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11 ways to turn your bright idea into an ISTE 2017 session

By Diana Fingal
September 1, 2016
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Take a moment to think back to that lightning-bolt moment that changed everything — that tech innovation you brought to your classroom, that scalable program you implemented, that successful ed tech initiative you led. Wouldn’t it make an amazing ISTE conference session? Wouldn’t it engage attendees, inspire them to think differently and send them back to their schools with takeaways they could immediately implement?  

With the ISTE 2017 call for proposals opening Sept. 1, it’s time to get serious about that jolt of an idea you have and turn it into a bold conference proposal.

The rigorous process is designed to ensure that the conference content helps educators develop students’ problem-solving, critical-thinking, and communication and collaboration abilities.

This year, more than 80 teams of three to five educators will review 30 to 40 proposals. Teams are made up of educators with 10 to 15 years of experience who are in a nationally recognized leadership position in their area of expertise.

Proposals are vetted against a detailed rubric that teases out the top presentations.

Camilla Gagliolo, ISTE conference program chair, suggests those with an idea for a proposal ask themselves these questions:

  • Is it engaging and innovative in its content and delivery?
  • Can attendees take home some special things they can use right away in their classrooms?
  • Does it represent best practices in education?
  • How will attendees experience your session?
  • Does it improve student learning or success?
  • Can educators easily replicate the technology applications you plan to use?
  • Does it spread a new idea, create deeper knowledge or help attendees learn new skills?

“Be sure we understand what will happen, what attendees will learn, how it aligns with the ISTE Standards and what the takeaways are,” Gagliolo says. “We have an audience that is large in size and in breadth of experience, so if you're talking about kindergarten math centers, for example, be sure your proposal is written so a kindergarten math teacher will know what to expect and what they will learn.” 

A total of 2,950 proposals were submitted for ISTE 2016 with an overall acceptance rate of 33.7 percent. The poster category saw the greatest number of proposals, with an acceptance rate of 62 percent. Proposal counts were lightest in the research paper category where 57 percent were accepted. The toughest category to get the green light for was lecture at 17 percent, followed by interactive lecture at 18 percent and snapshot at nearly 22 percent.

As the numbers show, creating a conference proposal that impresses reviewing teams and wows ISTE conference attendees is serious business. Here are some tips to increase your chances of success:

1.  Be meticulous in completing forms.
There are several sections to the multipage proposal form. Be sure to complete every section to avoid being marked down on the rubric.

2.  Align your proposal with the proper topic area.
Proposals are reviewed by topic — Digital Age Teaching & Learning, Leadership, Technology Infrastructure or Professional Learning — so it’s important that you select the proper topic. If you place it in the wrong area, your proposal will earn lower marks.

3.  Be strategic in choosing your format.
Consider the best way to convey your message and then choose the format that will best allow you to connect with your audience. Should the information be shared in a lecture or would another format be more active and provide more audience participation? ISTE audiences crave engagement!  

4.  Make sure the title clearly depicts what you’ll present.
While creativity is important, be sure your title accurately describes what your session is really about. Content trumps cute every time.

5.  Make your session description sing.
Session descriptions should be accurate and enticing. This is your chance to sell the session, so include action words and focus on benefits to participants. Avoid buzz words and clichés. 

6.  Keep audience front of mind.
The various ISTE audiences (teachers, tech coordinators, CIOs, library media specialists, principals, superintendents, curriculum specialists, coaches) expect different things from presentations. Teachers want practical ideas and resources; administrators want to know about instructional success, policy and scalability; tech coordinators are interested in rollout issues, cost, return on investment and professional learning. 

7.  Go into detail.
Be sure that after reading your proposal, the reviewing team knows exactly what will happen in the session, what the audience will learn, what the takeaways are and how others can replicate your ideas.

8.  Back it up with research.
If there are studies that support your ideas, be sure to include references to the research in your proposal.

9.  Go for new or improved.
ISTE audiences hunger for innovation. A proposal is usually strong if it covers something new that ISTE audiences haven't seen before and cries out for sharing.

10.  Add a good dose of inspiration.
Is the idea or concept you plan to share inspiring? Will it make other educators want to try it as soon as they return to their schools? Affirmative answers to these questions bode well for your proposal. 

11.  Give your proposal another set of eyes. 
Before submitting, have a trusted colleague review your proposal, considering the overall idea, the applicability and the written content. 

Ready to turn that bright idea into and ISTE 2017 session? Submit your proposal by Sept. 29.