If you will be one of the thousands of dedicated educators joining us in fabulous San Antonio February 4-8, then you know that this is the first time TCEA has been to the Alamo City for convention. That means that you may be feeling a little out of your depth with all of the changes occurring because we’re in a new place. But never fear! I’m here to share all of the must-know tips and tricks to make you feel at home and have the very best professional learning experience ever. So read on to be in the know!
Before You Go
There are more than 1,100 learning opportunities at the convention this year. That’s a lot, so many that it can sometimes be overwhelming deciding what to go to. So the first thing you should do is to select one or two topics of need that you want to focus on at the event. Maybe your district is implementing iPads or Chromebooks or you want to learn more about blended learning or how to incorporate STEM in your classroom. Pick one or two big topics to concentrate on and spend most of your time at those sessions. Concentrating will ensure that you don’t feel scattered or overwhelmed and that you have a solid plan to put into place when you return to your campus. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t attend sessions on other topics, but simply that you will have a strong focus to keep you anchored.
Next, download the TCEA app. We are using a new app company this year. So if you have our old app downloaded, it won’t work for this event. Search your App Store for ‘TCEA Convention‘ and download the app.
Attire and Things to Bring
The weather should be pretty nice for February. There is a chance of rain on Thursday, but otherwise, it looks great.
Convention centers can be cold places, regardless of the weather outside. Especially on Monday and Tuesday, when there are usually fewer people in the building. So plan on wearing layered clothing that you can remove as needed.
WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES! This is not a fashion event. You will be walking anywhere from two to five miles a day in this big place. So wear cushiony socks and really comfy shoes.
With all of that walking, it’s easy to get dehydrated. The convention center has water fountains and some water coolers scattered around. So your best bet is to bring a refillable water bottle instead of paying too much money for bottled water there. And because you may want to skip lunch to get in an extra session, pack some snacks: fruit, nuts, crackers, cheese, whatever will keep you energized for all of the learning that you’ll be doing.
The Convention Center
Be sure to get familiar with this new convention center before you arrive on site. We will be using the entire building except for the River Level rooms. There are detailed map on the app that you can look at. But here are the basics:
The main lobby is on Level 1. It’s where most people will enter the center and where the shuttles will drop you off. Here, you’ll find registration, volunteer check-in, the membership booth, social media wall, exhibit hall main entrance, and exhibitor registration.
Level 2 has the majority of the session rooms. You’ll find Solution Circles, presentations, Exhibitor Showcase sessions, the Apple Playground (on Thursday) and Apple help desk (all week), and the Dell room there. The Innovation Lab is also on this floor (and has some really cool things going on in it!)
Also on Level 2, you’ll find the poster sessions, Innovator Spotlight, Google room, SMART room, CDWG room, Microsoft room, and the Amazon Web Services room.
The BYOD workshops, featured presenters, and keynote sessions can be found on Level 3 (below).
Additional maps are available in the app and in your printed program.
San Antonio is an amazing city and has so much to offer. So don’t just leave the convention center and spend the rest of the evening in your room. Two longtime San Antonio residents, Convention Chair Elect Charlotte Dolat and Area 20 Director Caleb Hudgens offer their insider ideas for the best places to visit after your learning day is done. You can catch their fabulous tips in this video.
Secrets (Don’t Share with Anyone Else!)
You’ll be glad that you read to the end of this blog because of the three secrets that I’m going to share with you now. First, if you arrive a little early for the Tuesday keynote, you’ll receive a fabulous momento of your experience at TCEA in San Antonio. (And, of course, you’ll get to hear the amazing Mae Jemison!) Seating for this event is limited.
Also, the TCEA Membership Booth is having a special contest during the convention. Each day, the membership staff will hide 100 plastic light bulbs that contain a tech tip, a TCEA fact, or other interesting piece of information around the convention center. If you find one of these light bulbs and bring it to the Membership Booth, you will receive a free t-shirt. In addition, you’ll help to light up a real display as we all get Fully Charged!
Finally, if you can find me during the convention (I’m usually wandering around!), I’ll be happy to provide you with a unique ribbon to add to your badge. As you may know, having the most ribbons on your badge is a standard non-game that we play at TCEA each year.
Be sure to take full advantage of this amazing learning experience by following all of these tips, which will guarantee that you leave San Antonio FULLY CHARGED!