ISTE Quick Thoughts: Unpacking the Conference

Although the past five days were very busy, now comes the hard work of unpacking.

Everyone has their own style but when I attend a conference, especially one as large and hectic as ISTE, I spend my time on the sights, sounds, and conversations, on collecting as many experiences as possible. There isn’t room for much reflection and making context.

That part starts the day after and continues for weeks or sometimes months as I sift through the fifteen or so pages (thank you Evernote!!) of session notes, ideas, URLs, sound clips, names (people, places and things), photos, email addresses, and Twitter handles, plus business cards and other assorted bits of paper.

Every element represents a potential starting point leading to something I can adapt and use in the future. Or more likely, down an interesting, albeit entertaining, rathole.

Either way, my learning continues long after the closing session.

ISTE Quick Thoughts: They’re Selling You

Yesterday someone asked how many ISTE Conferences (rebranded from NECC when we hosted in DC a couple of years ago) I’ve attended and, after checking the history, I realized that this is my 10th (starting in 1999). It also struck me that, although the technologies we’re discussing and using have changed a great deal*, the basic format of ISTE/NECC hasn’t.

Especially unchanging is the vendor floor where I spent some obligatory time yesterday. The expansive hall is prominent, huge, crowded, and noisy, and I can see how many attendees, especially first timers, might get the impression that this is the main focus and heart of the conference.

Well, it could be if you let it. One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that this experience is what you want it to be. If you attend a lot of bad sessions, you probably didn’t have a clear idea of what you wanted to learn. Or you didn’t do enough research into the speakers and topics.

If you spend large chunks of time in the “exposition” or in vendor-sponsored sessions, then you come away with the impression that instructional technology is all about buying IWBs, new gadgets, and instant “solutions” to every problem in your professional life.

There are plenty of other opportunities at ISTE but finding them requires planning. And spending minimal time at the shopping mall.


*The iPad on which I’m writing this is an amazing conference tool compared to the iBook I lugged around my first ISTE.

ISTE Quick Thoughts: Overcoming the Fear

So, on the first full day of ISTE the convention center is swarming with educators looking for the next big thing.

I don’t know if this qualifies but one of my goals at this conference is to gather as many ideas as possible around the idea of kids bringing their own devices to school and, more importantly, how to help teachers learn to make effective use of them. The rather large discussion we had around that subject at EduBloggerCon was an excellent start because it was largely very positive.

So much of what I read and hear on this topic is centered not on “let’s explore the possibilities” but on the fear of “what if the kids do something wrong?”. It was great to hear from schools that are actually making it work.

Someone in the EBC conversation said that in five years we’ll look back and wonder what the fuss was all about. I hope it comes faster but we do have a lot of fear to overcome in the meantime.

Going Against The Rules

Although it was published three years ago, I’m finally getting around to reading Brain Rules by John Medina.

A combination of the book being highly recommended by several friends, Amazon selling the Kindle edition for only three bucks, and Medina being the opening keynote speaker at the ISTE conference later this month.

Anyway, I’m still in the very early parts of the book but I thought this quote from the introduction was worth passing along.

What do these studies [brain research] show, viewed as a whole? Mostly this: If you wanted to create an education environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like a classroom. If you wanted to create a business environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like a cubicle. And if you wanted to change things, you might have to tear down both and start over. [emphasis mine]

Certainly something to remember as I read on.