By Dani Kennis
This article was originally published by Dani, #TheEduCal co-creator, at danikennis.com on March 23, 2016, and is cross-posted here with permission.
The thought of missing a school day or dedicating free time on the weekend to attend a conference is daunting to some educators. Many of us are used to professional development that comes in the homogeneous style of ‘sit and get’, rather than personalized PD that allows us to actively choose when, how, where and what we learn. Attending conferences has been the single most rewarding form of professional development thus far for me. Here are the most important reasons why I recommend checking out an upcoming conference.
1. Create and grow your PLN!Teaching tends to be a career that lends itself to isolation. We are in our classrooms all day and often don’t have the luxury of time or opportunities to collaborate or reflect with colleagues. Conferences allow you to network, make connections with educators and vendors, provide feedback or ask for help, meet your Twitter pals face to face, and best of all - find your tribe.
For me, that tribe is the #EdJusticeLeague: Chris Nesi, Adam Schoenbart, Stacey Lindes, AJ Bianco, and Chrissy Romano. Our group of six met at the Ednado conference last spring in New Jersey and have since kept in touch via Voxer every single day. We discuss ideas, frustrations, #eduwins, and personal aspirations or goals. Despite working in different states and at different schools, our shared goal of creating positive and productive change in education binds us all together and inspires us daily to continue striving to be the best version of ourselves possible. We inspire, create, collaborate and communicate each day, which allows me to reflect on the aspects of my practice that I want to improve and grow. I am passionate about encouraging all educators to find their tribe and connect with a core group of people that share a common vision and mindset as you.
2. Find your passion/niche!At the beginning of my teaching career, I was passionate about make an immediate and tangible impact in my school community, but I wasn’t sure of the ‘how’ or ‘what’. The first time I attended an education conference (an #EdCamp, to be exact) I immediately felt a sense of belonging; an overwhelming feeling of "Yes! This is what I am meant to do." If it isn’t innovation and educational technology that you are passionate about, try participating in Twitter chats or reading books to discover what most resonates with you. And once you find that wave of inspiration and excitement, ride it and create those bigger waves!
3. Learn about new tools!Keeping abreast of new trends and tools enables educators to create engaging and interactive lessons that focus on authentic assessments and promoting student choice and student voice. I first learned about some of my favorite tools, such as Kahoot!, TodaysMeet, the power of Google Forms, and BreakoutEDU, at education conferences. After introducing these tools to the staff and students in my school, teachers were in awe of the transformations they saw in their classes in terms of increased student engagement and motivation.
4. Rediscover Your Why!Simon Sinek’s Start With Why is easily one of my favorite TEDTalks of all time. He reminds us of the importance of focusing not on what we do, but why we do it. It is easy to become frustrated and angered by school politics, student misbehavior, and never-ending grading. Education conferences remind us why we choose to come to school everyday and deal with some of the unpleasantries of our job. I have never left a conference without feeling a deep sense of empowerment and a better understanding of my role as an educator and leader. As we interact with educators with whom we share common goals and visions, we are reminded that even though we might not work in the same building, we are working towards the same purpose.
Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why
5. Free goodies!Depending on which conferences you go to, you are in for a real treat in terms of freebies! First let’s talk about everyone’s favorite freebie - The food! From crispy bacon, to multi-berry waffles and savory Panera sandwiches, educators and conference planners absolutely understand that food is love, and that great good is brain fuel for a day of extended learning. In addition to food, many vendors attend conferences which is a great opportunity to connect with #edtech companies. They often give away stickers, products, pens, T-shirts, stress balls, and other goodies.
Almost time for @shareski and @KleinErin at #LHRICTLI. But first....BACON!!!! @jenniferacronk pic.twitter.com/DiCrGAzlhm— Jesse Lubinsky (@jlubinsky) January 22, 2016
Let’s keep growing and learning together! I hope to connect with my PLN at future education conferences, and I hope that you find and grow with your tribe!
Dani is a high school Special Education Social Studies teacher and Technology Coach in the New York suburbs. She is also a Level 2 Google Certified Educator and co-founder of The Education Calendar. Her blended classroom incorporates the use of Google Apps for Education as well as other Web 2.0 tools in order to prepare her students to be successful 21st century learners in a global community. She blogs about her work and teaching at DaniKennis.com and would love to connect on Twitter.