Once Upon An iCon: A Learning Story Lauren Gilchrist by Lauren Gilchrist Lauren Gilchrist Professional Storyteller Read time: Prologue Once upon an iCon, 323 passionate educators packed their bags, hopped in cars and on planes, and traveled to iCon—the greatest international conference in the land. Some came from small, rural districts. Others came from districts serving hundreds of thousands of students. There were payroll directors, HR specialists, and data management coordinators. There were programmers, administrative assistants, superintendents, and principals. For three days, all of them gathered at the TradeWinds Island Grand Resort in St. Pete Beach, Florida to learn from one another and from the staff at Skyward. During this storytelling-themed event, they discovered how to tell their own districts’ stories better, cut costs, save time, and accomplish more with the tools they already possessed. Chapter 1 On the first day of iCon, the sessions began in the afternoon. The attendees chose from topics such as parent engagement, report writing, and school security. They learned to bridge department gaps, dug deep into the Professional Development Center, and chatted with Skyward executives at the Executive Exposium. As sessions wrapped up that evening, rain showers blew in from the gulf. The welcome reception was moved from the beach to the lobby—but there were still coconut encrusted crab legs on the menu and new friends to be made, so all was well. Chapter 2 The next morning, the sun rose with the educators, who were treated to a breakfast buffet in the conference center lobby. Then the much-anticipated, nationally acclaimed keynote speaker took the stage. Dr. Joe Sanfelippo, superintendent at Fall Creek School District in Wisconsin (#gocrickets) and author of a book on school branding, got everyone pumped for the day—no caffeine required. He taught his captivated audience how to tell stories at their schools. He emphasized that every interaction matters. Any day could be the day you are remembered by. He also encouraged them to value themselves. “When you say, ‘I’m just a…’ you personally devalue the work you do. You give others the license to do the same,” he said. When the keynote wrapped up, the educators dispersed to attend sessions throughout the morning. Unsurprisingly, Dr. Sanfilippo’s “Be a Social Media Superhero” session was packed. In other rooms, conference-goers discussed topics such as using SkyCoder, saving time with positive attendance and tardy kiosks, and preparing for the move to Qmlativ. Next, it was time to refuel for the afternoon. The hotel staff served a delicious lunch, complete with salmon and cheesecake, and several well-deserving individuals received their Leader in Excellence Awards. The educators attended additional sessions throughout the afternoon. Some stopped at the photobooth for a snapshot to take home. Others continued to work on the conference game, hosted inside the iCon app. Still others sought answers to their districts’ questions in one-on-one help sessions with Skyward pros. After a full day of learning, it was time to rest and digest. Attendees dispersed to restaurants throughout the St. Pete Beach area. Many dined on local seafood, some with old friends and some with new. Chapter 3 The third and final day of the conference began with another breakfast buffet and a chance to mingle with fellow educators. “Great breakfast and new contacts,” one attendee tweeted. After breakfast, the last few rounds of sessions got underway. When the final presentation wrapped up, three jam-packed days of learning and fun did too. Goodbyes were exchanged. Some educators hit the road right away, while others settled in for some time at the beach before they headed home. Epilogue Magical things happen when passionate educators from around the globe gather together to exchange best practices and explore new ways of doing things. It just goes to show, educators never stop learning. What will iCon 2020 hold? That story is yet to be written… Follow-Up Resource: Upcoming Events Looking for a chance to connect with and learn from Skyward users in your area? Check out our user groups page. Lauren Gilchrist Professional Storyteller Share this story: Want tips, tricks, and feature updates delivered to your inbox once a month? Sign up here!