Last year, I attended my first Spring CUE Conference in Palm Springs. Although I had heard about the spring conference for several years prior to my first attending, I didn’t know what it was really about until I stood there in the lobby of the convention center last year, soaking it all in. To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement. As a newly minted Technology TOSA, I was excited to be there, to brush up on critical EdTech pedagogy, to learn about new tools and cool things teachers are doing in their classrooms with tech, and to network with other educators who were standing there along side me, for the very same reasons.

Now, the Spring CUE Conference has been around for a while (42 years, in fact) and I am not the first person to write a “know before you go” piece. But I thought that I would share some of the tidbits I gleaned from last year’s event, in case you’re on the fence about going…and to maybe relieve some of your anxiety about attending this big conference.

PACK SNACKS AND WATER

You’ll likely be at the convention center for most of the day, or at one of the hotels hosting sessions. There are not many areas within the convention center to get food and the food that is available for purchase in the quad (grass) area of the convention center can get expensive pretty quickly. Pack some snacks and bring a refillable water bottle – you’ll thank me later.

TALK TO THE VENDORS

I know that at most of the conferences that I attend, I try to stear clear of vendors – especially the pushy ones trying to sell you something. But Spring CUE has a diversified vendor set-up and most understand that teachers (for the most part) don’t have deep pockets and won’t try to push products at you…unless you ask for it. Plus, most are eager to give you goodies just for stopping to talk to them for a minute.

GO TO THE EVENTS AND MEET & GREETS

Remember those vendor “goodies” I talked about above? Some of the EdTech companies that are exhibiting at the convention center offer meet and greet dinners for educators to come eat, drink and make merry over EdTech. It’s a wonderful opportunity to sit down in a casual setting and talk and network with other educators. I attended a dinner hosted by TextHelp last year and got to meet some really cool people from the company, as well as other educators outside of my district. Plus, the free food and drink wasn’t such a bad takeaway.

PICK A THEME

One of the recommendations I received last year before attending the conference was to “pick a theme.” This recommender told me that I should pick a theme – something that I was interested in, wanted to learn more about, or something I wanted to try in my classroom – and try to pick sessions under that theme that were similar. Last year I picked sessions that involved G-Suite tools I wanted to learn more about (like, Google Drawings) and sessions that emphasized creativity in the classroom.

TAKE A TIME OUT

For a first time conference goer (and even for those of us returning), the conference can be overwhelming. There is SO much to do and see and attend. You can (and probably will) get swept up in the excitement of it all. Remember, though – you don’t need to go to EVERY session. You don’t need to go to ALL of the meet-ups you’ve been invited to. You will want to slow down, take a breath, and just savor the opportunity that you have three days in the glorius desert town of Palm Springs with 5,000 other educators who are there for the same reasons you are. Talk with them! Network, learn, and get inspired.

DRIVING DISCOUNTS

Last year, the CUE event app offered discounts for those using Lyft to go back and forth between their hotels and the convention center. This was incredibly helpful and much cheaper than paying the money to park in the parking lot adjacent to the convention center. We used the app about twice a day and it was super cheap when everyone in our group had a discount code that we could use between us.

DIVE IN

Don’t get hung up on trying to take notes during your sessions. If the session presenter carves out time for you to dig in and explore, use that time! There’s nothing worse than attending a session, getting excited about whatever the presenter is talking about, and then having those good intentions go to the wayside come Monday morning. Try the tool, play, ask questions. As a presenter, there’s nothing more enjoyable to me than seeing my session attendees get excited about what I’m presenting about – and then start playing with and exploring it right there in our session. You’ll be more likely to use the material in your classroom if you have the chance to get hands-on with it while you learn about it.

ALL THE STICKERS

If I can recommend one “must do” activity, it’s the Sticker Swap – coordinated by EdTech TOSA Jody Green. I participated in it last year and it was another great, casual opportunity to network and talk with other educators over something I’ve been obsessed with since I was a kid – STICKERS! (Like really…who would turn down the opportunity to get FREE sticker swag?!) Come talk to other educators, swap stickers and share stories!

ASK QUESTIONS

Don’t be afraid to ask questions! CUE sets up their registration booths in the lobby of the convention center and they have an information desk (manned by CUE staffers) if you have questions, need help with something, or want to know more about something being offered. There are also information desks in the halls of the convention center manned by convention center employees for logistical questions. In addition, return attendees are eager to help CUE-bies out – most are eager to be helpful and make sure that your experience is as enjoyable as it can be.

And now, a shameless little plug for our (my awesome co-presenter Angela Barnett) sessions this year – if you want to talk more EdTech, connect, network and get some sweet sticker swag…check out our sessions below.

“Flipgrid as a Formative Assessment for Speaking and Listening Skills”
Thursday, March 19th from 3:30-4:30pm at the Renaissance Hotel in Santa Rosa

“Boosting Achievement and Closing Gaps with Diverse Learners”
Saturday, March 21st from 1:00-2:30pm at the Convention Center in Smoketree F

You can also follow us on Twitter at @KristinOropeza, @MrsBarnett_Tchr, and @TechTribeEDU for updates and news!

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