Thursday, July 3, 2014

Reflections from ISTE 2014

This is my 4th ISTE and funny enough each one I've attended has been as a different role. This year I was very much interested in getting as much information as I could to bring back to my school as Tech Coordinator. It was a very interesting trip down to ISTE but we finally made it (albeit 10hrs later than we were scheduled).

The first thing I did after checking in and get my badge was to run over to the Welcome Lounge to watch the end of #satchat. At 9am I was hosting #nt2t (New Teachers to Twitter) chat live from ISTE. I saw that #satchat was using a video feed from the lounge and at the last minute decided to do the same. It's a bit hectic but we did both the Twitter based chat and a video chat. It was nerve wracking but a LOT of fun. I hope the others who joined virtually were able to get something out of it.

One of the aspects of ISTE I look forward to most are the new connections that I make as well as catching with up with my existing PLN. It's always great to catch up with Jessica Allen, Adam Taylor, Paula Naugle, Tim Gwynn, Rodney Turner, Jerry Blumengarten, Susan BeardenAlice Keeler, Elana Leoni, Jonathan WylieMichelle Baldwin, and Ashley Cross.

However, I LOVE to make new connections and speak to teachers from around the world. This year I was fortunate enough to meet some fantastic educators new to me.

One of the first new connections I made was during #satchat the first morning. Sitting in front of me was Sharon Davison who is a Kindergarten teacher from Vermont. I heard her mention that she has her students blogging, and I was very intrigued. THIS was a connection I wanted to make and have her interact with my Kindergarten teachers.

Seated next to me on the couch during #nt2t chat was Penelope Miller, a Middle School digital literacy teacher who was learning how to use Twitter for the first time. I helped her with a few of the basics but after only a few minutes she was off and running. We ran into each other randomly throughout the conference and I hope we keep in touch.

Melinda Sears is someone I've interacted with many times this year on Twitter but never met in person. I was happy to finally meet her on the second day of the conference. I think she was excited too!

Nathan Stevens is someone many of us have interacted with over Twitter and have enjoyed the #glittersnark humor he has brought in addition to his insight into makerspaces. It was great to finally meet him face to face.

Kristen Mattson, Jenny Grabiec, Kitty Tripp, and Victoria Olson were another fantastic group of teachers that I collaborated with over the course of the last year. I was able meet them all face to face before the end of the conference. It's always a great feeling meeting your PLN face to face. It's almost like a reunion of sorts.

We all go to the vendor hall to try and score some free swag or win some great prizes for our classroom. I do that too, but I also love to interact with companies whose products I use or am interested in using.

This year I was introduced to TinkerCAD by Saber Khan. I was actually on my way out the door but decided to stop in on the makerspace playground and I'm so glad I did! He showed me how his students used TinkerCAD to design a replica of his classroom. They are then able to print a 3D model of that design using a Makerbot 3D printer or export the design to Minecraft! This is something I wanted to do with our student's this year so I am very glad I made this connection.

I was also able to spend time in the CDW booth to watch a Makerbot printer in action. I spoke to their reps who steered me in the right direction on which printer would be best for our school.

I also stopped by Gripcase and Griffin to learn about their new line of iPad cases. I met with Brian the CEO of Gripcase who informed me of an important project they're doing called BOGO. Now you might instantly assume (as I did) that it stood for Buy One Get One but no it's even better than that. It actually stands for Buy One Give One! The way this promotion works is that for every case you purchase Gripcase will donate a case to a school of your choice. Know a school that can't afford iPad cases? If you purchase an order you can send them a duplicate of your order for free!

I also learned about a free new tool called ClassFlow. This was perfect since unfortunately our classroom set of Promethean ActivExpression remotes were recently ruined by leaky batteries. This will save us thousands of dollars! It's these kind of direct interactions with vendors that makes ISTE so special. Normally during the year it might be hard to reach customer service or heck impossible to reach the CEO, but at ISTE you have direct contact.

I had submitted a few proposals for sessions at ISTE that unfortunately were not accepted. However, the first day of the conference I received a message from Elana Leoni asking for help. Her co-presenter had taken ill and would not be able to present with her the next morning. She asked if I could fill in, and it took me 3 seconds to type "YES!". Elana was presenting on using Twitter for education, a topic I am very familiar with and also that I present on for various conferences. After speaking to her about the presentation though, she was taking a different (and awesome) spin on it. It wasn't going to be a Twitter 101 but instead involved the attendees getting into groups for various tasks they would need to do using only Twitter. It was a fantastic idea and really got the room involved instead of just listening to us talk about it with slides. The session was so well received we were getting messages from outside the conference and our session hashtag was even trending!

Our eduawesome 'Saved By Twitter Session'

First timers:
This being my fourth trip to ISTE, I knew what to expect. However, traveling in our group were two educators that had never been to an ISTE before. It was quite interesting to see their take on sessions and vendor interactions. I mostly walked around with Bruce Arcurio, a principal from NJ. I tried to offer tips that I had learned (some the hard way) over the past few visits to ISTE. He reflected nicely on his blog about his experiences. The other newbie to ISTE was Kate Baker, a High School English Teacher, who presented a session on BYOD using Edmodo with my wife.
Bruce had a good time at his first ISTE

I went to a few lecture sessions and also some poster sessions. I enjoyed the session on Minecraft led by Marianne Malmstrom. It was great to see all the wonderful things she does with her students using Minecraft. I came away with some great ideas to use for the upcoming school year. 

I also attended the poster sessions. I HIGHLY recommend taking time whenever you go to ISTE to attend a poster session. Being able to see work created by students and teachers in a more direct setting is very refreshing. Talking with teachers who are passionate about what they have created such as Karen Stadler from South Africa and her Rhino Project or students showing their digital citizenship projects is worth your time.

Favorite experience:

By far my favorite and most memorable experience was being able to see my wife's first presentation at ISTE (trumping even my own first time presenting). I know how hard her and Kate worked on this presentation and to see them present in front of not only a crowd of 150 in the room but a few hundred online as well was amazing! Not only that but there was a crowd outside the door listening to their presentation on the TV monitor. I was a very proud husband that day and it fills me with pride to see how successful their session was.

As an added bonus we found out the "Walking Dead" were filming a block from our hotel. I was able to get some (blurry) photos.

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