2.5 days at the world’s biggest edu conference, #iste13

I don’t hide my feelings about ISTE. I’ve been twice before – my first year was thrilling, overwhelming, surprising and my second year was frustrating and disappointing. So why would I go again? Simply because I would be in the States at the time of the conference and my peeps were going to be there – that’s my Aussie peeps Jess, Moni and Ashleigh who each presented at the conference. Of course, I also wanted to test if my second experience of ISTE was coloured negatively by my own cynicism. So what did I learn?

I learnt that my gut instinct from #iste12 was right. For me. (Please keep in mind that I share what I think and feel – my own experience. My thoughts and feelings certainly aren’t shared by everyone.) Once again, I felt that the conference is far too big. Big. Big. Big. There are so many sessions that it’s almost impossible to decide which ones to attend. There’s not only presentations and workshops, there are spaces to connect with people (Bloggers’ Lounge, Newbies Lounge), the exhibition hall and the poster sessions … oh, and keynotes. There is such a range of topics being covered, but every year there are certain ‘buzz words’ that linger in the air and waft from one space to another – you simply can’t escape them. This year’s buzz words were: anything with ‘i’ in front of it (like iRead, iMaths, iLearn, iTeach, iDuh), flipped classroom, Minecraft, iPads, failure/fear, STEM (or STEAM or STREAM depending on your slant), Twitter and BYOD. So if you wanna be a ‘hip’ and ‘nerdy’ and ‘geeky’ teacher, I suggest you jump on to those bandwagons straight away, lol! Anyway, I don’t wanna hate on the conference too much, it is what it is and so many people get so much from it, good on them. I’m definitely with William Chamberlain when he says, ‘I don’t got to conferences to learn anymore. That’s what Twitter is for. I go to conferences to connect.’ (paraphrased)  but so true. I connected with a number of cool people, but not as many as I’d hoped. Not enough actual teachers are hanging out at the places designed for connecting – Bloggers’ cafe etc … that seems to be the reserve of the edu-celebrities. Sigh. BUT, in light of the fact that I’m a cynical little Aussie, I can appreciate why no-one wants to talk to me, lol. SO, I’m just going to spin to the positive and share with you what I did learn from ISTE this year.

Sunday (Day 1): After manically registering in the very big Ballroom A, I rushed to the main hall to join Ashleigh for the Ignite sessions. Interesting that they put these on the big stage this year – I think it was a little unfair to most of the presenters who were teachers, and not used to presenting before such a massive crowd. I mean, rad opportunity but so impersonal. The two talks that stood out for me were the one by Carrie Ross (all about how essential it is to create a positive classroom culture – a community of learners) and Dean Shareski (he spoke about being silly with kids – which is awesome because how can you not be, really? The opposite of silly is boring. It was a great talk – he’s a natural and so genuine). Both of the speakers grabbed my attention because they spoke about students with admiration, love and passion. After the Ignite sessions we did something … no idea what that was, ISTE amnesia? I do remember that we lined up for AGES for the opening Keynote – Jane McGonigal. Unfortunately before she spoke we had to endure the train-wreck that was the unveiling of the new ISTE ‘brand’ – essentially 20 minutes of cheesy promo referring to ISTE as a product. It ended with a t-shirt canon – no joke. I had shivers the whole time. NOT the good kind. If you wanna know what Jane’s keynote was like, just watch her TED talk. I found the whole thing frustrating and uninspiring. She spent most of the time trying to justify why games are worth valuing – duh. That’s so 2009. She barely touched on games and education. My expectations were high so my disappointment was big.

Monday (Day 2): I actually didn’t go to ISTE on Monday. I sent my hubby Lee in my place – I’ll let him write up his experience, lol. What I did manage to do was check out San Antonio a bit with my boys and then go out to dinner with some of my very favourite peeps – Suzie Boss, Myla Lee, Dayna Laur, Al Solis, Mike Gwaltney, Andrew Miller, Tina Photakis, Ashleigh Catanzariti and hubby Lee. It was great fun and involved Alfie, Lee and Dayna eating crickets and me getting a little drunk on a margarita and talking WAY too much, lol!

Tuesday (Day 3): I started the day attending the BYOD workshop about collaboration run by my mate Jess Melkman. It was, naturally, a really great session. She got us up and connecting with people we didn’t know and explained how she uses collaboration online and f2f in all of her classes – including seniors. After that Ashleigh and I planned to attend a couple of sessions that we managed to miss. We spent our time drinking margaritas and learning (kinda) about the Alamo, lol. Returning to ISTE a little tipsy (is there a theme?), we checked out the Newbie Lounge, met some great people (even if one admitted to unfollowing me on Twitter at some point because I rant too much – baaahha!) and chatted to amazing students at the poster sessions. The poster sessions run by students are always a highlight – I was taught how to use an app-builder tool and how to make a LED ring, so cool. We ended our ISTE day with the PBL Birds of a Feather run by Suzie Boss and Mike Gwaltney which (just like last year) was awesome. It was great that Lee and our boys got to attend (how cool is Suzie Boss?) and we all made some great connections that will lead to rad projects for our students later in the year. Brilliant! We all went to the EdTech Karaoke party later that night, and, well, yeah … my son summed it up when he said, ‘Mum, imagine if students came in here. Those teachers would be so embarrassed.’ Haha!

Wednesday (Day 3): I woke up in the morning at 7am and checked Twitter to discover that I now have a new Prime Minister – without an election. There was effectively a coup and our first female prime minister was ousted in a leadership spill and we once again have Kevin Rudd (aka Kevin 07 or KRudd) as our prime minister. It was like waking up in the Twilight Zone. Anyway, after a flurry or annoyed and confused tweets, I fell back into a broken sleep only to wake up in a fit at 10.30am realising that I had 30 minutes to get to the convention centre for my edmodo presentation with Jess and Moni. Oops! Luckily I can get ready fast and made it on time. It was a fun presentation cos we three got to share how we met via edmodo – true story! After our presentation we spent some time at the Bloggers’ Cafe but didn’t actually speak with any bloggers … I like that the space is informal, but also think it’d be good to have some kind of system or protocol for connecting with other bloggers – like an edu blogger speed-dating or something. It’s sort of awkward sitting around there not knowing who to approach or when to approach them. I know some love it, but after three years (and being someone who blogs a lot) I still haven’t found it to be a space that has a great impact on me as a blogger. Bummer. Finally, we all went off to attend Andrew Miller’s session on PBL and Blended Learning. It was so great – the best way to end ISTE. Andrew is a super engaging, funny and knowledgeable speaker who truly is passionate about students getting the opportunity to experience quality PBL. I took a bunch of notes and tweeted quite a lot from his session – you can read my notes below cos I’m too lazy to write them out, lol … I’m about to go swimming in the Texan heat y’all 😉

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6 thoughts on “2.5 days at the world’s biggest edu conference, #iste13

  1. Thanks for posting the notes. I went to the other PBL thing and it was kind of a drag. I find ISTE a bit too big, as well. I am always wishing I were in another room I see on the twitter feeds….

  2. Thank you for candid and personal look at ISTE13. I, too agree with William Chamberlain is that Twitter is for learning and the conference is for connecting. I also connected f2f and had great conversations at this conference. If you were to go back and do it again, what would you do differently?

    • It was so lovely to meet you – sorry for my mania. We were a bit tipsy from margaritas, lol!
      Great question, btw. I think I won’t be returning to ISTE but if I did, I’d throw out the challenge to design and plan projects with as many keen teachers as possible – actually creating some action items to implement what we’d learnt at ISTE together as educators.

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  4. I love the honesty in this ISTE recap – thank you for that. I probably won’t attend an ISTE for years to come, if at all, but I could really picture the scene via your descriptions, from the tackiness to the idea-overload. What was The Biggest Idea you gained from going?

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