For those who wish to attend the NECC 2009 conference June 28-July 2 in Washington, DC, the application process opens today and closes on October 8th.
I will say that the biggest drawback for me this year and last was being overscheduled. If I go this year, I want to spend more time learning from others and being selective about where I share my things. Yes, I want to share, but edtech is NOT about any one person.
EdTech is about learning from each other, connecting, sharing best practices, and often, having a good sense of humor. Teachers are a level playing field and we all have something to add.
So, here are some tips after looking back on the proposals that I've been a part of that have been accepted:
Again, few people can handle being “headliners” and often “headliners” would be better and higher energy with others to present with. This year, we had a group of us present about Collaborative PD, Classroom 2.0 panel, and other collaborative groups.
When you collaborate, paste the ISTE template onto a Google Doc and let those involved with you help write the application — it will be better!
Bring together a wide variety of people from various ethnic, educational, geographic, and professional backgrounds. To me, I love seeing researchers, teachers, librarians, and college level educators on the same panel tackling tough topics.
Also, diversify by public and private school! Remember that when you try to present a lone (I never have) that you'd better be super amazing and super respected and super prepared. Super presenter, Hall Davidson, doesn't get out much during NECC because he holes up in his room adding the latest and greatest things to his presos (and it shows.)
So, add diversity and you make it more interesting. But we all have to have a big dose of humility sometimes — WE care about OUR projects but often others don't. When we pool our projects we become more interesting and can speak to more circumstances. And someone may not click with me, but they may click with another presenter who is on the panel.
- Be practical
Many of us want to know HOW to do things. So, as a teacher, I may go to a few sessions about higher level topics, I want to come away with what I can DO. So when you share, make sure there are wikis, materials, and practical take aways that can be used.
We're tired of buzzwords. We want to know HOW we should do it and also WHY. Technology for technology sake just doesn't cut it.
- Be open
Audience participation has got to be the one area that NECC desperately needs improvement. If you have a backchannel, invite participation, and archive it and make it part of the notes. Find ways to let the audience share and ask questions. (Appoint a moderator.) Ustream it and make non-present participants a part of things as well. Openness encourages more involvement.
If you want to ustream, podcast, webcast, etc. make sure you specify it in the application! They have a pretty strict policy, but we had no trouble with ustream because it was in our application.
- Do some Research
As a great advocate for education, ISTE, and good educators should always be backed up by best practice. Use CARET and other deep web resources to turn up the research involved with your project. Talk to others about the research on your topic. Even better, work out a blog post on your topic of interest.
- Be willing to be a helper
Someone you know may have a great idea. Offer to help. Be the kind of person who is a great supporter and helper to others. Again, the educational technology movement isn't about one person. Don't let your ego be in the way of helping others and promoting the message that needs to be heard. Offer to stream, backchannel, and be a panelist. Help people you know are doing great things with your assistance.
- Don't forget the beginner
Sure, many of us are talking about microblogging, but many teachers just want EASY things to do. Blogs, wikis, podcasts may be “old hat” to you, but to someone else, they are a cool new tool. If you're submitting multiple proposals, submit at least one for beginners. Don't be a “techno snob!”
- It is OK to present with a vendor
Adam Frey and I have presented the last two years on wikis. It has been a lot of fun and they've had to close the room for fire code reasons each time. (Next year, if accepted and Adam makes the flight, we'll see if we can find someone to ustream it.) Also, this year, I'd like to personally move on from just featuring “my” projects and show a wider variety of wikis from many different teachers.
The cool thing about doing it this way is you can let the vendor be the expert on their product and you be the expert on how you use it in their classroom. Also, by doing it this way, teachers can give feedback directly to the vendor. Wikispaces has made improvements as a direct result of feedback at NECC.
Just make sure that the vendor is open and cognizant of other choices and it doesn't become a sales pitch. Adam has always started off by acknowleding the other great companies that provide wikis and it has always served in his favor in my book. Notice, that this is also a “how to” session.
Some companies offer funding to their customers who have a proposal accepted to NECC about their product. Investigate those, and share them here if you can.
- Help them get their hands dirty
Laptop labs, hands on demonstrations, interactions with students. These are things that many of us crave.
- Don't get your hopes up
I've worked on a great preso, just to have my hopes dashed. Also, I've put one together on a whim and a prayer and it was accepted. I spend between one hour – five hours per session application and that is a lot of time to spend, but conferences like NECC succeed because so many people care enough to give their best and do a good job. They cannot take all of us, but they will take some of us. And the more teachers who apply, the better.
Always have fall back positions in case someone in your group backs out at the last minute. And don't expect them to schedule you at a convenient time. I have to pay for NECC on my nickel and the fact that they scheduled me on Monday morning and Wednesday late certainly hurt the pocketbook. This is something that I may change this year, but have no clue how to go about doing it. (I think the only way is to cancel one! ;-))
Anyway — many of you have had your proposals accepted, may be involved in evaluations, or have gone to this conference longer than I've been alive, do you mind sharing your tips?
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