For me, ISTE13, the biggest educational technology conference in North America, was about meeting the people. Workshops and keynotes took a back seat to the disruptive meet-ups that I had in the dry heat or AC cool of San Antonio. But these meetings didn't require me stalking the keynotes or standing by the VIP sections for nods and smiles. These were the real deals: the educators in the trenches, the innovators who scare up buried resources to make things happen for students, the coordinators who support thousands of teachers ranging from early adopters to email shrugging Luddites. Below are ten of my best meet-ups and my take on their deal.
While grabbing my Surface RT at the Microsoft command centre, a young educator with a twinkle in her eye sat down beside me. She picked up that I was confused about something and asked me: "What is your burning question?" I was kinda sorry that I didn't have one. Through conversation, we discovered that we were both Canadians. She revealed that she was going to be sharing at the opening Ignite session and that I needed to cheer loudly for her. I mentioned that I wanted to follow her on Twitter but I didn't have data. She said "I don't have data either but I just used the code the Microsoft's techs were putting in the Surfaces." I was instantly impressed. Who knew she was going to be doing this Ignite (TED-talk-like) presentation in front of 10,000 people. And she killed it.
She blogs here about Hacking the Classroom, sharing her adventures in transforming education. It's genuine stuff: she is a true hacker. She hacked her way into "basically a keynote", karaoke, and several after parties all with a pizazz that showed the she should be there. She has an amazing and inspiring way of turning things on their head. She brings out the inner hacker in everyone she meets. Made me think that anything is possible.
Now to hacking a pool into my backyard.
"hey we should connect, I arrive around 5" "landed, should be settled 5:30ish" were the tweets I received Saturday night at ISTE13. We had never really talked before. But in minutes I was about to hang out with someone I had huge respect for. His current title is the CIO for Vancouver School District. I knew him from his previous school district and only had a FTF when I attended one of his workshops. I read his blog regularly though and have connected with him on Twitter. We had dinner by the river; we visited the Alamo; we cruised the Riverwalk. All the while I got to pick his brain about the big ideas and the details of technology in education.
Very much looking at the big picture. He both strives to mold and prepare for the future. Conversation with him inspires ideas about what the future can be like and what the great disruptions and disruptors that have molded our present are. When I am thinking about "hand in boxes", he's thinking about the future of augmented reality in the classroom. When I'm pondering a good learning management system, he's wondering how he can form a student "genius bar" for teachers to turn to for advice. One of his tweets: "Education needs to become a covert operation where learning secretly happens and the kids don't realize it but they love it"
My partner in crime all ISTE13 long. Yet this was the first chance we really got to meet. He promised me he would introduce me to some great people and he did not disappoint. And though he got me 1 breakfast, 2 parties, 3 dinners, and a whole wack of karaoke, it was the many connections he helped me make and the inspirational conversations we kept up that made my trip worth it. With him as a sounding board, we plotted how all of this ISTE learning could work back in SD43. We're planning some disruption of our own.
His blog here is called Gone "Digital" Native. And it is so aptly named. For the nearly six years since this guy has started blogging about his dive head first into technological solutions for learning, he has been immersing himself in the business of teaching better through tech. Whether it is using embed codes to beef up classroom websites, using Google translate to help ESL kids read, using Voicethread to give aboriginal students a more authentic voice, teaching Kandinsky to a computer class, or using Audacity to help LD kids write, he masters the tech and then imparts it to students. But he is so much more than his tech. It is the connections he makes with his students that speaks even more loudly. You'll hear him say: "tell kids they are smart enough", "empower kids to troubleshoot" or "so I decided to ask my students on this. . ." He really loves what he does and inspires the rest of us to do the same.
One's first (first love, first car, first house) is always special. Well, I stumbled into the edchat world serendipitously and discovered #byotchat, my first edchat. It was amazing. I felt I had found my home. People there were truly interested in helping this novice get somewhere with his BYOT environment. And @BYOTNetwork was one of the facilitators. He helped me start my BYOT class and so getting to meet him for a FTF at ISTE13's blogging café was amazing.
He's about sharing and connecting. Even when we met at ISTE he made sure I got connected with yet another edtech person. He's about taking people from the no-no's of tech in the classroom to Acceptable Use Guidelines, focusing on the 95% of students who are going to do the right thing. I love his Forsyth County Schools' "I will" approach, as opposed to "You can't":
And he's about cultivating a learning community of trust--whether on twitter in his #byotchat gathering or in the hundreds of classrooms that he supports.
@dkvandergugten , @LJakes42 , @rorypayment
I was excited to meet BCers at ISTE13 more than anyone else. They know the FIPPA problems we deal with; they're not preoccupied by thinking Common Core, and they share a common need to be able to address and surmount the BC curriculum. I talk about these three individuals together as they came across as a united team. The meet was over several dinners and Riverwalk walks; it was great to pick each brain.
I'd like to say that they come from an innovative school district but it would be more accurate to say that they are developing an innovative school district. I enjoyed hearing about their reading fluency enhancing Ipod touch/Ipad project in particular as it related to my own BYOT classroom. You can learn about the project here. I also appreciated their foray into a new report card template which includes pieces such as these: a student inclusive conferencing model, a section on critical thinking, a spot for student self evaluation, and an emphasis on teacher and student coming together to set learning goals.
The meet: Over enchiladas and gelato
Introduced to by @jagill, I had a chance to have several motivating conversations with him. Being a Techsmith employee, you'd think he would be all about Camtasia, SnagIt, and Jing. Really, the software wasn't the focus, though he knew his stuff. Through conversation he inspired me to think about teaching better. And while I was interested in classroom flipping, he prompted me to inquire about. . .inquiry. He made sure to introduce me to people I had to meet. One was @ramusallam.
You have got to see his Ted Talk here. He's a chemistry teacher whose teaching has been transformed since his operation for a life threatening heart aneurism. He, like his surgeon, decided on three rules to guide his occupation: curiosity comes first, embrace the mess, practice reflection. He implores teachers to become cultivators of curiosity and inquiry. He challenges teachers to confuse and perplex students, bringing out their own natural questions. What could this look like in an elementary classroom? What could it look like in middle school? I'm very inspired to pursue this more.
I've got to give credit to this fellow as he was the one who told me about ISTE13. He was surprised I had never heard about it. So was I. But that conversation lead to my attending. And as Obi Wan says, my "first step into a larger world". Our meet-up almost never happened as the conference wifi problems created time travelling tweet black holes. By the time I got his message that he was coming to me, I was already where he said he was. It was very Three's Company-ish.
Though he isn't a teacher, he has a lot of the characteristics of a great one. He's a connected learner who listens carefully and applies the learning to the next step. It's formative assessment. It's crucial whether you are a teacher imparting fraction adding or an entrepreneur teasing out the need and looking to meet it. He's one of the founders of Freshgrade, an app to aid teachers with student assessment. The team is using technology and innovation to make assessment meaningful, immediate, and even easy. It's every teacher's dream and they're working on it!
Many people have asked me what I learned from ISTE13. It has been hard responding to the question. To me, learning cannot be disconnected from connection. I have a hard time sharing a new concept without mentioning a person, an expert, and "inspirator". Connection, attachment, and learning: is it any surprise that this is where the post ends up. It's the people that make the learning enjoyable. As teachers, as parents, as leaders, we can never forget that.