NCCE – Things to Know Before You Go!
The NCCE is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promote the use of technology in education. The NCCE hosts the largest technology conference in the Pacific Northwest, providing its members with training and information about the latest advances in educational technology. Next year the conference will be held in Portland Oregon, February 17th-20th at the Oregon Convention Center. There are several common features to these conferences; paid workshops, free learning sessions, vender demonstrations and displays, geocaching, and of course meeting and talking with other educators from around the region. This article will discuss various aspects of this conference, to help new members get the most out of this event.
Logistics At the Conference
In 2009 the NCCE Conference will be held in Portland. If you don’t live in the area, pre-planning is essential. Even if you do live near the conference location, the conference is a city within itself, so don’t go without a roadmap!
Who to go with? Find out who else in your district or in your peer coaching cohort is planning to attend. Save money and feel more secure by booking hotel and transportation together. Make a contact list of everyone from your district that is attending, include cell numbers as well as email addresses. You might want to call a peer to gather for dinner or to share an exciting session.
How to get there? Travelling together will build community, allow you to share resources in addition to saving money. Consider the train! Although the conference is not right by the train station, there are nearby bus routes. Portland has exceptional transit system and many downtown routes are free of charge. If you are going to drive: CARPOOL! And find out from the hotel and conference center how much they charge for daily parking. You may find it to be cost prohibitive.
Where to stay? Check the NCCE hotel prices, but check with your district office and other hotel reservation sites, you may find a better price elsewhere.
“Before you go with your peeps <YES! You should bring them>check out the sessions and think about what your peep’s goals have been so far throughout the year. Earmark those sessions then grab your peeps for a meeting before the conference. Meet in a classroom with a web connection and go through each time session… have them write down 1st and 2nd choices for each time slot. I actually went to the first session one with one of my peeps… it was good to help her generate excitement and “translate” some of the lingo.”
What to Do? Again planning is the key! Try to get to the conference and check in the night before the sessions. Get together with your cohorts and peeps to go over go over workshop and session choices. What do you want to learn? Try to have a focus. Divide and conquer! Look over the conference map to plan your session navigation. Pick 2-3 different options per session. Many fill up quickly or turn out NOT to met your needs, don’t hesitate to go to your back-up session. Be sure to go to the Keynote Speaker – it sets the tone for the conference.
“Study the course offerings carefully and talk with veterans about which speakers / presentations are worth attending. Don’t hesitate to stick around after presentations or network with other folks with like interests.”
What to Eat? The conference offers a box lunch, but what are your food needs? Some people felt that buying the lunch was a wonderful time saver. Lines at conference area restaurants can be long and food can be more expensive. Others felt that bringing your own food was a better fit for time, money and dietary needs. Whichever you decide, be sure to have some cash on hand for a quick coffee, sidewalk snack, tips or taxi rides.
What to Bring? The obvious travelling luggage and items apply of course! But since this is a tech conference you need to consider your personal technology. Camera, GPS, PDA, Laptop? Only bring what you are willing or able to lug around all day! If you are presenting, a rolling case will save you back aches.
“I had a lap top with me, but I wish I didn’t. I didn’t use it at the conference. I did use it at the hotel. It just took up space, and was heavy to carry.”
“To laptop or not to laptop. I didn’t bring one, but several times wished I had. It’s about a 50/50.”
Team and Conference Expectations
Have high expectations not only for the conference but for your peeps as well… YES! you should bring your peeps. NCCE can be both exciting and yet daunting so laying the groundwork before the conference can make a huge difference in how successful the NCCE experience will be. Take the time to think about the goals you’ve work on with your peeps and then check out the sessions online. Earmark sessions and then grab your peeps for a meeting before the conference. Set a focus or goal, explore the course offerings carefully, and write down 1st, 2nd, and even 3rd choices for each time slot. Plan to go to the first session with your peep if he or she is a bit nervous or wary of the conference. Plan for long days at the conference whether you actually stay until 5:00 everyday, set that expectation ahead of time.
You’ve made it to the conference; hear the Keynote Speaker. This will hopefully be a highlight and set the tone for the entire conference. As you attend sessions, don’t hesitate to stick around after presentations to network with presenters and other folks with common interests. Add some planning time into your day. This will give you a chance to process new information and share new ideas. Furthermore, enjoy some down time as the conference can be awe-inspiring as well as overwhelming.
One of the wonderful opportunities you have while attending NCCE is a chance to visit the exhibition hall. Here you have the chance to talk to vendors of hardware, software, Internet resources and colleges! In order to make your time in the exhibit hall productive we have a few suggestions:
Prior to attending the conference brainstorm with your peep(s) what future technology purchases you may want to make, make a list of questions you want to ask and set a goal for yourself to visit with at least X number of vendors. You may also want to make some preprinted labels (including your email) which you can attach to forms that the vendors ask you to fill out. The vendors often will scan your badge to get information about you. There are times when their badge scanners do not work or you may want to be able to give out your address or emails to people that you met.
While at the conference visit with the exhibitors, TALK TO THEM and ask your questions! Most of the vendors are quite knowledgeable and are more than willing to take time to talk to you. Often you are “rewarded” with gifts and prizes. If you see something that you are interested in having at your building, ask if they will loan a set to you to try it out. In order to navigate through the large maze of exhibitors, you may wish to start on the outside aisles first as most people tend to start in the middle or at the aisles closest to the open doors.
At the end of the conference, revisit those vendors that you made a connection with while they are packing up. Many will give away items as they don’t want to have to pack them up and take them home.
Presenting at NCCE
“Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants.” John Gardner, United States Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare 1965–1968
One of the most exciting experiences an educator can have is to be a presenter at NCCE. Don’t let it scare you off it’s exactly like being in your classroom with “larger students”. Breaking the steps down makes this an easy endeavor.
Writing the proposal:
Think about that favorite lesson, software, tools. How do you get the biggest bang for your dollar? This might be the topic you choose to share with others. Write the proposal as if it were a lesson plan. Give it a catchy title, and describe the details of what you want the learners to take away from your session. Be sure that what you describe is what you plan to teach, there is nothing more frustrating for an attendee than to go to a session and have the topic be different than what was described.
Once your proposal has been accepted:
Read over the detailed acceptance information it should be in the form of an email. The letter should have vital information such as the room number, where the equipment will need to be picked up, time you can set up and time you must be out of the room. Be sure to save all emails from NCCE, so that you can reference the information later. One week before the conference I email back one last time to be sure I have all of my room information straight and there have not been any changes.
Use Power Point, Photo Story, or some type of presentation software to share your ideas, lessons, topic to be shared. Practice what you want to say and how the presentation slides fit your verbal commentary. Don’t forget that when people get nervous they tend to speak faster- so plan for finishing early, have more that needed information to fill the 50 minute session. I used a thumb drive and a burned CD to store and carry my presentation, (knowing that if I had only used one, it would not work and I’d be stuck). Don’t forget to have lots of student samples to share. Your contact information is vital to the presentation, make a postcard with your presentation title, contact information and the URL for your website. Others will look to you for advice, follow up or sharing. They will want to know how to get you once you are back at school.
This is a wonderful opportunity to connect with teachers from all over the Northwest. If they are in your session they too have a similar interest in the topic. Your own growth will flourish as you make connections with others and pick their brains for adding to your knowledge base. (Hand out your postcards to these contacts too!)
Have Fun!! Have fun!! Have Fun!!
Don’t forget to put this on your resume.
Conclusion: Planning is the Key!
To get the most out of the NCCE, planning and communicating are the key. The more time you put into planning, the more you will get out of the conference. During the weeks after attending, it is important to debrief and revisit all those notes and brochures you gathered. It is difficult to remember everything! Taking time to sort, organize and file the information will make it available and easy to find when you need it. It might also be helpful to meet with the people you traveled with and take time to discuss what was valuable and what you would like to pursue. Of course, even with good intentions, some times all you can do is go and absorb… and that’s ok too!
Everett Public School Elementary Tech Specialist Kari,
Everett Public School Middle School Art and Technology Teacher Cynthia,
Everett Public School Elementary Science and Technology Teacher Leader Fran,
Everett Public School Elementary Tech Specialist Sandy,
Bellingham Public School 2nd and 3rd Grade Teacher Marca and
Bellingham Public School Library Media Specialist Lisa