Wednesday, November 27, 2013

#NYSCATE13 - A Conference that Knows How to Make IT Happen!

I've attended a lot of conferences. Some nail it like EdCamps and EduCon, and others leave something to be desired.  When it comes to throwing a worthwhile conference, NYSCATE is one that knows how to make it happen.   I had the privilege to meet and canoodle with innovative educators at this year’s NYSCATE in Rochester and here are a few of my favorite things about what this conference did right.

How NYSCATE Makes IT Happen!

Making social media happen

Lisa Nielsen impressed by all that is going on in the social media kiosk.

Coffee with a Geek
Geeky Ed Tech educator Andy Wheelock @Spiffwhitfield held court at the social media kiosk where he was on hand to get a behind the scenes look at what goes on at NYSCATE. He did this my interviewing presenters, speakers, and participants to find capture the pulse of the conference. You can check out his videos here.

Social Media Camp
All those interested in learning more about or sharing how to leverage social media in powerful ways were invited to join this informal session.
Finally. A conference that gets social media right. The area was manned with social media chairpersons who included gurus @ransometech and @JenLaubscher who were on hand to help get folks going or keep them engaged.

Here are some of the ways they did that:

Hashtag #NYSCATE13
Not to be taken lightly, #NYSCATE13 was consistent with the sharing of their hashtag promoting it in brochures, on posters, on their website, in sessions, and more.   

Cheat sheets
Steve Ransom made these awesome cheat sheets for folks who wanted to know a little more about Twitter. They were there for all interested, to take away for anytime/anywhere learning.  You can find them on his blog here. Topics were:

NYSCATE13 Eventfier

Wow. I had never seen this tool before, and it’s FANTASTIC. It’s a one stop shop for all social media made specifically for events. The site shares what’s popular as well as all videos, Tweets, blog posts, photos, slides AND it tells you who top contributors are. You can also check out all contributions by any contributor. You can see what mine look like here. Check out the site at

Note: It is not free, but prices start at $49 per event. Seems worth the savings in time to me.
Make aways

Winnie Bracco and Lisa Nielsen learn how to make circuit-powered, Mardi Gras Masks.
Make aways
This year “making” is hot. The big make-away at #NYSCATE13 was "making" itself with folks at the helm like Invent to Learn author Sylvia Martinez and ed tech director/STEAM educator Jim Tiffin Jr. and his children. A highlight was the DIY happy hour where attendees could pick a table and get to work at being as creative as they'd like with circuitry and conductors. My colleague and I made flashy masks after a brief demo and explanation from Jim's daughter.

I also attended Sylvia Martinez's session on making where she shared that "School was sucking the souls out of many children and making was helping to save them." She talked about how we schoolize things like the wonder of circuitry with a kit containing a piece of wood and battery. The process of getting it to light is broken down for the kids, they follow directions, and go on to the next thing 45 minutes later. She challenged us to do better and work to make time for things like making and programming as well as find homes for it within the curriculum.
Making it feel like a family

Ready for the Mardi Gras Bash.
I’ve heard people complain that some conferences feel too cliquey, like high school where there’s an “in crowd.”

With CEO and Executive Director of NYSCATE, Amy Perry-Delcorvo at the helm, NYSCATE is different. She is sort of the NYSCATE mama and as a result there is a real feel of family and inclusion. Perry-Delcorvo can be overheard as she moves around the conference ensuring everything is just right asking, “How are you? Can I get you anything? Are you happy? If you aren’t, come to me and I’ll address whatever issues that arise.” And she means it.

The attitude is contagious. As you look around it is not surprising to see a lot of sincere hugging and offers of outreach and support among the members.  A key to conference success.

Making fitness happen

Lisa Nielsen, Winnie Bracco, Celine Azoulay - Post Zumba.
Attendees had a choice of Zumba or a 5K run. We Zumba’d in a class led by a fabulous instructor who is also a fourth grade teacher.  

My only wish was that they had a few more group fitness options.  This was a fun and healthy way to start the day.

Making IT happen award

Winning the “Making it Happen” Award!

Recipients are educators who:
  1. Apply available technology now.
  2. Move forward and don't look back.
  3. See students as real people.
  4. Teach through relationships, inspiring, encouraging, nurturing.
  5. Recognize that further change is necessary but understand that it is a process.
  6. Realize that teacher empowerment is the key element in technology integration.
  7. Expect success.
  8. Motivate through awareness and access to information.
I had the great pleasure to join some amazing “Making IT Happen” award alumni (including former colleagues Celine Azoulay & Winnie Bracco) at the conference when to my shock and delight I was surprised by being named as a recipient of the award.  

Making IT Happen is an internationally recognized awards program for educators and leaders in the field of educational technology integration in K–12 schools. The program identifies and rewards educational technology leaders around the world for their commitment and innovation.

Having the courage to stand behind ideas that have not always been popular (i.e. empowering educator and student voice with social media, BYOD, and many more) often is not looked upon favoraby. That is why it was such a delight to be recognized for some of the very things that have not been received with open arms in the past.  A sign of a shift? I hope so.

The award has eight powerful criteria which are listed to the left. I am honored to receive an award recognizing qualities I find so essential for educators to embody to enable us to support student success.

#NYSCATE13 made IT happen for me. What makes IT happen for you when you attend a conference?  

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