Guest post by Julie Rorabaugh, Director of Instructional Technology, Cowley College, and a member of the Ask Dr. C program, a free question and answer service for Blackboard users.

After hearing about BbWorld conferences for years and years, in 2010, I finally had the opportunity to attend one! (It only took the buyout of two Learning Management Systems to get me there.) I quickly found out that, for the most part, the stories that I had heard murmured in dark corners at other conferences had quite a bit of validity. This truly is an awesome conference!

With that in mind, I’ve decided to share some BbWorld wisdom to prepare newbies for the sheer overwhelming nature that defines BbWorld. Though some of this advice was hard won on the “mean streets” of Orlando, FL last year (OK, so I never even went outside of the Gaylord Palms resort. What of it? There were mutant mice and wizards out there!), I also have enlisted the help of some expert BbWorld attendees, and Twitter buddies, to share some tips with you.

  1. How smart is your phone? I’ll freely admit that mine is WAY smarter than me. So why wouldn’t I give up the responsibility of getting me to the right place at the right time to the superior entity? Make it a point to download the BbWorld11 Mobile App from the App Store or Android Market. Henk van Rijssen, @henkvanrijssen on Twitter, says: “Use the BbWorld11 app for iPhone and Android for easy overview of (own) program, maps, and participants.”
  2. Watch out for people with their eyes glazed over and their faces aglow with the flicker of their mobile device’s screen. They might even be laughing and mumbling to themselves, as if they are following a totally different reality than you! Go ahead…make eye contact with them…it’s ok…chances are they are following a totally engrossing stream of consciousness on Twitter known as an event hashtag. To dial in on the backchannel fun, use the official hashtag of #bbworld11 on Twitter. Terry Patterson, @terrypatterson on Twitter, advises: “Use social media. Not only will you learn more, but you will make great connections & friendships that last the entire year!”
  3. Socialize! Here’s your chance to meet people (in person) that you may only know from emails, online communities, and technical support cases. If you’re traveling with a group, try to branch out and mingle outside of your pack. You can see your coworkers ANYTIME! How often do you get to talk with contemporaries from all over the world, who share your trials, tribulations, and trepidations? How often do you get the ear of the Blackboard management team? Stop by the Blackboard Community Booth, numbers #600 and #601, to visit with the Dr. Cs. We’re all product users like you, and we love to help people by answering questions. Plus, we’re giving out nifty note pads. Just look for our lab coats!
  4. Take care of yourself. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the constant barrage to the senses with the tightly scheduled keynotes, sessions, awards, meetings, breakfasts, breaks, lunches, and receptions. Whew! Add in the “Vegas-factor” (heat, gigantic resorts, heat, high prices, heat, casinos and shows…heat) and you have a potential sensory/physical overload. To this point, J. J. Johnson, @jjjohnson01 on Twitter, recommends: “Good walking shoes!”

I predict that this year’s Blackboard World will be bigger and better than ever! I value the friendships and connections that I made last year, and look forward to making even more friends THIS year! Stop on by the Community Booth (#600 and #601), or tweet at me, to say, “hi”!

· Watch out for people with their eyes glazed over and their faces aglow with the flicker of their mobile device’s screen. They might even be laughing and mumbling to themselves, as if they are following a totally different reality than you! Go ahead…make eye contact with them…it’s ok…chances are they are following a totally engrossing stream of consciousness on Twitter known as an event hashtag. To dial in on the backchannel fun, use the official hashtag of #bbworld11 on Twitter. Terry Patterson, @terrypatterson on Twitter, advises: “Use social media. Not only will you learn more, but you will make great connections & friendships that last the entire year!”

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