At first, I wondered what this had to do with education; regardless, I was hooked. When she was done, I realized that she was there not to teach me about the humane slaughtering of cows—although I did learn a lot about that industry—but rather to show us all a beautifully woven mind. Immediately, I thought about my students with IEPs who are on the spectrum, and I wondered about their struggles. I thought about how beautiful their minds are to do this waltz to get from Point A to Point B, and I started exploring how this can translate in my teaching world.
However, being caught off guard in other ways can challenge learning and our ability to take in new information, and then process and synthesize it. Below are some of my “aha” moments and tips for newbies attending MSC to help you make the most of this amazing learning experience.
The Mobile App
How did we survive before apps? Whatever task we need to accomplish, we can find in the twitch of a nose—or the downloading of an app; Wi-Fi permitting, of course! Some apps are downloaded and quickly forgotten, but others are invaluable. The latter is the case with the MSC app.
Make sure to download the app before the conference. In this app, you can view all of the available sessions, create a schedule, connect with other attendees, view a map of the conference, and much more. The map was a welcome option for me, as I am chronically lost. Trying to find a session amidst 5,000 new friends in convention center hallways that all look the same can be overwhelming. The map alleviates that frustration. Plan your routes ahead of time, and it is smooth sailing. Even before the conference, I could make sure that I didn't set myself up for being late by choosing two sessions that were located too far apart.
Another tip: With so many great sessions and topics to choose from, having a back-up option ensures that you don’t waste a time slot if you can’t make it from one end of the conference to the other. I also love that the app stays active after the conference. I have gone back to get handouts and downloads, contact information, links to presenters’ books, and more.
Divide and Conquer
If you are fortunate enough to travel in a group, be sure to have a plan. Meet before the conference and create your schedules together. This accomplishes a few things:
- It will get your team excited about the conference.
- You will have a chance to set a goal or a focus prior to the event, which can result in more fruitful discussions post-conference.
- You can make sure your team is hitting as many different sessions as possible to return to your district with the most beneficial knowledge to help create the greatest impact.
Another idea to consider is setting up a time to meet in the evenings to share and process what was learned—new innovations, practical strategies that are easily implemented, content knowledge, and so on. Consider setting up a shared slide presentation that each member of the team can add to throughout the conference so you’ll have a starting point for delivering great PD when you get back to your district.