ISTE 2017 Ideas and Experiences
At the Beginning
That’s the word that I hear the most often when people first come to ISTE. It’s huge. Like seriously huge. I don’t know how many people are here at ISTE 2017, but I’m guessing well over 20,000. This place is a madhouse! I hit my step count on my FitBit by 10am, just walking from one session to another!
On the other hand, it indicates that there is a lot going on in edtech, and that’s exciting. When I started edtech (back when VHS tapes were still a thing), just knowing how to use Microsoft products was considered amazing and cutting edge. Now, as I walk through Poster Sessions and Vendor Booths, I’m amazed at just how far edtech has come.
Of course, my favorite places to stop are the Google for EDU pavilion (it’s huge) and Canvas’s booth area. Nothing but awesomeness there.
Scope Out a Schedule
The trickiest thing about ISTE is figuring out what sessions to go to. So, with that in mind, here are a couple of tips (for next time).
- Trim your topics: Before you start searching for what to attend, figure out what topics you’re interested in. Every year, this is the trickiest part. I love Google, Blended Learning, Blogging, and VR, so I try to pick sessions in these areas to see what others are doing. But, if I have lots of gaps in my schedule, then I may branch out and explore what else is happening.
- Figure out the format: Each conference I go to has different formats. Or rather, they have similar formats, but they call them different things. Do you want to sit and learn about things? Do you want to interact and participate? Do you want a long session or a short session? Or maybe you’d rather just walk by a giant bulletin board of information with no obligation.
- Don’t be afraid to duplicate: It’s okay to double-book yourself. And it’s okay to leave sessions that aren’t what you thought they were. I usually choose 2-3 things per time slot, unless I know without a doubt that a session is what I want.
Winding It Down
By Wednesday, the last day, people are moving slower but the excitement is still there.
One thing that’s so awesome about ISTE, and especially about presenting at a conference like this, is the opportunity to push myself and try things I’ve never done before. Like presenting my entire poster session in 2 minutes to a huge audience. Kind of like a super-mini TED talk.
It was fun!
Or presenting a workshop of Virtual Reality in a Traditional Classroom. The wonderful tech team, and my school’s tech director, helped me connect my own router and create a localized network to connect my workshop participants to my phone so they could experience a Google Expedition, a Chromecast to push my Pixel phone to the big screen, and an HDMI connection to connect my Mac to the big screen. I don’t think I’ve ever tried something with that many working parts.
But it worked! And it was awesome!
But I think my favorite part of the whole thing is creating connections with other educators. I find it easy to isolate myself, especially when I’m working on a project. But here, I get to talk to people who are interested in the same things I am, to share the projects I’m working on, and to discover new ideas that others are imagining.
I got to meet amazing Google for Education Certified Trainers while working at the Google booth. I also got to talk to all kinds of people from all over the world while there. In my workshop, I got to hear from my participants about the cool things they’re doing and the dreams they have for their classroom. At my ISTE Bytes presentation, I got to rub shoulders with edtech giants like Adam Bellow, along with other educators and administrators who are passionate about transforming education in a positive and meaningful way.
Strangely, my takeaways aren’t all that tech-related. But here they are anyway:
- There are more ideas out there than I can possibly absorb. And it’s okay to pick and choose what is authentic and true to me, so that I can focus on a few things and do them well.
- Even though I feel like I know so little, I am still ahead of a lot of people in my areas of “expertise.” I may not feel like an expert, but being one step ahead (or maybe two or three) is enough. Sometimes I forget this.
- I love teaching and training other educators to use technology. Going into a workshop, my biggest fear is that someone won’t get a “golden nugget” from the time we spend together. I want participants to leave with one amazing thing (at least) that they can take back and use. And I love it when they get excited and share what they’re envisioning.