Educators, Visit Conference Exhibitor Halls
There is sort of a circus-style extravaganza feeling as you walk through the aisles, visiting booths at an education conference. It’s not as quiet as most presentations, but the excitement throughout the aisles is similar to that of a good flea market. You never know what you’re going to see or find. And that’s the point, if you’re lucky enough to get to an education conference; you need to see what’s on the education show floor. In most cases you’ll see new solutions before anyone else, and sometimes get to try them first.
Recently, in a conversation with some very in-the-know educators, I was surprised to hear them say that visiting the show or exhibit floor of an education or education technology conference was a waste of time. What an utterly ridiculous thing to say! It is the complete opposite, and is a most important part of any conference visit.
I know their reasoning for saying that, but I think they’re missing something. Some educators are presenters, very heavily into social media meetings at Internet cafes, and may find it difficult to get to all the presentations they’d like to hear, so may feel it difficult getting to the exhibitor’s halls and show floor. But still, everyone, all educators, and I use that to mean administrators, too, need to make the time when they attend a conference. There is nowhere else to see so many education and education technology solutions in one place and at one time. And there is nowhere else, where a teacher can actually be treated so respectfully as an educator user or customer/possible user of education technology.
Consider it part of the learning and professional development today. There is no better way to find our what’s available, what will be available, and see how solutions and resources work. The booths, the shows, the demos are designed for educators, and with real classroom and student use in mind. Finding out what you don’t know, what you need to know, and why it’s important to know it is an educator’s obligation at these conferences, and the vendors on the show floor know it, too. They go out of their way to inform, but also to ask and answer questions. The best marketplace lessons are given by educators to vendors at these exhibit halls. It is a way to express what a teacher needs in a classroom to people, who provide those solutions. If you don’t get to that show floor, you may never get that chance to find out more. See it, ask it, make connections, and bring back ideas to share in you class, school and district.
Have a bit of fun and chances for conversation:
Exhibit halls of products and solutions at conferences offer educators a bit of fun, too. Most conference badges have bar codes that can be scanned, so vendors can contact you later, but many scans offer a prize or reward of some kind, too. As a matter of fact, you’ll find plenty of free things at conference booths, so carrying a bag of “stuff” back home for your students is fun. There are also many drawings for larger prizes, handed out at booths. Someone has to win, so enter as many as you can.
There are plenty of chances to get a snack, or get invited to a breakfast, or reception at conference events. Many of these invitations originate on the exhibitor show floor. Interact at booths that interest you, and leave your teaching business card—something all educators should carry. At the very least you may be able to snack, hydrate, have a conversation or two, and learn more about education innovations on the show floor.
Author’s note: A great conference, where you can see and hear wonderful presentations, join blogger and social media meet-ups, as well as walk aisles of creative and innovative education and education technology solutions is ISTE. ISTE 2014 is in Atlanta June 28th through July 1st. ISTE Live 2014 is a way to get there without traveling.
Ken Royal is an educator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology experience, as well as a blogger on all things education technology. Teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. He is a Promethean storyteller. Follow @KenRoyal on Twitter.