As a #deptof1 (department of one), the best part of conferences for me is the chance to talk with my virtual PLC and colleagues I wish I worked with everyday face to face. If you are still hesitating on joining Twitter and participating (or even lurking) in #langchat, DO IT!
Flashback to three years ago at my first #IWLA conference at the start of my second year teaching. It the time we had just gotten new textbooks that I was tied to at least (loosely) following. I devoured blogs, but was a passive online observer, just taking, as I did not feel I had anything worthy enough to contribute. As a department of one I came alone, stayed with a friend and just quietly attended sessions. I chatted with former classmates from college, but other than that, I showed up, tried to absorb some knowledge, and then left to eat with my non language teacher friend who lived in town. I had no idea I had barely scratched the surface of a conference experience.
**Enter my online #langchat PLN.
This year my conference experience was SO MUCH BETTER. Even though I drove and came alone, it was a like coming to a reunion with many people I had never actually talked to face to face. Since we had chatted and shared resources and ideas online, it was like catching up with old friends. Having an online presence, as well as presenting, gives people a reason to come up and talk to you! Also, live tweeting the event using the hash tag, connects you even more to attendees. You may find yourself looking at the person next to you in a session and realizing, oh! you are @SenoritaGeorge! Two years ago I would have never guessed that I would have multiple conversations with a keynote speaker (who called me mis clases locas).
|Presenting (with an awkward hand) – c/o @profeklein
the wonderful Elizabeth – c/o @SraDentlinger
& the logo she created for #iwla15 – c/o @IWLA
So, if you are a conference attendee, here is some advice:
- Before the conference, join Twitter and participate in #langchat or another chat related to your interests.
- Present at the conference! Even if you are a new teacher you have a voice that should be heard and ideas that need to be shared.
- Use the conference hash tag during the conference to share your takeaways. (So we can all share in the learning as well! – check out Laura’s awesome storify of #IWLA15! )
- Read the conference hash tag and connect with those people in person while you have a chance.
- Attend the social gatherings of the conference and chat with someone new. (This is how I casually met a teacher who lives in my town with young kids as well. We exchanged phone numbers with the plan to set up a summer Spanish story time/play group for our bilingual babies).
- Enter raffle drawings & you may come home with swag. (I was on fire with Fair trade booth & Target gift cards and an IWLA T-shirt).
- Do not be intimidated by anyone, we are all teachers. Talk to your presenters, keynote, and bloggers you follow and tell they what you think and ask questions.
What advice do you have for attending conferences?