Missing ISTE… Sorta

Tomorrow in San Diego, the ISTE conference begins with the annual meet-up now called SocialEdCon*. And, for the first time in ten years, I will not be attending.

Will I miss it? Sure.

San Diego is a great city. When I was a kid we used to visit my grandmother who lived in one of the little coastal towns to the north. We would take the bus into town, go to the beach, visit the zoo, and enjoy the nice sea breeze. I haven’t been back in a while so it would be nice to see how things have changed.

What about the conference itself?

Well, maybe not so much.  Actually, what I’ll miss most about not being at ISTE are the pieces not listed in the conference program.

Sitting in the Blogger Cafe and having great conversations with some very smart people. The impromptu hallway opportunities that often go “Let’s grab some lunch/coffee/ice cream and I’ll tell you what I’m working on.” The tweets that result in meeting someone I’ve only known through their creations.

In fact, the most valuable part of the formal program over the past few years has proven to be the Poster sessions, which offer lots of ideas in a compact space, plus the opportunity to discuss them with the people directly involved.

It’s certainly not the humungous vendor floor, which seems to get larger and move more to the center focus every year, and is totally forgettable. Or the growing number of sessions presented by representatives of those same vendors and crowd out the more authentic voices in instructional technology.

Despite all this, I would probably be in San Diego right now if it wasn’t for the fact that my district won’t pay my expenses (except for registration, the smallest part) for conferences and I have the opportunity to spend a week in Italy a month following ISTE. When it’s your own travel budget, you gotta make choices.

And this time next year, I’ll probably be traveling to ISTE once again. Why not? Visiting San Antonio for a week or so makes a nice little vacation and, for just the additional cost of registration, I get dozens of learning opportunities.

But for the next few days, I’ll just have to follow along on the back channels and build my own virtual conference.

*Ok, I know we’ve outgrown the EduBloggerCon name for this event but there must be a better replacement than that. And corporate sponsors? Blackboard? What’s next Pearson? Doesn’t mix with the whole “unconference” meme. Sorry. Ignore this side rant and go back to the main one.