Yes, I’m going to ISTE. I’m not a “newbie” due to a technicality- I did spend some time at NECC in Hotlanta in 2007. My husband’s district sent a few representatives to the conference, so I tagged along to make a vacation out of it and to take in a few baseball games at Turner Field. (We’re keeping an eye on you, you goofy Phillies, and are never too far behind….)
When I reflect upon first impressions of NECC 2007, thoughts such as “Wow, there are a lot of vendors here,” “What good are any of these vendors to me? I don’t make purchasing decisions as an elementary tech teacher,” “What do all of these people DO here all week?” “I wonder if that vendor is giving away free stuff?” and “Wow, there sure are a lot of vendors here,” entered my brain. It seemed like a giant, shinier “tent sale” planned to hype up products to a bunch of tech-geek dweebies and educators who didn’t want to give it a rest over the summer months. I figured it was an event I would be fine never again visiting in my lifetime.
Fast forward a few years, and I think I may have missed the boat. Back then, I wasn’t involved in any sort of learning network. I was a teacher who worked on her own, who only occasionally and informally collaborated with colleagues. I did what I needed to do, when I needed to do it. I enjoyed my work, but I was complacent. I believe this year’s ISTE will be a different experience for me. Here are some reasons why, and the things I am most looking forward to over the next few days.
Principals sure do love yapping! I am really humbled to be included in the Connected Principals panel that Scott McLeod is facilitating on Monday. 2:30 PM. “What does it mean to be a tech-savvy principal?” is sure to spring a lot of interesting conversations around teaching, learning, tech, and the role of the principal in embracing and promoting the shifts in education. Each one of my fellow panelists is a) awesome b) willing to share anything and everything about what they’re doing in their schools and c) has varied experiences and expertise which will allow for well-rounded and informative conversations from which everyone in attendance will surely benefit. Don’t miss it!
How will this help my kids? Yes, there will be vendors and many companies sharing about their products at ISTE. This year, however, I have more of a background in working with these products and services, and the lens through which I will be viewing every booth, every display, every smiling logod-polo-shirted-representative, is, “How will this help my students/teachers? How is this of use to my school, my students, my learning community?” And I won’t limit this guiding question to my trips through the exhibition and vendor halls. The daunting task of choosing which sessions to attend resulted in a three-page “ISTE planner” printout… many of the time slots are double- and triple-booked, and if I don’t feel like a session’s content is adding to my learning or would be beneficial for my learning organization, I’m going to attempt to find the courage to walk out. The advice others have shared about simply finding people to connect with in the hallways or the social lounges is sure to be a rich experience, sessions or no sessions.
Watch out for the wallflowers 🙂 I try to be social in my interactions on Twitter and in online communities, and I think I do a pretty decent job of that, but I definitely don’t excel at interpersonal relationships when I first meet people in face-to-face settings. I can be shy at the outset and have a difficult time introducing myself to people. I’m pretty convinced no one really wants to meet or hang out with me, so if you see me, please say hello (if you care to)! I truly do look forward to meeting so many of the amazing members of my network that add to my learning each and every day. I know it will be overwhelming, but worth it!
In summary, what I believe will be most valuable about attending ISTE (or any conference/edcamp/ntcamp/Educon for that matter) are the opportunities to share about what works/what doesn’t work in your schools and classrooms; personalized learning (don’t be afraid to take the reins); and the chance to meet and interact with people who are passionate about the work they do in the field of education. I’m anxious to see if ISTE11 lives up to these expectations and am looking forward to sharing what I’ve learned. If it fails to impress, then it’s not the type of conference for me, which doesn’t make it any less valuable or important to others.
That’s the beauty of learning – when you own it.