Attending NECC in Washington? Here are my top 10 (or so) tips for having a productive experience:
Attend sessions that stretch your understanding of technology, teaching and learning. In my opinion, people have a tendency to attend sessions about topics that they have familiarity with, and sometimes have a well-developed understanding of. Some of this is only natural because of individual interests and the fact that everyone likes to gauge their understanding against others. But go see new things, and challenge yourself to be exposed to at least several new areas.
Attend sessions focused on pedagogy and skill development, and not just on tools. For example, I’m more interested in a session on “Writing in the 21st Century” than I am in a session that focuses on blogging.
Attend sessions being given by organizations. My favorite session last year was by a group from the National Council of Teachers of English where they discussed their vision of 21st Century literacy.
Go to sessions early. Last year, sessions on popular topics in San Antonio filled at least a half-an-hour prior to the session. Expect it to be worse in Washington, with probably more people attending.
Pace yourself. It’s ok to not attend sessions. NECC is an endurance test, and not a sprint. Take a session off, get some rest, and just enjoy the atmosphere.
There are more than just sessions at NECC. Go to the Blogger Café (map), introduce yourself by your name and not by your Twitter avatar name, and strike up a conversation there. If you are new to blogging, ask people there to show you how, what, where, and why. Be sure to visit NECC Unplugged and stay for several sessions there-they can be quite good. Also visit the playgrounds, where informal learning rules.
Visit the exhibit hall, yeah I said it. Many say it’s like a boat show, many despise the vendors but they’re people too, just doing their job. Ignore all that arrogant crap and just go. Enjoy it, see new stuff, get a whole years worth of pens, and judge accordingly-go in with an open mind. Hint: if you are like a typical teacher, leave some extra room in your suitcase when you pack- you’ll probably bring back more than you went with.
When in doubt, attend spotlight speakers-they are there for a reason and generally have good things to say.
Consider what you can do to share your experiences back home, and extend your experience by collaborating with others at NECC. At the CoSN conference in Austin this year, several of us took notes individually and pasted them in a shared Google Doc. Email fellow teachers, your department chair, or an administrator with updates and exciting things you have seen. Most will appreciate this, and it demonstrates your passion and commitment.
Vote with your feet. It’s ok to get up and leave if the session isn’t what you expected or if the presenter reads their presentation slides. Have a first and second choice for the time slots you are attending sessions so you know where to go should a presenter fall flat on their face
Eat at off-times. Lines get long both in the convention hall and in restaurants. Also, if you are leaving on Wednesday, be sure to give yourself extra time, security lines can get long when 15,000 people all decide leave at once.
And whatever you do, do not, I repeat, do not, wear some type of Twitter T-Shirt, unless you are @paulrwood.