This year my company sent me to iNACOL for one main purpose: to experience iNACOL. Although I helped setup and maintain our booth on the exhibitor floor and represented my company through social media, I was there to see what all the buzz was about. Last year I got to be a part of designing our booth and seeing it come to life, and I led our marketing meetings regarding all things iNACOL, but attending was an entirely different experience. I wasn’t there to talk to customers or potential customers, and I also wasn’t there as a school representative. So I just soaked it all in, from the sunshine in Palm Springs, California, to all of the conversations happening around me. I was a breakout session attendee and a people watcher. Here are a few things I learned from my experience:
Communication is key.
Because I am not a teacher or a curriculum director, a lot of the sessions did not directly apply to my field. So I looked for sessions that had to do with the ed tech industry as a whole. I attended “Finding, Trying, and Buying: Insights From a National Ed-tech Purchasing Study.” In a nut shell, this breakout session pointed out that there are pain points not only from districts looking to purchase, but also from vendors who work with the bid requirements. They underscored that communication is extremely necessary. Districts that have to choose a vendor become overwhelmed with the amount of information they are presented with, and vendors become overwhelmed with the process.
This goes right along with a new study done by Digital Promise entitled “Improving Ed-Tech Purchasing.” It’s definitely worth a look.
Buzzwords are not implementation.
Keynote speakers are great. They inspire the crowd, they speak from experience, and they put that extra pep in your step as you rush to the next breakout session on the other side of the convention center. But advice given to me from my mom, as well as something that I learned at this conference, is that “talk is cheap.” We can talk about education reform, we can throw around words like “blended learning” and “project-based learning,” but in the end, how is this being implemented? It isn’t about the “what,” it is about the “how.” Administrators and teachers want to see students prepared for twenty-first century careers, but the question is how do they implement the tools that are out there? If a school purchases a product, how does that play out in the classroom?
Everyone likes ice cream.
If you weren’t racing from a keynote speaker to a session, you had the opportunity to wander the exhibit hall. And one day, they served ice cream out of one of those top-sliding fridges you would see at a gas station, filled with everything from ice cream bars to Drumsticks. I even had a complete stranger come up to me and ask, “Excuse me, I was wondering if you could tell me…where did you get that ice cream from?” Ice cream brings people together, and this is just a way of reminding you to have fun. Inspirational speakers, and especially student panels, will remind you why you do what you do, whether you are a vendor or a teacher, but so will stopping for a moment to take it all in. It may seem silly, but ice cream filled the exhibit hall, everyone was talking, and all things ed tech were open for discussion.
Did you attend #iNACOL14? I would love to hear about your experience.