I have been meaning to write a couple more posts about ISTE 2013, but time got away from me as I moved into the next part of my summer adventure. So while this post is a few days later, I have had a bit more time to reflect on my very first ISTE.
How would I rate the overall experience? Overwhelming! (Imagine many more exclamations marks.) Because I had read so much and received a lot of advice, I really thought I was prepared for how big the conference was going to be. But I wasn’t even close. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to arrive without even a smattering of understanding. I realize now that I was lulled into a false sense of security when I attended the Hack Education preconference the day before. It was a lovely sized group and almost felt like a family. In fact, it is where I made some new friends. Then ISTE started, and thousands of my new friends arrived, and the lines began.
Will I attend again? I will admit that there were times during the conference that I wasn’t sure, as I was so definitely on learning overload. On Wednesday night, I even told a good friend during a delicious dinner that I didn’t know if I would come back. I know she was surprised, as she had just attended her 11th conference. Now with days and sleep and a plane ride between the conference and me, I am rethinking my comments.
What did I struggle with at the conference? I may seem to be approaching this from a negative point of view, but I prefer to call it honesty. The overall size of the conference physically challenged me. I do know that I need to make walking a part of my exercise program before I attempt the conference again. Thank goodness I had brought extremely comfortable shoes to wear. This was a godsend. I am sorry I can’t tell you what the shoes are as I bought them at a market when I was leaving Beijing last summer. Suffice it to say they were worth every penny I spent on them and that was not much. The amount of knowledge and information available was staggering. I had thought that I had used my online planner in a very organized manner, but when I got to the conference and was handed the hard copy of the program, I realized that I had barely scratched the surface of what was available. There were workshops, hands-on Playgrounds where you could spend hours chatting with experts, the Bloggers Cafe, Spotlight sessions, posters and tables featuring different ideas based on rotating themes such as Global Collaboration, mini sessions, student showcases, Birds of a Feather gatherings, and countless opportunities to hear about new projects from speakers who were well known and those not so well known but who rocked their presentations. And, of course, there were the three keynotes. My mind hurt each night when I went home.
What am I glad I did not miss? I am so thankful for the people I met. The ones that I only knew online but got to meet face to face, including:
- my personal rock stars, the ladies from Simple K12 with their blue bunny slippers (which I seriously envy)
- my friends from Flat Classroom
- other international teachers especially from Latin America with whom I hope to build collaboration projects for our students
- my face-to-face friends from Beijing and Australia from whom it was so good to get a hug.
I am also glad I did not miss the opportunity to get the Microsoft Surface tablet. Thank you, Microsoft. I am having so much fun learning about this new device. The opportunity to spend time with my teaching partner Martha Beltran. We enjoyed having an opportunity away from school to share all the great things we were learning.
Do I recommend ISTE? Definitely. It is a conference like no other. Where else would I have the opportunity to write blog posts for such a large and diverse audience? To share, connect and begin to collaborate and communicate with so many people who love what I love.
Finally, I return to the question I posed earlier in the post: Will I return to ISTE? After going through my notes and writing this blog post, the answer is a definite YES! I am not sure I will attend in person or virtually in 2014 but definitely in person in 2015. Regardless, I hope we can continue to make sure our relationships are a major part of our technology life. We are not alone but part of an amazing group of educators who are passionate about what they do.