Make the Case To Attend ALA, ISTE—or Any Conference

It's not too late to lobby for attending the ALA and ISTE conferences in June. Here's a strategy, including ways to keep costs down.

It’s that time of year again! Conference fever is brewing for the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in Orlando, FL (June 23–28) and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in Denver, CO (June 26–29).  Are you ready for some awesome PD?!  Or maybe you’re staying home this year… again. School professional development budgets are stretched tighter than ever, so sometimes it can be difficult to convince your administration to plunk down several hundred dollars to send you to a major conference, plus the travel costs. (ALA conference advance registration starts at $285 for members; ISTE registration is currently at $409 for members.) But as school librarians, we are in a unique and crucial position to make our case to go to such events. There’s still time to prepare a pitch to advocate for your attendance. Keep this advice in mind.

Remember librarians have an effect on all students.

While classroom teachers and subject area leaders might only work with a certain percentage of students, the school librarian can have an effect on every single one. You are in a unique position to have an impact on student achievement overall. Unlike classroom teachers, who only see those students on their rosters, every student in the school comes through the library at some point in the year. When we collaborate with teachers across all subject areas, we are working with students in every discipline. Even if there isn’t a PD budget, you might be able to find funding from the PTSA or the School Advisory Committee if you work your impact on student learning into your pitch. While your district may not cover hotel and transportation and costs, the PTSA often has more flexibility with their funds.

Determine what resources your teachers need.

Maybe your science department has talked about wanting to try out BrainPOP. Or your engineering teacher just got a 3-D printer and isn’t sure how to incorporate it into the curriculum. Make a case for attending by demonstrating the specific ways you can help fellow teachers at your school. Plan to gather literature from vendors for teachers. You can attend sessions and get handouts on topics they want to learn more about.

Be specific. 

Maybe your administration has expressed an interest in starting a coding program at your school. Perhaps administrators have been curious about project-based learning strategies.Go to your administration with a plan for what types of sessions you’ll be attending, keeping their interests in mind. Large conferences might seem a bit abstract to your administration, but a list of specific sessions you plan to go to can demonstrate that you’re not just looking for a free vacation.

Keep costs down.  

Have a budgeting plan. One strategy that’s helped me is to avoid the conference hotels—and find roommates. There are often more affordable hotels only slightly farther away, and sometimes you can find an Airbnb or VRBO nearby. Add a roommate or two, and you can save a pretty significant amount of money, even if you have to do a bit of extra walking or take the occasional Uber. Another way to save money is to pack a lunch. Convention center food tends to be overpriced and not very healthy. If you’re able to, pack some snacks or a light lunch each day. I also try to book places that have kitchenettes so that I can make my own breakfast.

When you return, hit the ground running.

So your administration helped you out and got you to the conference. It was amazing, and you’ve come home with great ideas. What you do—or don't do—now will determine whether your request is approved next time. Provide PD. Organize training for teachers and show them new technologies and teaching strategies. By supporting you in your own professional development, your administration will soon see they are also supporting the PD of the entire school. One conference registration is way cheaper than hiring a consultant. I like to share the cool tools I’ve learned about. After learning about Kahoot! at a tech conference, I was able to share it with some of the teachers at my school, who in turn began using it in their classrooms. Share what you’ve learned in a professional way. Create an infographic with some of the new ideas you’ve picked up and email it to your teachers. Start organizing collaborations and co-teaching opportunities to put into practice what you’ve learned. If you keep everything to yourself, it’ll be harder to make your case next time. Make goodie bags for those who made it possible. While you’re at the conference, save all those free pencils, phone chargers, and tote bags from the vendor hall. Purchase a few local treats. Put these together in goodie bags, along with thank-you cards, and give them to those who helped to make your conference trip possible. If nobody else, your principal should get one. Also consider individuals like the bookkeeper who handled the financials and the secretary who helped arrange for you to get professional development days. Conference attendance can significantly impact your school and what you do there. I’ve shared new ideas with colleagues about using the design process in project-based lessons—and gotten inspiration for transforming our library into a vibrant maker space. Most importantly, I’ve been re-energized and reinvigorated to go out and make a difference in the lives of my students. You can’t put a price on that.
Diana L. Rendina is a media specialist at Stewart Middle Magnet School in Tampa, FL. She is the creator of the blog and a monthly contributor to AASL Knowledge Quest. Diana participates actively in ISTE, AASL, and the Florida Association for Media in Education and shares resources regularly on Twitter @DianaLRendina), Pinterest, and Instagram. She is co-authoring a book for ABC-CLIO titled Challenge-Based Learning in the Library Makerspace.
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lataska kleinfield

Savvy analysis ! I loved the points - Does someone know if I can locate a blank IRS 941 copy to complete ?

Posted : May 31, 2016 05:13

Mary Mackay

Thanks, Diana! In case it's helpful, readers can find some additional ideas for making the case for conference attendance at The ideas would work for any conference, not just ALA conferences.

Posted : May 04, 2016 12:39


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