5 Ways to Get Ready for Forum

Sabba Quidwai, an Apple Distinguished Educator and the director of innovative learning for the University of Southern California’s PA program, offers a few tips ahead of next week’s Education Forum in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter at @AskMsQ or visit her website

Conferences are a great opportunity for professional growth and networking. A time to take a few days to engage in the learning and sharing of ideas. As the annual 2015 PAEA Education Forum approaches, here are five ways to make the most of your experience.

1. Prioritize

Throughout the year we come across lots of great ideas and wish we had more time to dedicate to them. Conferences are a great opportunity to come back to these concepts. Before leaving home, make a list of your top priorities (just make sure you are open enough to enjoy the surprise topics, too).

2. Do Your Homework

Now that you have identified some of your learning goals, browse the program guide and see what topics peak your interest. Do you know the speakers? Are multiple people speaking on the same topic? Are there two sessions happening at the same time on two different topics that you want to learn about? Plan accordingly. The calendar app on your smartphone or tablet can help you schedule the sessions you want to attend. Plan a backup just in case the session you want to attend is full or not quite what you expected. As you mark events in the calendar, note the day, time, and room number so that you have all of that information at your fingertips. 

3. Think Digital

During education sessions, take advantage of the opportunity to learn about how your peers and colleagues are implementing new tools and strategies. While you may be accustomed to relying on a notepad and pen, this could be a chance to explore some digital note-taking apps like Evernote or Notability. No need to carry around heavy, bulky items or risk your hand cramping. Instead, you can record the audio right into the app on your mobile device. And you won’t have to worry about missing a thing.

You can also use the text or pen feature in the apps  to write down key ideas or contact information for the speaker in case you have questions. In addition, you can capture images directly from the apps to save into your note, allowing you to have a multimedia-rich summary of your session to share with colleagues.

Check out my YouTube videos to learn more about Evernote and Notability.

Feeling even more adventurous? Try your hand at sketchnoting with Paper53. This is truly a wonderful way to visually represent the newly introduced concepts. If you don’t want to do it during the session, consider writing your ideas down and creating sketchnotes as you reflect upon your learning afterward.

4. Tweet

Now that you have gathered lots of great information and met some great people, how can you further enhance your experience? Social media is key to building upon your professional learning network. Tools like Twitter allow you to continue the community experience once everyone has returned to their prospective programs. This graphic gives you the basics of Twitter.

Twitter basic tips

Begin by creating a profile and adding an image.

You’ll need to follow 5 people or organizations to begin. Here are some ideas:
@PAEA, @AskMsQ, @iPadEducators, @EdTechTeacher21 @AAPAorg. From here you can practice writing your first tweet.

It may look something like this:
“Looking forward to my first Twitter experience at #PAEA15”

You may get a response! The response may look something like:
.@username we look forward to you joining us this year #PAEA15

What is #PAEA15? It’s the hashtag created for the conference by PAEA. Anyone having a conversation about the 2015 Education Forum can see all the messages using that hashtag because this unique tag allows users to search that theme. Using the conference hashtag is a great way to read about what other people are experiencing at the conference and never miss a moment because you will see it pop up on your feed.

Furthermore, it is a great place to build your professional learning network. By using the hashtag, not only will you be networking with people who are there at the conference, but you’ll be sharing information with all the people who are not able to attend, because they are following the hashtag and waiting for updates. There is all sorts of content that you can share with the community — including quotes and photos. Just don’t forget to add the hashtag to each tweet you send.

5. Develop the Gift of Gab

Last but not least, some of the most memorable learning that takes place at a conference happens during the hallway discussions — reflecting on a session and discussing thoughts with colleagues. This is a great opportunity to discover who might be interested in collaborating on a project, who might have experience in a certain area, and who may be able to provide valuable insight on a topic.  Don’t be shy, just jump in. The whole idea of a conference is meeting people you don’t know and growing your professional network.

Safe travels and don’t forget to share your learning!