Originally posted at http://thinkgate.com/iste-recap
This past week was the 34th International Society for Technology in Education Conference - ISTE (previously known at NECC) https://www.isteconference.org/2014 in Atlanta Georgia. There was a record number of attendees, over 14,000, yet ISTE still feels like a reunion for me. One of the best parts of going to a conference is the people you get to meet and connect with. I’ve been going to ISTE, off an on since 2006, and every time I go I see some of my old conference friends and make some new ones in the process. These are people I have connected with virtually, and maybe never met in person, but ISTE gives me a chance for us to have some important face-to-face discussions. One of the issues that many people have with technology is that they feel it is disconnecting us and making us less social. In fact, one of the presentations I attended at ISTE concerned dispelling myths such as these.(http://connectedprincipals.com/archives/10420) I think that technology such as Twitter and Facebook allows me to have deeper connections with people in my field and stay connected with them in-between the conferences. It makes the in-person connections just that much better.
Through these connections I get to see how other parts of the country, and world are dealing with some of the same issues and problems in my area. Although ISTE is a technology conference, and has an impressive vendor hall to attest to that, I find that some of the best sessions and exhibitors are really focused on educational objective first. In fact, one of the best sessions I went to had almost nothing to do with technology at all, but about collaboration. Matthew Kay, Diana Laufenberg and Marcie Hull gave some fantastic examples about collaboration in their classroom, but what struck me was how much their session was about showcasing how they facilitated good working relationships between their students, how they encouraged groups and collaboration in an environment that wasn’t necessarily centered around a group project. That you need to help students understand how to be part of an effective group. The technology supports these objectives and connects the students when outside of the classroom. It is easy to let the technology be the focus rather than letting your educational objectives drive your instruction.
I was lucky to present three times this ISTE, the most I have ever presented and although I felt our sessions went really well, I didn’t get the chance to go to as many sessions as I wanted to. The great thing about ISTE is that there really is something for everyone, from the newbies who are just starting to integrate technology to those that have been working with schools to go to 1:1 for over 20 years. Even though I couldn’t be everywhere, through tools like Twitter, I got to live through others experiences. I find that tweeting during sessions allows for me to take my own version of “notes” and using Twitter favorites enables me to save some of my favorite resources to use later. In fact, I have linked my Diigo bookmarks ( a fantastic online bookmarking tool) with my Twitter so that items I favorite on Twitter are automatically saved into my Diigo bookmarks. https://www.diigo.com/user/bethanyvsmith/ISTE2014
So yes, even though I attended some great sessions, the heart of this conference is getting to connect with my once online and now in-person friends. For me to see what they are doing in their classrooms and work and think about possible connections. Some of my friends don’t even go to sessions, they just hang out in the Blogger’s Cafe and have discussions the entire time. For me, I value what these discussions can bring and I like to attend sessions that expand my vision and idea of what technology integration can be. In the end, this may be a technology conference, but its the people I go to for.