Lessons From the Education Conference Floor: Listen and Learn

At the end of a long day standing at a conference, a teacher came rushing up to me at our Listenwise booth saying “Oh no! It looks like they are all gone!”

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She was looking for one of our buttons that say “Public Radio Nerd – Listenwise.” Usually I have one more stashed away for just this purpose. Someone thinks there are none left, then I produce one from my pocket like magic. But at this conference, on this day, I was completely out of buttons.

I never would have thought these whimsical buttons our team came up with would be such a hit. But it’s something you just never know until you are out there behind the table at a booth meeting teachers and administrators.

The things I learn from representing Listenwise at a conference never get old. In fact, as our company grows and we have more people who can cover the booth, I don’t want to lose touch with our users. You meet people and learn things you can only know after standing for 10 hours behind a table, showing teachers and administrators your tool at a small conference.

Recently Listenwise exhibited at the California Association of Teachers of English. It’s a small conference as they go, but it was hugely rewarding.

At a regional or state conference you have to set your expectations lower for the number of people you’ll meet. The number of leads you get will never match a booth at the massive ISTE ed-tech conference. But if you are a supplemental tool like Listenwise, you’re better off at smaller content or tool specific conferences. You’ll be more directly interacting with your customers or potential customers and you’ll have longer more meaningful conversations.

For instance at CATE, I met a group of three teachers from Iron Horse Middle School who came to the booth and told me they all left their substitute teachers with Listenwise lessons to use in class that day. That’s a great application for pre-made quizzes or differentiated assignments and one I’ve been suggesting to teachers, but it was great to hear it’s happening.

Another curriculum specialist came by and told me Listenwise “hits all the right notes” in what she needs to help students prepare for the listening portion of the California’s state test, CAASPP.

Attending a small conference also allowed us to present to a room full of teachers eager to learn how they could use podcasts to enhance learning. The session called “Reimagining Literacy with World Class Podcasts” helped teachers understand the importance of teaching literacy.

But what really touched my heart, and thrilled my team when I shared it, was an encounter I had in the hallway with a teacher following a session.

It was day two of the conference, so I had been on my feet for eight hours and had just led a session for 1.5 hours. I was exhausted.

She touched my arm and said “Thank you for all that you are doing to help teachers.”

That’s the kind of interaction you can’t get in the office.

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