By Kris WilliamsThe New Tech Annual Conference, or NTAC, is the yearly headline event for members of the New Tech Network. Dedicated to supporting collaboration, celebration, and shared learning amongst the nearly 200 schools within the network, it’s been the source of many memorable – even, transformative – experiences for attendees over the years. However, for many school organizations, it’s impossible for all staff to attend each year and often unclear how to ensure those that do attend are able to make the best use of their time. With the registration now opening up for NTAC 2016 in Orlando, use these questions to help your school develop an effective strategy for leveraging this great opportunity.How might NTAC help us address problems we’re trying to solve on our campus? Many networks schools that have pointed to NTAC as a powerful learning experience in the past have typically arrived at the conference with a set of goals that they’re targeting. Whether it’s a specific goal of improving an area of student learning, such as content-area writing or agency, or if it’s a more general goal such as improving the quality of your PBL and PrBL curriculum on campus, it can be advantageous to have the attending staff from your school arrive with a common goal or a set of goals in mind.Which members of our staff are best positioned to use NTAC for their own growth while also helping our school improve?There’s no way around it. Sending staff to summer conferences is costly in both time and money. If those resources are limited in your school community, as is often the case in education, then determining who attends a conference like NTAC can be an important decision. In addition to assessing individual interests and needs as they relate to opportunities at NTAC, consider the formal and informal roles that each staff member plays on campus to determine which individuals have the best chance to positively impact your larger school community through their attendance at the conference.What types of learning are best supported by a conference experience and what types of learning are best supported within your own school community?For many schools, a key component of their NTAC attendance has remained the same since their first year in the network: sending new staff through NTN 101 training. However, as a school’s institutional knowledge around PBL and PrBL grows, it may make more sense for new teachers to get their training from their own colleagues in their own local context. Not only would this be a more sustainable financial plan, a locally-based PBL/PrBL training can be tailored to align with the specific needs of teachers in your school context. Instead, consider how NTAC can provide learning that isn’t easily replicated for you all locally: acquiring new ideas aligned with your goals for students, gaining new inspiration for this ongoing hard work, and sharing your own learning with others across the network for feedback and affirmation.How will we ensure that we’re tending to our staff culture, sharing our learning with each other, and considering the broader implications of these new ideas throughout the conference?Each year, schools use NTAC as a time and place to reconnect as a staff outside of the school context. Many also use it as an opportunity to “get on the balcony” in viewing their school as a system. Consider how you want to make that happen and who would need to be there (see the 2nd question). This year, NTN has created strategic conference breaks embedded within each day’s schedule to allow attending staff to meet together. If used strategically, these can be powerful opportunities for staff to connect and share with each other, while considering the school-level implications of their new learning.Finally, discuss your plans with your coach to help you think through these questions, and any others, that will help you make the best use of the NTAC experience. NTN is expecting this NTAC in Orlando to be our biggest ever. With some advance planning, every school should look forward to a great week of learning, connecting, and celebrating that truly highlights the value of being a network member.
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