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5 things to do if you’re NOT going to MACUL

Macul Michigan's State Tech Conference by Kate Ter Haar on Flickr

So your school district made some big budget cuts this year? Then no doubt you’re feeling the pain that comes with being rebuffed on those big plans for a field trip to the zoo or a having a requisition torn up even though you really need to replace those dried out markers. And if you were hoping to recharge your creative juices by joining over 4,500 other educators at the Michigan Association of Computer Users in Learning conference in Detroit this week, well you can just fuhgeddaboudit.

But fear not, my fellow conference-denied tech geeks. Here is a surefire way that you can experience a little of MACUL without even having to fight with rush hour traffic on the John C. Lodge Freeway. Just follow this simple five-step-plan, and if you close your eyes tight enough, you might feel as if you’re a part of the festivities in Detroit.

1. Peruse the program

Most MACUL attendees are probably already busy programming the nearest Starbucks into their GPS devices. They know that they will be up way too late the night before browsing the conference program and circling the plethora of sessions they hope to attend. Fortunately, even non-attendees can get in on the fun as MACUL has made its program available on its website. I can’t think of a better way to catch up on the latest educational technology trends, buzzwords, and acronyms than by browsing the session titles and descriptions. Try not to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of sessions available. You’ll soon realize that you can quickly narrow your choices by looking past some of nearly 20!!! sessions about using iPads in the classroom. So kick back, fire up your Keurig, and start dreaming about the sessions you would love to attend if your district showed you some love.

2. Hunt for hash

My intent with the last suggestion wasn’t to make you feel miserable by thinking about all the fun everyone else would be having at MACUL while you’re hard at work–you know–actually teaching. Funny thing is, I’m betting there are going to be a lot teachers slacking on the job in their classrooms later this week. They’re the ones that will be making constant trips to their computers throughout the day to check NCAA tournament results or to watch livestreams of the games.

Fortunately, that’s not you. You’re a professional. More importantly, you’re a lifelong learner. So demonstrate your ongoing learning by showing your students how you use Twitter to follow the events at MACUL. The suggested hashtag is #MACUL15, but don’t stop there with your search. Truth be told, a lot of teachers don’t pay attention to the suggested hashtag even though it’s announced at most sessions, printed on a majority of conference literature, and probably scrolling on the Cobo marquee when you enter the building. But this is just another opportunity to show students the importance of perseverance in research. Therefore, check out other hashtags like #macul, #miched, #edtech, and even search for tweets that mention the name of the session presenter. With 4,500 attendees, there’s bound to be someone sitting in the room of a session you wanted to attend.

3. Make friends with a mole

I love my PLN. And I’m going to use them this week since many will be attending MACUL. They’re my “moles,” if you will. Really, I mean it as an endearing term. After all, they’re the ones that will likely post the links to session notes or tweet inspirational quotes and insightful questions they hear throughout the conference. And since they’re a part of my PLN, it’s highly likely that they’ll actually write back if I have a followup question about something they’ve seen or heard. Small suggestion: You might want to avoid tweeting, “What did she say? What did she say now? How about now?” hundreds of times throughout the day to your PLN. I’ve heard they’re not too keen on that.

4. Talk with tech

I’ve seen a number of people in the #michED community question the importance of listening to the big keynote speeches at MACUL. Their suggestion? Skip the keynote, make connections with other educators, and have some awesome conversations. So what’s the problem? We’re not all extroverts like Ben Rimes. But I get it: If you really want to grow as an educator, you need to step out of your comfort zone.

So here’s my challenge for when you’re sitting at home while all those conference party animals are enjoying drinks at their Thursday night soiree in the Cobo Atrium: Use technology and have a real conversation with someone in your PLN. Twitter is great, but there’s something to be said for the spoken word…so I’ll be the one to say it: Social media connections rock even more when you can hear a voice or see a person’s face. You’ll make a personal connection and create an opportunity for a much more meaningful conversation. So arrange a Google Hangout. Chat with your peeps on Voxer. Use tech to take the talk beyond tapping text on a touchscreen.

5. Sow some seeds

Okay, so let’s face it: Regardless of what I’ve suggested here, it sucks that you can’t go to MACUL. So that means you have one year to start dropping a deluge of hints to convince your administrators of the importance of letting you go to Michigan’s biggest educators conference. Unfortunately, sometimes no matter how many emails you send or chocolate you buy, your pleas fall on deaf ears. That’s why you might consider the “strength in numbers” approach.

Tell your colleagues about MACUL. Show them how you’ve grown as an educator by using social media. Allow them to watch you teach so they can see how your students’ engagement increases when you integrate technology into your instruction. You’ll both be all the better for it, and then they’ll start clamoring for an opportunity to attend MACUL as well. Your administrators are bound to take notice! Granted, this could backfire if your admin decides to send your colleague rather than you. If that seems like a possibility, swing by your principal’s office and volunteer to run a staff meeting to share some of your new-found knowledge from the conference.

If you do that, you’re golden. They hate staff meetings just as much as you do.

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