It’s only been Monday but the tweets are flying fast and furious! It can be hard to keep up if you’re at the conference, let alone if you’re trying to follow along at home (or, even more challenging, at work!). Everyone has their ideas about who you should follow or if you should set up additional backchannels to have divergent conversations and, to be sure, the Getting Smart Twitter feed is a good one. Many presenters will also tweet out aggregate links, such as this one from the Google Academy that took place today.

Taking a step back, however, here are three things everyone can pick up from the nation’s second-largest edtech conference:  

1. Tools, Resources, and Apps

Probably the most popular use of Twitter conference hashtags is to share the “stuff” shared by presenters. Learn about what’s trending in other classrooms and find new tools to try with your classes. In my own personal learning journey, this is how I’ve learned about resources like Flubaroo,  Prezi,  Haiku DeckRemind101, and many others that are now staples in tech-infused classrooms. To be sure, TCEA has no shortage of presentations whose sole focus is sharing new apps and websites with participants. A word of caution, though: don’t go to a presentation just to see what apps they’re using; pay attention to how they’re using them. This leads us to the second takeaway: ideas.

2. Ideas

TED Talks have become internationally famous with their tagline “Ideas Worth Spreading.” As it turns out, TED doesn’t have the corner market on ideas. TCEA is full of them and you can find them tweeted out with the #tcea14 hashtag. The overwhelming majority of TCEA presenters are classroom teachers and facilitators, sharing their best practices with you. For them, it isn’t about the apps, it’s about what the apps can do and the learning it can facilitate. Think about the structure of what folks are doing and consider how it could be applied to your own classroom. Take, for example, the following tweet about failure,


Or this tweet below about using Google Books to archive learning-

 

These educators have resources, sure, but they also have ideas about how conferences can be idea incubators. They look not just for “what” but “how.” The best conferences, though, don’t just have a few folks sharing, they have created an entire culture of sharing.

3. People

As you flip through the hashtag, downloading apps and bookmarking sites, take a minute to connect with the people at the conference. You might be at the convention center itself or in Thailand. The beauty of social media in 2014 is that you don’t have be in the same place to connect with someone. Some of my best friends live thousands of miles away, a relationship fostered solely through social media and the person on the other end of the tweets. Don’t look at how many Twitter followers they have as your sole metric; you’ll miss out on some really great educators sharing their #eduwins as well as their struggles, not to mention it’s a lot easier to connect with someone that has 300 followers compared to 30,000. So don’t be shy and start building your personal learning network. Think about what they’re sharing as well as how they’re implementing it and you’ll soon discover why conferences can really be so valuable.

 

Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 9.46.15 AMGreg Garner is currently an Educational Technologist at Eanes ISD in Austin, TX and is our “teacher blogger on location” for the week- covering all the great events, sessions and learning happening at the TCEA Conference.  Follow him on Twitter at @classroom_tech and find him at the conference to say hi in person.

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