ISTE 2016 was my first experience with this amazing conference event. I went to Denver hoping to learn about some new ideas and strategies that will help make my students’ lives better while also meeting educators in person that I have connected with on Twitter. I left fully satisfied at having met my goal and more. The following are some reflections from an awesome week:
- What a difference it is attending a conference now than even five years ago. In the past you would never really look at your fellow attendees, let alone check out their ID badges. But now, through the connectedness of Twitter, we search the crowd for familiar faces, names and Twitter handles. The world has changed and at least for relationship-building, it has changed for the better.
- We really need education celebrities or “educelebrities”. We truly do. In other fields there are stars who shine who can help build up an entire profession. We need these people in education as well. Those who can speak up for what we attempt to do each day in our classrooms and schools. Those who can speak out against the forces that seem bent on destroying our profession. Those who can highlight the awesome and inspire us to become the best version of ourselves.
- I was amazed at the number of people who attended but weren’t on Twitter. I kept asking my colleague, Russ Schwartz, “how did they even learn about this conference?”. A few presenters asked the room how many were on and sometimes it was less than half. Shocking to me at an educational technology conference. It’s not a bad thing per se, just surprising considering the environment.
- I was so frustrated by a few people who I bumped into who were in Denver with us but who weren’t really “with us”. They went to a few sessions but then took the opportunity to visit the local restaurants and shops instead of the learning and the connections. Don’t get me wrong, our group fully enjoyed the food and atmosphere of our surroundings, but we never lost sight of our purpose in being there – to learn and to grow with like-minded individuals.
- There were a few times during the conference that I marveled at how amazing it was to be surrounded by others who felt the same passion for not only instilling technology into education but also to do whatever is necessary to help make kids’ lives better. I got choked up during Michelle Cordy’s closing keynote when she spoke about the power of the tribe of people who come together at ISTE. It was truly special to be with fellow educators who “get” what I’m getting.
- Michelle phrased something else in her keynote that articulates what I have been feeling recently. She said “Recommit to that place in education where you can make your greatest contribution and refuse to leave.” What a powerful statement that is resonating with me today.
- But the biggest takeaway of all is that I went to an edtech conference and left having built deeper relationships, both with my travel companions and with the amazing educators that we crossed paths with. And that is more than anyone could ask for. After all, you can have all the greatest technology in the world, but what do you have if you don’t have solid relationships?