#GREAT17 Conference Planning

If you follow me on Twitter, you already know what the GREAT17 conference is — sorry.

For those that don’t know, the year two cohort of MAET students (Master of Arts in Educational Technology) are required, each year, to host an international technology conference on the National University of Ireland Galway campus. The students are responsible for coordinating every aspect of the conference – from logistics, to marketing, and execution – as well as preparing and presenting their own, hour long, session at the conference.

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Our GREAT17 conference poster, designed by Sophia Salani and Sara Trowbridge

The first thing our cohort did in planning for this conference was establish various committees that would each be responsible for their own strand of tasks. I decided to join the digital media committee who is responsible for any content posted on the web related to GREAT17. My committee then assigned each of us tasks to complete within the strand of digital media – my task was sending out information via social media – hence the constant Twittering.

One of the reasons I was so interested in being involved with the conference in a digital way, is because of the power of the network. Last summer, during my year one experience in the MAET program, I wrote a blog post about the power of your social network after having – what I thought at the time – a great and unique thing happen to me. Feel free to hop on over to the post yourself, but the reader’s digest version is that I was retweeted by a news organization associated with the Detroit Red Wings, my favorite professional hockey team. This really showed me just how powerful and far-reaching my network can be, and was ultimately the catalyst for my social media presence; namely of that on Twitter.

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The Tweet that changed my perception of Twitter

After dividing up our cohort into committees, and committees into sub committees, the planning process took off into a dead sprint. We had 12 days to plan, assemble and execute this conference – needless to say we all had a look of sheer panic on our faces.

We are a group of 23 unique individuals; in a country 3,780+ miles from home (that’s Galway to East Lansing, home of Michigan State University); planning a full, international conference in 12 days. While this was quite stressful at times, it was evident that each member of our group was narrowly focused on one goal – providing a valuable educational experience to its participants. I went into this conference planning process very gung-ho about putting on the best conference we could, and I was going to work to the best of my ability to ensure that happened.

Since I have started tweeting about GREAT17, I have had two incredibly valuable experiences.

First, my network has grown. I thought I had a pretty solid network of followers before I embarked on this journey, but that has grown tenfold since I’ve been sharing our experience in planning this conference. Each time I send out an update, it gets liked or retweeted by someone (I may or may not know) and that leads to more retweets and likes, which leads to more followers, and the rest just snowballs from there.

I am now connected with educators, entrepreneurs, and business developers around the world who all bring something unique to the table. There is something for me to learn from each of them, and there may be a time I need to reach out to them for their expertise (like with my TPACK and Research 101 projects you’ll learn more about later). I know these connections are invaluable to my network and I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to expand my virtual presence in this way. I always believed that no educational progress will happen within the constraints of my four classroom walls, but with the power of my network, I can accomplish anything.

Second, I have learned how to market myself and what I’m promoting. Especially when choosing to use Twitter as a means for marking, you have to be very selective about your content because you only get 140 characters to convey your message. This constraint has taught me how to select key elements of my message and highlight the most important features. As an English teacher I’m not always good at being concise (hence the length of this blog post) but on Twitter I have to be, and that’s a great skill to have in my toolbox. I have learned how to seamlessly integrate my desired hashtags, tag specific people and input various types of content in order to achieve my purpose in the clearest and most effective way for my audience.

I know there are many more lessons to be learned from this experience, but these two are the ones that stand out most. I am very thankful to have this experience of planning an education conference, it has really challenged me to consider my role as an educator and as a learner. Finally, after many long hours of discussion, debate, iterations and implementations, GREAT 17 is ready to go.

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