Everything You Need To Know About ISTE

| By Tatyana Dvorkin, Associate Director of the DigitalJLearning Network

ISTE 2017 is almost here! If this is your first ISTE, or even your second or third, such a huge event can be overwhelming. Last year, close to 20,000 educators and corporate representatives attended the conference. Each of the four conference days is filled to the brim with hundreds of sessions including lectures, BYOD (bring your own device), and hands-on workshops. The expo hall boasts over 500 company booths with thousands of industry reps. The basic gist is - this is a BIG conference. But have no fear! There is some basic prep-work you can do to be ready and get through ISTE without complete exhaustion.


First things first, you must have a packing list. The last thing you want to be doing with so much learning and excitement around is rushing around downtown Philly looking for a store that sells headphones like I did at another conference. So here are some ISTE packing list essentials:

  1. Comfortable but presentable clothes. No need for business suits, the ISTE crowd chooses practicality over fashion, so make sure you wear shoes and clothes you feel comfortable walking and standing in.
  2. Bring a sweater. Light layers are encouraged because the conference centers can be overzealous with the AC.

  3. Business cards so you can network to your heart’s content.

  4. Aspirin/Advil/Acetaminophen. The visual and mental stimulation is great fun, but combined with dry AC air it’s likely to cause a headache.

    Water bottles
    Bring a waterbottle!

  5. A refillable water bottle. It’s good for the environment and will prevent you from having to stand in line every time you get thirsty. Hydrating also helps you avoid the headache mentioned above.

  6. Snacks. A few granola bars or some almonds will keep you energized when you don’t have time for a full meal between sessions.

  7. Chargers for everything. Your laptop, tablet, and phone all need their buddies the chargers!

  8. A large tote or laptop bag to carry all these goodies!

  9. Bonus: power strip, post-it flags, a highlighter, gum or mints, pen, Downy Wrinkle Release, hand lotion, antibacterial wipes, comfy clothes for when you’re back in your room.

Organize with Evernote!

Choose one place for all your notes. As the DigitalJLearning Network we are partial to a digital tool, as these prevent lost papers and can be accessed virtually. Evernote is a great tool available on PCs, Macs, iOS and Droid OS. Evernote lets you take notes, snap photos and record videos during sessions, and syncs them all across any device where you have installed Evernote. For example, you can take pictures of all the business cards you get and Evernote will store them for you AND make the text searchable, simplifying your life. It’s important to have a strategy for keeping track of all the great things you see and people you meet, or a whole lot of amazing opportunities can get lost in the shuffle. It needn’t be Evernote in particular, but make sure you find something that works for you.

Pre-plan your days, but be ready to be flexible! Check out the online program in advance and compile a preliminary list of interesting sessions using the online ISTE Conference Planner.

The program search allows you to look through the many sessions and sort them by day, topic, audience, and experience level - a huge help when trying to ascertain what will be the most useful for you to see. You can sync the planner to your personal calendar by clicking on the Export Planner link. Don’t forget to take a look at the Expo exhibitors as well. Then you can pre-plan your time with the interactive map.

Remember, some sessions fill up very fast, so it’s always a good idea to have a second choice session on the backburner. If you can’t get in to your first choice, do not worry, there are so many amazing presenters at this conference that you are bound to find something exciting. You never know where your next big takeaway is going to come from!

Finally, you have arrived! Plains, trains, and automobiles have brought you to ISTE, you’ve checked in to the conference, but what’s next?! Here are a few things to remember:

  1. Less is more! Avoid the temptation of overscheduling yourself simply because everything sounds so interesting! Don’t schedule more than two back-to-back sessions at once. You will hear so much and learn so many exciting new things, you will need time to process them and breathe for a few minutes. Don’t burn yourself out.

  2. Divide and conquer! If you are there with colleagues, go to different sessions and then make sure to exchange ideas afterwards. Perhaps even use an online document to keep track of conference notes, like Google Docs or a Dropbox folder. If you’re the only one coming from your school, buddy up with someone of similar interests at the first DJLN dinner. We will also start up a folder for idea exchange to facilitate this so you would be able to share your notes with others if you wanted to.

  3. Talk to strangers! Whether you are pausing to charge your iPhone or grabbing a bite, take the opportunity to speak with those around you. You will be swimming in a sea of like-minded educators from all different walks of life and all kinds of schools. You never know whom you will meet or what kind of exciting projects you can learn about or even partner on in the future.

  4. Have a few minutes? Wander the Expo and the Poster Session space. Both of these will give you a chance to get the lay of the land, learn about new EdTech tools, and hear about projects going on in schools around the world, all at your own pace.

    Stay connected with Twitter!

  5. Be empowered by social media. Twitter and the ISTE hashtag #ISTE17 will let you keep up with some fascinating #edtech and #edchat conversations going on at the conference. Not on Twitter? Try it out!

  6. Use the buddy system. At some point you will undoubtedly find yourself tired, overwhelmed, and wandering around the conference center trying to figure out what to do next. For these times, have a buddy on call or text a colleague. Taking a few minutes with a friendly face to grab a coffee or a bite, decompress, and relax is always a good way to get reenergized before your next session.

  7. A side-note for my fellow introverts! ISTE will push you to your limits, but is also the perfect opportunity to get you out of your shell. The conference is wonderful and the opportunity to meet great educators is not one you should pass up. Make sure to schedule yourself a few quiet breaks to recharge and then jump in and try to talk to strangers! It might be tough at first, but I promise, magic will happen.


This post is updated annually for the ISTE Conference.