There are a ton of thoughts and ideas swirling in my brain and I am grateful for some down time to sift through and begin to process everything. It will probably take a few blog posts, debriefs and conversations to fully process everything, but this post is a start. After all, you've got to start somewhere, right?
I realized a few things while I was away at ISTE....
1. I am looking forward to my role as a Talent Development Teacher during the 2014-2015 school year and think I made the right decision to transfer schools. It was a difficult decision to make, but I finally feel at peace with it. I can't wait to work closely with students again and take back these wonderful ideas I learned at ISTE and share with teachers in my school and across the district.
2. It really is an exciting time to be in education, despite constant attacks on public education from state legislators and testing mandates. There are so many resources and tools available to help teachers make content meaningful and bring learning to life for our students. Possibilities for learning are endless!
3. I have heard the saying "The smartest person in the room is the room." Well, if that's true, then the smartest person in the conference is the conference. Being surrounded by a sea of knowledgeable, passionate, and skilled educators was motivating and inspiring!
4. Building relationships and connecting with people really is at the heart of everything.
Like I said earlier, ISTE is intense. The program guide and presenter list reads like a "Who's Who" list in education, every major educational technology company had a presence at the conference, and you encountered insanely long lines everywhere-- waiting for a session to start, for the bathroom, for food, to get on the hotel shuttle, for a table at the food court. It is really easy to get completely overwhelmed by everything-- the size of the venue, the names of the presenters, titles of attendees, the endless lines, etc... However, it isn't about those things. What really matters are the personal connections you make and relationships you build with people.
I was fortunate to be selected to attend this conference with a team from my school district. Some of the people on the list were people I didn't know a year ago, but have since connected with because of the power of Twitter and social media. It was fun to meet some educators who have participated in our district's Twitter chat, #cmsk12chat, in person. ISTE also provided me with a chance to get to know some members of our district-wide PLN a lot better. I loved being able to connect face-to-face with members of my PLN and found that I definitely prefer the face-to-face connecting online.
ISTE also allowed me to expand my existing PLN. Chances to connect with people existed at every corner of ISTE-- from standing in line to relaxing in the Oasis Lounge (a hidden gem, by the way!) to sitting close together on a crowded shuttle. Conversations and connecting took place everywhere. Learning wasn't limited to just during sessions. I met some of the nicest people standing in line for Ignite sessions, at lunch, at dinner at a delicious Chinese restaurant called Hsu's, during sessions, at the playground, etc.. A group of us had an impromptu discussion about augmented reality and how we could use it with elementary school kids. This lead me to provide an on-the-spot tutorial for using Aurasma, an app I learned about earlier that morning. The best part about it is that the connections don't start and end at ISTE; the learning and connecting will continue. Friend requests have already been sent through Facebook, emails have been exchanged, tweets have been sent, and phone conversations have already been had.
While the content of the sessions were awesome and I left armed with a lot more ideas, tools, and resources, one of the most important lessons learned is that, above all else, it is the connections and relationships that really matter. They are at the heart of everything.
There's more ISTE goodness and reflecting to come! Stay tuned...