As I sat down to register for ISTE, I can’t help but notice how expensive conferences are–registration, hotels, gas, airfare, and food. It can be the price of an entire family vacation. And that’s not cool. So, for those of you educators that are not independently wealthy, here are twelve ways to attend a conference for free:
Edcamps are an organic, participant-driven professional development conferences for K-12 educators worldwide. They are always free and non-commercial. Sessions at Edcamps are determined on the day of the event and anyone who attends can be a presenter. There over 100 Edcamps, so you are sure to find one near you. If there isn’t a local Edcamp, start one.
Like Edcamp, TeachMeet is an organized, informal meeting for teachers to share good practice, practical innovations and personal insights in teaching with technology. Sessions are typically 20-30 minutes, so participants are able to hear from several presenters in a single day. There is often a heavy backchannel on twitter–at TeachMeet Kentucky, both @simfin and I assumed that the other person was at the event, even though he was in England, and I was in Los Angeles. TeachMeet conversations are that good on Twitter.
The annual CUE conference in Palm Springs is a three-day conference with hundreds of presentations and thousands of educators. It also costs $250… unless you present. If you present at CUE, your conference registration is complimentary.
Affiliated with CUE, Coffee CUEs are meetups where participants share cool ed tech resources. Non-techie teachers are invited also; it’s an opportunity to meet cool people and to be inspired. And there’s lots of coffee.
Similar to Coffee CUE, EduHops is an informal way for teachers to get together, partake in a pint, and share resources. So far, this is an independent movement/hashtag. So if this sounds like a delicious idea, start one!
Most people associate Discovery Education with videos, but there is an entire community of educators at Discovery Educator Network (DEN) that are passionate about teaching with digital media. There are 100,000 STAR Discovery Educators that regularly host free events, like webinars, geocaching, and photowalks.
The most dynamic teachers I know are on Twitter. If you’re new to Twitter, start by regularly checking education hashtags like #edchat and #edcamp to find great resources. Every conference has a hashtag. If you follow the conference hashtag, it’s almost like being at the event. So, if you can’t make it to #iste12 or #cue13, follow the hashtags on the day of the events. Attendees will be live tweeting at the event, and you will see the best tips, quotes, and resources.
Ed Tech Moment gives classroom teachers easy-to-follow tutorials to integrate technology into the classroom. Each five-minute tutorial is free, simple, and easily implemented into your classroom. Disclaimer: I am a business parter in Ed Tech Moment, and have a vested interest in you visiting that site (and clicking on ads).
Occasionally, big conferences seek out volunteers to help set up the event. You might get lucky and find a tweet from @cueinc asking for help the day before the even, and that might be your free ticket in.
If you are on a technology committee in your school district, there is probably funding available to send you to a conference. Find a conference you want to attend, figure out which sessions would benefit the committee, and ask for some money. Begging is optional.
Events like the California Student Media Festival showcase multimedia projects produced by students and teachers. It’s a great place to get ideas for classroom projects, and to talk with colleagues to see how they created projects with students. There are often free workshops at these festivals, so keep an eye out.
I’ve never snuck in to any event, and I don’t recommend it. However, I suppose you could dress in black, camouflage your face, and crawl through the ventilation system at a conference. Make sure to charge your iPad before you enter the ducts–they typically don’t have outlets up there to recharge your device.
If you have other ways to attend conferences for free, please comment below!