I think I keep falling into a some kinda space/time hole thingy … I keep tweeting #ISTE11 instead of the official hash tag #ISTE12. No biggy, except for the embarrassment of doing so. But I think it simply reflects the same-same quality of this conference to last year’s conference. So far everything has been the same. Thousands of teachers herding towards the one door, all at the one time (OK, that was just the Sir Ken keynote yesterday that I fortuitously decided to miss). I shouldn’t expect anything different – even though we are on the complete opposite side of this massive country – because all conferences are the same. If we were idealists we would say that the biggest difference is the people – you know, there are different types of people at a different conference and it’s one whole year later. But no. All the same – same teachers here for the schwag bag and prizes, same teachers here to learn about the latest web 2.0 tools, same teachers here to feel a sense of belonging and importance by uniting under the title ‘twitterati’.
I’ve been to two sessions already this morning and they have been OK. I saw David Warlick talk about how students are changing (I think, lol) and I enjoyed his stories. I don’t think anything in particular screamed out as new and I guess that’s a good thing, yeah? Like I agreed with what he was saying and tweeted couple of things he said. That’s always a good sign. But I didn’t decide to come to this conference on the other side of the world to nod my head and think ‘yup, I know that and I agree with you’. I’m really trying to get my head around my motives for coming here. One thing I did get excited about was Scratch. I’m looking forward to showing that to my two boys tonight. It looks pretty cool in that they can create their own games using a kid-friendly programing language. Nice. I’m thinking I will look into using it with my Year 8, 9 and 10 classes as summative assessment – maybe the product at the end of a project. There’s a good chance I’ll hit some kind of filter block and the ICT guy at school will stare at me blankly when I ask to have it installed on our computers in the labs. Oh well.
After this session I went and found the Blogger Cafe and bumped into fellow Aussie @edusum. She’s very excited about being here and I have to admit it’s kinda contagious – probably a good counter to my moodiness and cynicism. It was nice to also put a face to a couple of other names – like Amanda Dykes and Michelle Baldwin. I also managed to stop Kevin Honeycutt and say hello, but once again he just gave me some merchandise so I’m starting to think that we won’t ever be collaborating on a project. He’s a super creative guy and a passionate educator but I think he’s on a path that has no divergence. I’m merely a flat speed-bump. Another teacher. The next session was meant to be Alan November (which coincidentally is where I am as I complete this blog post) but Summer and I bumped into Chris Lehmann. OK, I’ll be honest. Summer bumped into Chris and since they know each other I could be a dag and say hello too. Chris is someone I think very highly of as an educator. Sometimes I think when I grow up I wanna be like him, but the last few days have taught me that I have already grown up. Into a grinch. Anyway, Chris suggested we go to see a different session, one about media and students by Matthew Williams from KQED. Summer went to November and I opted to follow Chris. So we went to the session together. Well, we sat beside each other and I occasionally tried to make conversation, failing like a complete social-n00b. Nothing new there.
The session was great. It gave me what I look for in a conference session. A thoughtful, passionate, intelligent, experienced presenter talking about something he has done with students recently. No hyperbole, no book sales, no yelling, no drama, no pretense. Matthew was great. He didn’t talk at us the whole time, he just told his story about helping disadvantaged and silenced students find their voices through digital stories and gave us tips on how we can do the same thing with our students. He let us watch aptly selected examples of student work that were so powerful it made me want to make documentaries with all of my classes as soon as I get back in the class. He put up a link to a bunch of resources for making documentaries but I can’t find it now … thought it was this: http://www.kqed.org/education
Here are my tweets from that session:
The next session was about creativity by the director of innovations at New Tech High, Chris Walsh. It was OK, we did a couple of cute activities (drawing a butterfly to test creativity, writing our dreams on a piece of paper and making them into a paper plane to throw at our colleagues and transforming a creative teaching experience we have had or made) but mostly we were spoken at for over an hour. You can access the slides online here. I liked what he had to say, but once again the session lacked ‘praxis’ – you know what I mean? How will I put these ideas about creativity into practice in my class? I don’t wanna be told what to do in my classroom, but I do want some good examples of ways learning has occurred successfully in other schools. Or a model I could emulate or maybe modify for my students. Nope. None of that.
Right now I’m splitting my attention between Alan November speaking about how to use google effectively (I would have gone to a session about this, had that been the title of the session, but it’s not – it was about empathy which hasn’t really come up that much) and how to use twitter as a search engine to connect to authentic conversations. Yeah, that’s cool. But right now, thanks to twitter, I can see that the session by Adam Bellows is going off and I should have chosen to go there instead of here. The audience is enjoying Alan November. Maybe I’m just a grumpy bitch. Yeah, probably.
My thinking question for tonight: why did I come to ISTE12?