Why You Should Be Attending EdTech Conferences

Adam Heckler is a twenty-something Cincinnati, Ohio local working in the education technology sector. Most of his time is spent at VARtek Services where he writes for the blog, manages social media, and advises K12 s

In the few years I’ve been participating in the education technology world, I’ve noticed a trend that seems all too common: we are absolutely head-over-heels in love with social media, and that’s a bad thing.

Don’t get me wrong, social media sites like Twitter, Ning, and Facebook have a variety of useful purposes like sharing ideas, expressing insightful thoughts, and telling our best jokes, but that shouldn’t be where our edtech community stops. We may be widely spread geographically, but actually taking the time to occasionally meet face-to-face has benefits that tweeting will simply never confer.

This is why I attended the ISTE conference in San Diego last week, to see the very best the education technology community has to offer up close and in person.

San Diego

Besides being located in sunny southern California this year, ISTE has the advantage of being one of the largest edtech conferences in existence. The sessions and workshops available ranged widely in topic, from how to secure your Facebook privacy settings to best practices that schools were using during their transition to 1:1 or BYOD programs.

Here are some things I did at ISTE that I may not have had the chance to do otherwise:

  • Discussed federal funding of schools with U.S. Representative Duncan D. Hunter
  • Swapped in-depth article, book, and research ideas with other prospective ISTE authors
  • Talked with high-level engineers behind 1:1 and BYOD initiatives at other schools
  • Helped other edtech folks manage their social media settings and privacy controls
  • Went to the beach!

So as you can see, getting to go to a conference has a multitude of perks. It can also be overwhelming though. There are so many sessions to attend and exhibitors to visit! I’m sure my Evernote account wasn’t the only one that exploded with dozens of new notes this past week. :-)


That’s not to say that ISTE 2012 was the perfect conference or anything. In my (humble) opinion, there was still a lot of room for improvements. For example, there were simply far too many interesting sessions to choose from. Maybe it was just me, but I found myself deciding between two or three different sessions in many of the time slots.

You could say this is simply an indicator of the quality of the material, but my second criticism is that I found more than a few sessions lacking in substance. It seems like the quality of the sessions should have been better, simply because ISTE is the premier edtech conference.

That said, it was definitely worth the price of admission (and the delayed plane flights). I’d highly recommend going to next years conference in San Antonio if you can.

San Diego Harbor

If it’s your first time going, be sure to use the conference planner feature to help plot out which sessions you’d like to participate in. You can find additional sessions by searching the program or simply by browsing the listings.

Don’t forget to also schedule some down-time for yourself. As interesting as the latest developments in education technology can be, you will definitely need a mental and physical break after walking around the conference center for a few days.


Let us know in the comments if you attended this year! We’d appreciate hearing your thoughts on the conference and if you’ll be back in 2013.


[Photos and ISTE logo courtesy of ISTE 2012 conference website.]

Feature image courtesy of Flickr, Wesley Fryer