Blogger Cafe

Back in the fall of 2022, ISTE announced to its members that the organization would be merging with ASCD.

It didn’t make a lot of sense to me then, and a year later, the feeling hasn’t really changed.

A large part of my uncertainty came from the promises made at the time for the future of the two organizations, stuff that both of them really should have been doing all along. Plus the cultures appeared to be very different.

A recent email reminded me of the merger. It was addressed to a “valued member of our community and prior participant in ISTE events”,1 and asked me to complete a survey about the ISTE Conference.

The questions were mostly what I expected: why do you attend our conferences, what’s the best part of the experience, how could we improve the events. I answered as best I could with the limited choices based on traveling to almost twenty of these events over the years.

And then there were a few queries about ASCD that suggests to me the organizations might be considering some kind of joint conference in the future. Not sure how I feel about that.

I haven’t been able to attend ISTE since before the pandemic and, at that point, it was already far too large, somewhat chaotic, and overly dominated by sponsors.

I’ve never been to ASCD’s national conference but, based on what I’ve been told by people who have, it also attracts a large crowd. And, like ISTE, that event probably generates a large chunk of their annual operating funds as well.

But ISTE and ASCD aren’t the only large, seemingly miss-matched educational organizations that are finding ways to interact. NCTM (math teachers) and NCTE (English teachers) just announced a joint conference on elementary literacy and mathematics for next summer.

Two silos that were always very solidly walled off from each other when I was still employed in the education biz. However, I’ll be really impressed if they try to do the same thing with high school teachers.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the whole topic of educational conferences, especially those related to edtech. We have our state edtech event coming up in a couple of weeks and I’m still actively involved as a member of the planning team.

The question of who is our audience and how do we keep meetings like this relevant and useful for them is front and center in everything we do. Those challenges are increasingly hard to pin down, even here at the local level where we are closer to our membership.

It must be a whole lot tougher for the national professional organizations, with huge populations and diverse needs, to address those issues of relevance. We’ll see how they handle it.

The photo shows the ISTE Blogger Cafe from the 2011 conference in Philadelphia. These lounges, along with playgrounds and the poster sessions, became my favorite part of the conferences because I got more from the interactions in those spaces than anywhere else in the event.

1. I assume this went to most of, if not the entire membership. Side note: I’ve helped design similar campaigns for other organizations and I’d be surprised if the completion rate is over 10%. Especially this time of year.