making connections

VSTE 2016: Connections & Connected Educators

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A group of us from the 1st Connected Educator session.

Connecting with other educators is one of my big passions, especially when it comes to conferences. I often end up going by myself, so I love having people that I can meet up with and talk to that I’ve spent the past year following and conversing with online. I wasn’t attending VSTE alone like I typically do with WVSTC, but I knew that I would spend much of my time away from my colleagues except for evening. We had a lot of different interests and we handle different things when it comes to being an ITRT, so we split our time wisely.

One thing I loved about VSTE and was looking forward to was the Connected Educator pop-up sessions. This was new to me because WVSTC doesn’t have anything like it. I’m going to see if I can get something like it going though this summer. I made some calls. More on that later if things work out. These Connected Educator sessions were led by Margaret Sisler (@Techy_Margaret) and Tamara Letter (@HCPS_TinyTech). You should certainly give those two ladies a follow if you don’t already follow them! Unlike a typical conference session, these were very laid back. Folks could pop in and meet up. They could add their Twitter handles to a chart that would later be tweeted out. If someone didn’t know about Twitter or how to use it to connect to Twitter, all they had to do was ask and their wish was granted.

During VSTE, this session was offered once per day, and at different times to try to catch as many different folks as possible. I was able to attend 2 of the 3 sessions, and meet other ITRTs. I ended up with quite a few new followers, and I still haven’t yet gone through the list to add folks from the sessions to my Twitter feed. I handed out some of my business cards along the way so that I could connect with people beyond Twitter.

Beyond this session, I found other educators to talk to and connect with. Some were technology folks, but others were teachers from all walks and grade bands. Everyone had a story to share, and it was nice to be able to hear them all! These connections rejuvenated me and my passions for instructional technology. Without connections, these conferences wouldn’t be nearly as fun to attend.

Building connections at conferences is a great way to find colleagues with similar interests, subjects, and grade bands. It can be really hard to find new folks, but they are out there. There are many friendly faces who would love to connect. One just has to reach out and try talking to someone. It is easier if there’s a session or meetup that encourages this though.

I ended up with 28 new followers by the time VSTE ended, and all but a few of those were VSTE related. I have new feeds and ideas appearing on my Tweetdeck, and I love it. I cannot wait to see what WVSTC brings this year with my connected educator group there. Don’t let anyone tell you that making connections like these or using Twitter is pointless. Without my crew of fellow educators to gather inspiration and knowledge from, I wouldn’t be the ITRT I am today!

Recap: VSTE 2016

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The view from my hotel room. I hated that the weather was crappy because I would have loved to walk the beach one morning!

This year I had the pleasure to attend my very first VSTE (Virginia Society for Technology Education) conference. It was a much bigger conference than attending WVSTC, and I am so glad I got to attend. There are quite a few things I want to discuss in relation to the things that I attended at VSTE and what I learned, but I first wanted to start with a general overview and recap of my few days at the conference. This was the first conference I wasn’t presenting at, so it was nice to simply sit back and attend everything and not have to worry about finishing up the final touches on a presentation. I was joined by my two fellow ITRTs from my district, which was great because I had people to hang with on my downtime.

This year’s VSTE was held in Virginia Beach at the Virginia Beach Convention Center from December 4-6. It started mid-morning on Sunday and ran until mid-afternoon on the 6th. Attendees had a variety of sessions to choose from each hour. Some of these sessions were pop-ups in the hallways, and others were hands-on demonstrations. There was the exhibit hall of course, and plenty of good food around and about. Perhaps the only big downside to the conference was the horrible internet. It was very hard to find connection that was decent. Even the presenters had a lot of issues. Hopefully changes will be made so it’s not that way next year. I’m certainly spoiled by how well the internet runs at WVSTC!

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Me the very first day of the conference!

One of my biggest goals for this conference was to make connections with VA folks. I know I’ve really built up my connections when it comes to my WV colleagues, but not so much with my VA ones. I haven’t really had the chance to attend something that would allow me to, until now. I made sure to attend the pop-up Connected Educator meetups that were held. I only missed the last day due to another session running that I had wanted to attend. I definitely made new connections and passed out a good many copies of my business card. It’s gotten to the point where I need to consider redesigning my lists on Twitter as well.

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A large group of us from the very first Connected Educator meetup. I saw many of these folks often over the course of the conference.

One of the big things with this conference is the collection of ribbons for one’s badge. I got lucky and ended up gathering quite a few, though mine was definitely not the longest. Mine nearly touches the floor though. It’s just a fun way to add interest to the badge I suppose. Of course, the first one on mine was my Twitter handle badge. Obviously that’s one of the most important!

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My badge. I only gathered 1 more ribbon after this 🙂

VSTE of course isn’t only focused on learning. There’s also fun to be had as well! There was the vendor reception, which hosted live music and snack foods. Later on we had a karaoke and casino night. There happened to be a photo booth there as well so one of my colleagues and I had some fun with that.

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A group of attendees at the vendor reception. I believe they were dancing to Wobble

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Fellow ITRT and I being goofballs

Look for more updates on VSTE. I do plan to update on the new things I’ve learned about social media, professional development, and Minecraft world building.