As we move toward a post-pandemic future, a new learning landscape is emerging — and we saw its contours begin to take shape at ISTELive 21. From district leaders to classroom teachers, the most innovative minds in education collaborated to redesign learning in more than 1,500 live sessions.
Now that the conference is over, the real work begins.
For the next six months, you’ve got hundreds of hours of professional learning at your fingertips. To help you maximize your conference experience, we’ve asked some of last year’s attendees to share their strategies for getting the most out of your ISTELive 21 recorded sessions.
“I went into it knowing it would be overwhelming, but it was unbelievable how much stuff there was,” says Amy Putkonen, a school librarian at Meadowlawn Middle School in St. Petersburg, Florida. To capture as much information as possible, she chose a tool she hadn’t tried before — Wakelet — and taught herself how to use it for organizing and sharing her conference materials with colleagues.
“It’s helpful to have some way of quickly grabbing materials and keeping them organized and accessible,” she says. “At first I was bookmarking them all, but Wakelet is more visual.”
But attending the conference is about more than just receiving a massive information download. The real value is in how you incorporate the new ideas and tools you’ve discovered into your practice, she says.
“Just having the material doesn’t do anything. It’s when you do something with the material — that makes it relevant,” she says.
Here are a few more tips to help you digest your ISTE experience over the next six months:
1. Prioritize key topics
With hundreds of intriguing discussions just a click away, it’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole. While you should absolutely spend time exploring some “just for fun” topics that fascinate you, the most useful sessions will be the ones that address specific challenges your school or district is currently facing — such as mastering online and blended learning, launching a digital citizenship initiative or switching to a new learning platform. Putkonen, who received a grant to build a makerspace last year, wanted to see what other people were doing with their makerspaces.
“Look at your own strengths and weaknesses, and ask, ‘What really ties in with what’s important to me in terms of what I want to get out of the conference?’ Put those topics first as your top priority,” she says.
2. Make a date with ISTE
Don’t wait until the six-month deadline approaches to cram in as many sessions as you can. Setting aside a regular time each week, even for just one video, will help you maintain a more digestible pace.
Since you can access the recordings anytime, anywhere, it may help to piggyback your conference time onto other tasks. For example, you could listen to them instead of podcasts while driving or out walking. Voula Plagakis, an education consultant in Quebec, Canada, made a habit of watching sessions while riding her stationary bike.
“I can’t tell you how many times it motivated me to do it,” she says. “It became a moment of fueling my body and fueling my mind. I was accomplishing something versus just watching a show I would have made time to watch anyway. I got hooked after that.”
3. Divide and conquer
If you attended the conference with a team, one way to get through more sessions is to divvy up your watch list between members. For example, you might give each person a topic to explore for the next six months. They can become the resident expert in that area and present what they learned to the rest of the team.
4. Scan the chat log
As you watch each recording, it’s also worth browsing the chat log, Plagakis says. Once you get past all the greetings, that’s where much of the dynamic collaboration occurs — where insightful questions are asked and answered, interesting side discussions sometimes spring up, and attendees often share additional links you might find helpful.
5. Grab the resources
Even if you don’t have time to watch all the recorded sessions on your list, many presenters have uploaded useful resources you can add to your digital tote. These may include presentation slides, lesson plans, demo videos or links to helpful tools. Make sure you download all of the items from your tote before the six-month deadline, Plagakis cautions.
Once you have the resources in hand, the next challenge is to figure out how to make use of them. After capturing as many resources as possible, Putkonen shared her Wakelet with her staff and asked them to help sort and evaluate the materials in terms of how they might be used.
“I wanted to find ways to collaborate with my staff, to have them interact with the materials and give me something back. It forces people to think about the materials they’re accessing,” she says. “The more people you get into it, the more new stuff you can get from it.”
Nicole Krueger is a freelance writer and journalist with a passion for finding out what makes learners tick.