Sunday, June 30, 2013

Thoughts on ISTE13

Filing in for Opening Keynote
After a long trip back from San Antonio, involving missing exits, flight delays and a night spent in the floor of the yoga lounge of the Dallas airport I have had time to digest thoughts about ISTE 13.

As I said on the last episode of Capturing the Narrative, I have always had an issue with the show floor at these conferences, especially ISTE. First, for an outsider, I think it gives a horribly skewed perspective about the buying power of schools as a whole. All this money being spent to try and get a piece of the technology money of thousands of schools and systems. It makes it seems like teachers and school admins are just walking around with pockets of cash. We will throw this money at all of these huge booths filled with toys and take a few of the toys back. Then try it again next year.

Meanwhile a bunch of vendors are hawking their solution as the magic bullet, the panacea for your woes. It is like someone selling a hammer to a carpenter saying "this will change the way you build houses." That is a crap suggestion 99% of time and the 1% of the time it isn't will not flow smoothly and as the salesman says it will. And just because you have this tool that is fantastic, a tool is at its most effective only in the hands of someone trained in its use. And a teacher may be trained in the tool but not have the pedagogical footing to make it an effective classroom tool.

(Note: as this languished in my drafts, both @juliedramsay and @amandacdykes posted similar sentiments.)

And I am also a boring old fart. Mixers are not my speed. I would much rather be talking shop. I realized this quickly and blew off Karaoke and the like. The mixer I got the most out of was the Google reception with the Google Certified Teachers and Apps Certified Teachers. And this was primarily because it was a crowd that wanted to talk shop, to the point of almost drowning out some of our presenters.

The Show Floor
I did give the show floor a chance in a couple of ways. I loved working the Google booth for a couple of hours Tuesday. One of my favorite things to do is to help teachers brainstorm ideas to get things done in their classrooms including come up with projects and ideas. Two hours at the Google booth let me talk to so many teachers about these sorts of things and rolling out Apps and Chromebooks.

The other way was to get into some real conversations with some vendors. I spoke mostly to the web services companies, LMS solutions and web apps. There are such a myriad of solutions available, with free or inexpensive options available through several. It was more rewarding than usual.

The only 10 of Iron Chef ISTE
One of my favorite experiences was Iron Chef ISTE. Dividing into teams, we scurried for projects, goals and limitations, came up with a plan, and two days later presented our plans for the judges. We tied for first place!! My team was great and our plan presentation was simple. But we hit the correct points and got the only 10 of the competition from Ramsey Musallam, ending up in a tie for first place. It was a great chance to both network with other teachers and hear their ideas. Mad props to the ISTE Young Educator Network for putting this together.

So when you are in Atlanta next year for ISTE14, worry less about collecting swag, making it to parties, or making a chain of nametag ribbons reach the floor. Talk to people, at booths, in the halls, and in line. Use this as a chance to talk to groups of the most forward thinking teachers in the nation about being plugged in and making our classes more engaged and empowering for our students.

3/5 of Team Tech Cruncheez, one of the winning teams of Iron Chef ISTE13

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