Tuesday, July 1, 2014

ISTE 2014 - Top 10. Real creative -- I know.

This is funny to me… writing a blog about an event I attended, when there are far more well known “bloggers” and “Edu-celebs” out there perhaps reflecting on the exact same things I am — but I’m going to do this anyway.  Keep in mind that I don’t teach English, and I had to take a remedial course in college about when to use punctuation - so I have a lot of random dashes and commas and such.  It’s how I roll :)

I was challenged by another ISTE-goer to write more because “I care what you have to say…” After all, reflection is a huge part of what we do in our field - so, if she and my mom - (who is an avid fan of all blogging I’ve done, mostly about traveling (http://teachinginhungary.blogspot.com and http://weteachenglish.blogspot.com) are the only ones who read this, then they will know my experiences from ISTE 2014. 

This was my third year at ISTE, and I feel like I am finally understanding the many different ways to take it all in.  I’m at that point where I’m a bit more discerning about the info that I take away from vendors.  I understand that though I mainline Diet Coke to get me through the school day, if I want to make it through an ISTE day I have to truly hydrate with water.  I know that even though I’d love to wear Amanda Dykes style gorgeous shoes, I can’t pull it off and I wind up packing the “comfortable” shoes to save me the pain.  I understand that there are both times where the introvert in me needs to reach out and open up a bit more (even though it’s uncomfortable) and also that I can take time away from the conference to get some peace and quiet alone time in.  All of these have come through experience - and I hope to hone in on these skills as I continue my ISTE adventures in the future.

At this ISTE conference, I had some very specific take aways, more than just being overwhelmed and exhausted, and I’d like to share them with you (and my mom).  

These are my “ISTE Top 10” in no particular order.

10.  I did my first ISTE poster session.  There was something a bit intimidating about peeling the protective strip off that sticky part of the “presenter” ribbon to attach to my name badge.  Really?  I’m a presenter?  Adam Bellow and Nicholas Provenzano, Angela Maiers and Tech Ninja Todd had the SAME ribbon.  Was I really doing this?  Sure, it was a poster session - not a keynote or an ignite or a workshop, but I felt as if I were finally swimming with the big kids - in my own way.  I had something to say, and I’ll be damned if people weren't interested in what I was saying.  Not only that they were listening to what I was saying, but other educators were validating an idea that I implemented in my classroom (albeit stolen from others and adapted)- and that my students ran with.  I beamed with pride as I explained my students projects and showed the poorly filmed YouTube compilation of what my students did as their final presentations.  I listened and engaged with other educators who were thinking of ways to implement similar projects in their classes - and watched as THEIR wheels started turning and they were energized by my students’ experiences.  I talked for two hours straight about what my kids did and listened to others who have done similar projects.  They were great conversations and I have new ways to think about the project moving forward thanks to engaging with a bunch of strangers.  
My poster - you can tell it's mine because of the Diet Coke
These are some of the people who cared to stop and talk about my poster :)  -
and they didn't just scan my QR code and leave!!!
9.  OTHER people’s poster sessions.  Holy cow.  What a talented, inspiring group of people ISTE brings together.  I learned about elementary students doing exchanges from students across the world.  I heard stories of videoconferencing with people in the field the students were studying.  I watched as talented teachers app-smashed the crap out of things to make projects so engaging that I wanted to be in their class too.  I learned about how PD can in fact be interesting.  I was struck by new ideas and concepts I’d never heard of, and ones that I was really familiar with only there were new ways to use them.  I watched as passionate teachers, Library Media Specialists and administrators shared their stories with other people who cared - just like I had.  I stood in awe of the creativity, innovation and forward thinking that permeated each different session.  And I met Diego.  

He had me at “Hello…”

@Teach1tech talking to Diego. 

And he followed up with “…would you like to hear about my project?”  I got down on one knee, and said “Why yes I would Diego.  You BET I want to hear about your project."  This 6 or 7 year old kid was engaging with me, NOT in his mother tongue - in a foreign language-  about using apps to create a story about lizards.  This, my friends, is the reason we come to ISTE - to see how our hard work impacts students.   To see the excitement in their eyes as they get to share THEIR story and realize that people care what they too have to say.  Thank you to all of you who shared your story through your poster sessions - I think they were the best things I saw the entire conference.

8. The Expo Hall.  If you’re anything like me, you dive at the chance to get something free.  Teachers.Love.Swag.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a pack of post-it notes with some company’s name on it that you’ve never heard of, or the latest and greatest in the world of ball point pens.  If it’s free, we want it.  Sidenote: I’ve decided that we can really get rid of all the teacher eval systems that are currently in place.  No need for quantifiable data on how our teachers are doing in the classroom.  You judge a good teacher by the number of tote-bags they have.  Period.  No joke - count yours.  10+ over a career of teaching is nothing.  That’s the “meet’s standard” level.  By the time you retire - you’ll have more tote bags than you can imagine.  You could make one of those quilts like those pinterest super moms do with old soccer team t-shirts their kids have collected over the years - you know what I’m talking about.  Though tote bags these days aren’t what they used to be, so that’s getting harder.  

I digress.  Sorry.  Back to the expo hall.  Sure it’s great that so and so company has a two story flying trapeze that shoots off fireworks in their city block by city block space in the middle of the expo.  That doesn’t impress me.  I really like those teeny tiny booths that line the perimeter of the hall.  The booths that have one dude - who probably is a teacher - who came up with this idea and is pedaling it with all his heart while in competition with the fireworks happening in the center of the hall.  Those companies, if you stop and talk to the people who are the representatives there, MOST are education stakeholders who are driven by passion.  I love engaging with them and hearing why they came up with the product they’re presenting, and having them convince me that it will revolutionize teaching — even though I know I probably won’t buy it (let’s be real, I’m here for the free stuff).  Make sure you talk with the perimeter folks next year - they are working hard to spread their message, and you can help. 

7. Volunteering at ISTE.  This is my third year attending, and my third year volunteering.  A lot of people scoff at the idea of giving up part of their precious ISTE time to hold one of those dang “Ask Me” signs, or fold the t-shirts at ISTE central.  BUT - what an opportunity to engage with people and (for the introverts like me) get out there and meet new people.  Sure, the networking game was one way of doing it, but that still required a lot of gumption and the awkward forcing of yourself onto other people without them necessarily asking for you to do so.  As a volunteer, I was given a task, and because of that task, I am expected to reach out and engage with those I encounter.  Keep in mind, that a lot of volunteers don’t know any more than you do, we just have the special shirts and know who to ask when we have questions posed of us :)  I really wish they had the “traffic jedi” role still in place - that was THE BEST!  Shout out to those two guys who run the volunteers every year - you know, the ones with the vests and matching t-s every day.  They run a good show.  Think about volunteering next year - it won’t be a waste.  And you get a free t-shirt.  (see #8 - free swag)

@techyturner handing out the delicious popsicles 

6. EdCamp at ISTE.  I embarked on a new adventure this year of being part of a team who hosted an EdCamp for the first time. (EdCampTC - www.EdCampTwinCities.com shout out).  SEVEN different districts were represented on our small core planning team and we worked together to bring an EdCamp to our area - and it was loads of fun.  To top it all off - we had the brains behind EdCamp - Kristen Swanson at ISTE who hosted a mini-EdCamp in EdCamp fashion.  If you aren’t familiar with EdCamp and the idea of the un-conference, check it out and find one to go to - it will blow your mind.  We took away nuggets to help us in the coming year as we plan our second event and thoroughly enjoyed talking with others who had trod the same path as we had.  What a great way to network, meet new people, and share best practices for this new way of experiencing PD.  

5. Jerry, and friends.  My first time at ISTE, I was really overwhelmed by all that was happening.  It was San Diego, there were 18,000 teachers, I knew one other person… it was all a blur for me.  It was there though, that I truly started to build my Twitter PLN — as a full time lurker.  I began on Twitter as one who read… a lot.  It took me a long time before I even re-tweeted something.  It was a process that took a lot of practice and coaxing for me to get involved.  What I DID excel at, was following other key people.  Jerry Blumengarten was one of those first people.  Why WOULDN’T you choose Jerry as one of the first people you would follow?  After all, he’s got a page for EVERYTHING.  Cybraryman was like a Twitter god to me.  He was active in so many different chats, he shared out resources to everyone and anyone- he truly models the power of Twitter.  Last year, at the pre-ISTE unconference, I introduced myself and had a short conversation with Jerry.  It was incredible - Cybraryman was talking to me IN PERSON!  He was so down to earth and friendly, it was a once in a lifetime experience.  Until it began to happen with many of my other Twitter PLN’ers.  Really?  Kyle Pace is right there?  Nicholas Provenzano tweeted me back?  Elana Leoni is right there in person, I’m going to go talk to her!!!  (Later that day, she started following ME!  I don’t even go anywhere!)

I walked into Hack Ed this year and right away I saw Jerry and said “Jerry, where’s the cape?” as if we were life long friends.  I was in small groups and conversations with many of the people I go to for guidance on a daily basis.  Eric Sheninger was out and about- Jimmy Casas was engaging with everyone he saw as if he had known them for years - each encounter starting with a hug.  Tech Ninja Todd, Dean Shareski, Rafranz Davis, Erin Klein, Kathy Schrock, 2FootGiraffe, Jennie Magiera, Web20classroom and Teachercast - all engaging with their followers- many of whom will become their friends, if they aren't already.  It’s so much fun for me to see the people that I consider leaders, being real people with the rest of us. I’m sure, if I’d asked any of my PLN that inspire me if they wanted to meet for coffee or a short chat, they would.  It’s wonderful. My point is this- many of us who started as lurkers and are not as active on Twitter, recognize many of the edu-celebs out there.  Thanks for being an inspiration, for being leaders, and for being good people who build and develop those relationships from miles away.   BTW - Tweet me if you have additional people I should add :) @staffination

Love the photo bomber in the back!!

4. MN Tweet up.  I’m from Minnesota and I’m connected, but not as well as I’d like to be.  While out after Ashley Judd’s keynote, two other Minnesotans and I decided we’d try to have a MN Tweet Up while at ISTE to try and bring together as many of us as possible.  Seems weird since we’re all in MN- why didn’t we do it there sometime?  We put the word out on Twitter and sure enough, we had a great turnout.  Sadly, it didn’t include all the Minnesotans who were at ISTE, but we tried…  It was a great chance for me to deepen relationships I had started already, and to meet other new people from our great state.  I am so inspired by the people in my own area who are teacher leaders and bring creativity and innovation to their students each and every day.  Grow your PLN - connect with those around you.  Collaborate and share and spread the great things that you are doing in your classrooms — whether in Minnesota or not. 

WHOOP MINNESOTA!!!  They were all too busy engaging, they had no idea I took a pic.
3. #ISTE2014.  Or #ISTE14 - whatever the hashtag was.  Using a hashtag to communicate is a bit of a double edged sword for me.  I'm in a session trying to listen and engage with the speaker.  But, I'm also missing a bajillion other things going on at ISTE.  So - what do I do?  Pop out my iPhone and follow the hashtag.  Where is that?  Who is speaking now?  What was the quote that got everyone talking?  Which escalators are closed off?  Refresh.  Who is in the bloggers cafe?  Where can I get free swag?  How did those people end up in a loading dock?  Refresh.  When did that happen?  What?  Retweet. Find Jerry - what's he tweeting about?  Scroll.  Refresh.  Oh yeah - the session I'm in.  Look up.  What's he talking about again?  Refresh.  

Overwhelming, but awesome to have so many connected educators communicating their take-aways and powerful edu-messages... and karaoke pics.  Thanks for helping me truly attend the conference even when I was not able to physically be in each place every day.  

2. The theme of passion.  I've really taken the concepts of passion, and focusing on developing students' passions to heart this year as I dabbled with Genius Hour in my room.  

I checked in to the Westin on Thursday, and on the name tags of the employees underneath the name it reads: I'm passionate about____________  Our concierge was passionate about mythology.  Cool huh?  

This seems to be a theme or concept that goes hand in hand with innovation and engaging learning - I hope we continue to explore as educators how to incorporate this into our daily work with students.  Passion driven educators are the ones who drive and inspire passion driven learners.  

I saw this woman today with a shirt that allowed for wearers
to fill in their passion.  How did I miss this swag?  #fail.

1. Education Revolutions.  I'm going to keep this last one short - mostly because I'm really tired, but also because I want to do some more thinking and write something longer about it later.  BUT - there were several conversations I had with various ISTE goers about "taking the classroom back" or "revolting against the system."  There were many conversations about how we, as classroom teachers, are looking to change the system.  It's like trying to turn the Titanic, so people automatically think, "it's not going to have an effect, so why bother?"  But really, it's up to us to take the system under control to continue to do what is best for kids.  Again, I'm not going to get in to my thoughts on this right now, but the revolution is coming -- I can feel it in the air - and I want to be a part of it.  So make sure you tweet me and let me know when it's going down.  Also, can we get t-shirts for the revolution?  You know how teachers love their t-shirts and free swag. ;)

Thanks for reading.  See you in Philly.


  1. Hi honey, well done.Now we know what you were doing in Atlanta! There will be more people reading this because I highlighted several of your reflections and sent them on to friends.
    As you know, Dad and I recently discovered Pinterest, would you like me to start
    working on your retirement quilt, you have a good start already with the bag collection
    you have now.!
    Love you honey, MOM

  2. Awesome post! The MN Meet Up was awesome! I'm sorry I lost you at the Karaoke Party!