entertaining read - click here to view.  

You can read my ISTE 2012 post here and my ISTE 2013 post here.  

I hope to connect with you at ISTE 2014.  Please be sure to say hi.  I love making new connections!


  1. Great post - as an overwhelmed "newbie" I found your post helpful.

  2. Thank you for sharing! Glad to know someone else besides myself has pages of notes written and schedules just in case. Definitely will be organizing a Voxer group or two!

  3. Just a thought, take a picture of your schedule for each day or for the week and make it your lock screen. One button access!

  4. Thanks for this post~! I do many of these these things too, good not know im not alone. Also thanks to John P for that tip about day's schedule as a lock screen!

  5. This will be my first time at ISTE. Thanks for the suggestions.

  6. This is very comprehensive; great suggestions for maximizing the impact this conference can have on your learning! Wish I was going to ISTE... ;-( I'll be following in Twitter though while I'm lounging on the beach...

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