On a previous post, I wrote some criticisms of ISTE based upon my initial impressions. However, I ended up having a blast. Here are my reasons I enjoyed ISTE:
- Convergence of Communities: It was fun to watch Javi the Hippie interacting with Jamie from Cooperative Catalyst as well as Angela Watson (one of the earliest bloggers to read my blog when it first began).
- Finding a Place: I’ve always felt like I was on the fringes of the ed tech, the ed reform or the edublogger communities, but this conference reminded me that I have a place within each one. It was both humbling and empowering.
- Humility: I was surprised that some of the “big shots” were incredibly approachable. I had great conversations with Shelly Terrell, Tom Whitby and Mary Beth Hertz and I realized that these people have a large following, not because they have access to the megaphone, but because they have a humble voice.
- Stories: It struck me, in sharing a pint with Chad, that I never knew his story. Similarly, I never knew that David Wees taught in Thailand. I realized that, in many cases, I had never realized the place behind the person. I knew only dialogue and a little plot. The in-person interaction became a time to know the larger narrative. I was surprised by the level of vulnerability in topics like how school had wounded us (thanks for the dialogue Paula) or in our difficulties in figuring out how to apply our beliefs about education to our own children.
- The Sessions: After attending both ISTE workshop and ISTE Unplugged sessions, I realized that behind the slick-marketed workshop titles were thoughtful educators who often knew more about a particular subject than I did.
- The City of Philadelphia: Whether it was a stroll around the murals, a chance to re-enact Rocky or a visit to the birthplace of the Constitution, the city often became an implied metaphor for various thoughts on education.
- Affirmation: I heard some of the kindest words about some of my most random work: sketchy videos, pencil blogs and geeky tweets (like #iste91 tweets). I realize that this can be dangerous to seek out praise from fellow educators. However, sometimes I find myself feeling distant, confused and ready to self-censor. Similarly, I had the chance to tell people in person words that I rarely say online.
- Breaking Stereotypes: I came into the conference with stereotypes about tech conferences, vendors, private schools and STEM projects. This conference forced me to confront these stereotypes in-person.
- Reconnecting: I met my former eighth grade teacher who had played a powerful role in my life. I was surprised when I found myself giving him a big hug. It was a bold reminder that while characters may fade from the narrative, their influence will endure forever.
- My Team: Although I was often hard to get ahold of, I had a chance to spend time with the members of my team. It was a glimpse into their humor, humility, authenticity and creativity and it was a reminder that my PLN is not limited to Twitter and blogging.