Not At ISTE

Eye to Eye With Ben

I was planning to go. After all, the conference is happening just a short train ride up the road in Philadelphia, a city I greatly enjoy visiting. I had booked my hotel early, paid my registration, and was all set to travel.

Then life started laying down speed bumps, as it is sometimes wont to do. Nothing critical, certainly nothing interesting enough to write about in this space. Just lots of those little things that tend to pile up, to the point that my plans had to change.

So this week I’ll be observing the event from afar, through the lens of Twitter and whatever video streams that can escape from the undoubtably clogged conference center network.

On reflection, however, I’m not entirely sure I will miss being at ISTE.

For one thing, as I’ve written about in the past, I continue to wonder if this kind of gathering has become too big and too expensive1 to serve any useful purpose, at least to me. I’m sure many of the conference attendees will gain from being Philadelphia this week. It certainly will be good for the vendors on the expo floor who must love having tens of thousands of potential customers passing by.

I know I won’t miss the formal sessions. Over the past three or four ISTEs, I pretty much stopped going to them. Most will cover information and ideas that can easily be found on the web, and offer little opportunity for any meaningful interaction with the presenters. Plus an increasing percentage of them are little more than infomercials for edtech products and lack much in the way of a connection to using technology for improved learning.

Most of the value of making the trek to ISTE for me has come from the direct connections I would make in the halls, the playgrounds, and lounges. But that benefit has also declined over time since many of the people that I would normally reconnect with at the conference have stopped attending. Or I will see them at smaller, less frenetic events2 where it will be easier to have a meaningful conversation.

So, if you are in Philly this week, have a great time and I hope the time you spend up there is valuable for you. Please share what you learn with the rest of us. For various reasons I will not be at ISTE next year in Anaheim either. But, after some reflection, I may find good reasons to return the following year in San Antonio.

Or I may become permanently not at ISTE.


The picture above was made at a previous ISTE conference in Philadelphia. It shows the city skyline from the 33rd floor of the Lowes Hotel. I wasn’t staying there. I think I rose to those heights to attend a vendor meeting.

1. Philly used to be one of the more reasonable cities for conference attendees, both in terms of cost and having the infrastructure to support everyone who came to ISTE. Not any more.

2. EduCon, which coincidentally is also in Philadelphia, is one example as is the state conference presented by VSTE, our ISTE affiliate.

2 thoughts on “Not At ISTE

  • June 24, 2019 at 8:20 am
    Permalink

    Hi Tim,

    I stopped attending ISTE a few years ago for many of the same reasons you mentioned. For me it was very much a cost/benefit analysis that did not come out very well – even when I was employed and my district paid for the conference. I kept thinking how we could send two or three people to state conferences for the cost of me going to a national.

    Now retired, I would prefer spending my travel funds on actual commitment-free vacations. Although I do miss many folks who I only saw at ISTE or AASL ….

    Anyway, hope life is treating you well. Nearly 3 months into retirement, and I am still out of jail!

    Doug

    Reply
  • June 27, 2019 at 11:36 pm
    Permalink

    Hi Tim,

    Sad to have missed you this year, both at EduCon and ISTE. Even though I’m local and ISTE would have been easy to attend, I agree with you that it’s too huge and the cost benefit is minimal. The only reason I would have liked to attend the full conference would be to reconnect with former colleagues, Twitter friends, etc. But the whole conference is simply too exhausting for introverts like me! So I decided just to go for a few hours on Wednesday to support a colleague leading a poster session. (Shhh — I didn’t pay registration and just walked in to the convention center.) I did get a “free” expo-only badge and wandered the expo for about an hour before I had to head back home — life and family beckoned!

    P.S. Next time you’re in Philly, take a new picture of the skyline — it has changed since you took that photo of City Hall. (BTW, it’s Billy Penn on top of the building, not Ben) ;-)

    Reply

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