Day One of #ISTE12 was, to be honest, a bit of a let down. It did end with a wonderful dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory with Roger and Lynette Pryor. It certainly was refreshing to spend time with Aussies who see through the bullshit of education conferences and look critically at what underlies them – schools, teachers, parents and most importantly students. We spent a few hours talking about our frustrations and our dreams and we all left with a couple of drinks under our belts and plans to meet up back in Oz and hatch some plans.
Day two of ISTE was much better than day one. Why? A couple of reasons. One, I found my Kiwi/Aussie mate Glenn which meant I could relax and have a laugh – even though I’m sure sometimes he got driven mad by me and longed to be ISTEing solo again. Second reason was because the sessions were just better. The best session of the day was the one by High Tech High CEO Larry Rosenstock. His presentation was inspiring – his school and his vision for education was admirable. I guess if you saw my tweets during this session you’ll know why … I’ve added some of them below for you. I’ve always been interested in High Tech High – well ever since I started experimenting with PBL – and hearing Larry speak reinforced this interest. I love that his vision for teachers as collaborative agitators (meeting every morning to share their latest ideas for critique) and the complete removal of all of (what I call) the ‘nationalist’ elements of schooling – things like homecoming, proms and football (esp the mascot). Kids participate in sport but not for competitive prestige. I always think about the ideal school Orwell would have designed … removing non-community sports would have been a must.
Other sessions I attended were the Collaborative writing session run by a panel of teachers (a really cool design for this type of conference) facilitated by Vicki Davis. I liked their positive approach to the National Curriculum and the Common Core. I tweeted some stuff about it, see below. I’m interested in using Student Writing Groups in my classes – I’ll be investigating how these can be enhanced by using edmodo too.
Lastly, I attended a session on Infographics and Data Visualisations by David Warlick. It started off being interesting – there’s something shocking and interesting about data presented via infographics – but after half an hour or more of looking at them, I got bored. I wanted more discussion of how these can be used to enhance students learning and engagement. It really didn’t move into that region very much beyond David’s suggestion that we use the data visualisations to provoke student questions. Hmmm … no duh. I was disappointed by this session and you can probably tell from my tweets.
Oh wait – there was one more session I attended that was brilliant and which I could not tweet from. If you ever get to attend ISTE, make sure you participate in a Birds of a Feather session. I joined the PBL session facilitated by Suzie Boss and Jane Krauss (OMG – I know … THE writers on PBL research, just amazing to be in the room with them!). When I came into the room I knew I would love the session – the chairs were being moved around into circles, all messy and awesome. We then spent the next hour or so responding to prompt questions in small groups – rotating every question. It was so much fun and I learnt heaps. The people in the room were big PBL players (Shelley Wright, Theresa Shafer, Chris Lehmann and Mike Gwaltney to name a few) as well as complete beginners. I loved this session!
And to end this busy, busy day I attended the EdTech Karaoke party put on by a bunch of edtech businesses like Edutopia. It was a truly weird experience. I was lucky enough to catch up with David Ross and Dayna Laur from BIE right when I entered the party. They are such great people – genuine, passionate and warm. Meeting people like David and Dayna makes all the other silly twitter and edutech-hype stuff worth wading your way through. I then met up Glenn and some other Aussies and after a few more drinks ended up on stage make a git out of myself singing ‘Land Down Under’. Oh dear. If you ever come to ISTE and consider attending the EdTech Karaoke party, hire out a copy of Revenge of the Nerds to help you prepare, haha – it was fun in a geeky way, but I suggest leaving well before 11pm.
Why did I got to ISTE? The conversations with people who live on the other side of the world.