Takeaways from TCEA 2019

After three solid days of "conferencing" in San Antonio, I am happy to be able to spend a bit of time reflecting, processing, and synthesizing a few things learned.


I think it's important to have a plan or system for how to collect and share conference resources with teammates, colleagues and others. Of course, the use of collaborative Google Docs or Slides is a go-to for many of us. I've recently started implementing outline mode in my digital note-taking, and I hope the headings and subheadings will make the massive document a bit easier to manage.

Of course, I had Tweetdeck going for TCEA, but our group also created a Twitter hashtag, #R10atTCEA. It wasn't used as much as I would have liked, but I loved that others in Region 10 contributed to this hashtag, too.

A new favorite curation tool is Wakelet, and just last month, they announced the feature of collaborative Wakelets, so I thought it would be fun to try out that tool with colleagues at the service center. (Here's a post from Matt Miller that shares more ideas to use collaborative collections.) We had 9 colleagues attend the conference, and several of us posted in our #R10atTCEA wakelet (and I hope others will continue adding to it next week.)

John Bimmerle, a TCEA area director, took curation and Wakelet to the next level, and I loved this idea! He facilitated Solution Circles throughout TCEA, and he created a collaborative Wakelet for every single session AND made them public so we can see all of the session ideas and notes!
I'm always a bit bummed when presenters don't share their slides/resources, but that only happened a couple of times during this conference. Something new that I would like to adapt is a "condensed" version of the slides. I attended a 3-hour workshop from Mandy Froehlich, and instead of sharing her entire slide deck, she gave us a condensed version of organized resources. She used the same template as her original slide deck, but included only slides of the key definitions and resources. Her presentation slides were colorful and more detailed, and this small deck was mostly grey. I thought this was a great idea because it allowed us to focus on her content, but when necessary, we could click links for activities or additional resources.


The conversations in the hallways are often the most valuable! For an introvert, it is always a push for me to strike up conversations with strangers, but that was a goal that I met this year. (I even had a conversation with two other educators while waiting in line to board the plane home.) Now that I've worked at the service center for 3.5 years, the conference felt like a mini-reunion, and I ran into former colleagues and people from districts all over Region 10.
One glaring takeaway: when facilitating an extended workshop and expect interactions (i.e. "turn-and-talk" activities) take time at the beginning of the presentation for introductions. I think I always remember to do that, but when it's absent during a session, I feel it's sorely needed.

I have now volunteered at several conferences, and I think this will be a must-do for me for all future events. Not only is it a way to connect with other educators, but I feel it's a very small way to give back to all of those who worked to put on this massive event! I had a great time greeting people at check-in, and helping in the Google teaching theater is always a learning experience.

During my sessions, I was also on the lookout for content that might be interesting for others in our group. By using Twitter, it was easy to tag colleagues when I found resources that might connect with their subject area (even if it wasn't applicable to me.)
And as a bonus to show how connections help me, I heard about Tony Vincent's "Random Reflection Generator" during a session and posted that on Twitter. Someone in my PLN shared the blog post from Tony about how to create the prompts, and he then shared the script he used to make his own! (Don save me so much time on my weekend coding project!)

And speaking of reflections...my third huge takeaway from TCEA...


After several days of learning-overload, it's so important for me to process and reflect. One new thing I tried this year was to create a separate document for singular ideas and reflections. I kept one document of session content notes (resources, links, summaries, etc.) but when I experienced something that I wanted to use for my own work, I added that idea to a different document of "Random Ideas." When I saw an interesting way to format slides, start a session, survey question, or prompt, I added that to my other document. I hope this will be helpful with future work.

I'm also fortunate to work with a colleague who likes to "convention" like I do. After a full-day at the conference, I'm ready to get a super early dinner and then go back to the quiet of my room...and she wants exactly the same! Our dinners were very work related though, and we spent the majority of the time sharing ideas and information we experienced and discovered throughout the day.

I was also determined this year to find the good in every session or experience. In the past, I sometimes left sessions feeling like I just lost an hour of precious time, so this year, I was on the lookout for even the smallest takeaways. Armed with that mindset, I got something from every session. When I was completely unimpressed, I didn't feel guilty about sneaking out of the back...and my takeaway was to be extremely thoughtful to make certain my session description matches the content of my session.

My final thought and goal was to reflect and blog ASAP, and voila! (I've been home less than 24-hours, and I have this new post!) As a bonus, I attended a session with Lisa Johnson on Notable Note-Taking, and I've been a fan of her digital/analog notes, so I'm trying something I've admired in her work...my sketchnote of take-aways, along with a Thinglink.

Conference learning is powerful in so many ways! These days, I don't think I should expect (or want) to walk away from conferences with tools; instead, my head is full of ideas to try.

Always learning...