Jul 14, 2017 2017-07-14By Karey Killian
More than 20,000 attendees and exhibitors participated in the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference from June 24–28th in San Antonio, Texas. This was the first year the total number of attendees exceeded 15,000. Everyone was searching for ways to "embrace the extraordinary" for their students. Some participants found answers in the massive exhibit hall filled with vendors eager to share products or resources promising to enhance student learning. Others found it in a variety of sessions provided by experienced educators and more than 600 student presenters. In the age of digital technology, one cannot underestimate the power of face-to-face social networking at an event with thousands of individuals who aspire to share their passion for learning.
Embracing Opportunities to Share
ISTE provided numerous venues for exchanging ideas with like-minded educators. For instance, I created several Sway presentations for the Teach Meet event. Teach Meet hosted a relaxed atmosphere to share either a 2-minute, 7-minute, or 20-minute presentation. I was thankful for the opportunity to share about Micro:bits, Lifeliqe, and Going Global with Skype in the Classroom. It was refreshing to see other educators exchange ideas in this brief format and I added many new ideas and educators to my Twitter network.
As a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE), I thrive on this time to connect with my tribe of fellow MIEEs to meet up and share ideas. It also provides me an opportunity to share with teachers outside my immediate network. For instance, when the call went out seeking MIEE volunteers to help at the Microsoft booth I was sure to join the team. New this year, ISTE attendees could join in a live Skype call in the Microsoft Experience Room. I volunteered to host a call from Butte National Park where participants had the opportunity to observe, ask questions, and see some of the most well-preserved fossils in the world. It was exciting to share something that I'm so passionate about with educators who have never used Skype in the classroom.
ISTE also hosts a number of online professional learning networks (PLNs) throughout the year. This year was the first time that I met my ISTE STEM and ISTE Librarian PLN teams in person. I've been communicating with both of them on a monthly basis, and was thrilled to share experiences with the PLN teams at the Networking Fair, PLN Playgrounds, and awards ceremonies. Now that the ISTE conference has ended, I'll depend on the PLNs within ISTE to be a source for ideas, suggestions, and guidance as I work to empower my students to become inventors, creators, and curators of information.
Students are often encouraged to be afraid of their digital lifestyles. The pull towards wanting students to be wary of the Internet is understandable. Hearing just one story about a child who was abducted because of trusting someone on the Internet is enough to inspire justifiable fear. But no one makes their best decisions when they are scared, which is why we want students to be informed rather than afraid. When students understand—rather than just heed our cautions—they have a better chance of protecting themselves and others, as well as transferring understanding to new situations. We want them to have a clear mind when they assess and respond to their online experiences, and fear can often get in the way of that.
While at ISTE, I couldn't help but realize I already knew so many people at the event. Through social media, educators make profound connections with educators virtually before ever meeting in person. There were others that I met for the first time that were added to my social media accounts. The power of a connected conference like ISTE is that there are so many powerhouse educators with brilliant ideas that can be taken back to your district. For example, on the last day I sat down for a quick break and started talking to a young lady from England. We quickly determined that we each had something to offer each other and are looking forward to collaborating in the future.
Connections with passionate educators are what fuel the fire to keep looking for innovative ways to provide meaningful learning experiences for students. As an educator, there are times that I feel ordinary. But ISTE provides an experience to embrace the extraordinary by networking with educators that help me to become the best that I can be. We need to share the passion for learning with students, colleagues, administrators, vendors, community members, and politicians so they can see the vast learning adventures happening in classrooms around the world.