This week I have had the distinct privilege to attend ISTE 2013 in San Antonio, TX. I don’t use “distinct privilege” lightly as a term to describe this week. This is one of the very few times I have come here and not had to pay my own way. So, I am extremely happy to be working for a principal who both values the process of professional development and values my contribution to her work at our school.
But it has also been a distinct privilege because this year’s ISTE conference was decidedly different from the last 2 or 3 I’ve attended. Not even the 3,000 degree heat of San Antonio in June could diminish the excitement of the attendees. Nearly everyone I spoke with had the same story as my own. They had grown tired of ISTE in some way. Maybe it was the “iPad app bubble” of the last couple of years when it seemed like every other session was about iPads in the classroom that wore us out. Maybe it was the uninspiring keynote speakers. Or maybe it was just a general feeling of being beaten down as an educator.
Whatever it was before, it seemed to change this year. I found dozens of sessions I wanted to attend; many of them at the same time making it literally impossible. There were still “iPad In The Classroom” sessions, but being in a 1:1 iPad program most of those did not appear to be challenging to me. Some, however, were extremely good as the sessions seem to have moved from “Hey! I got an iPad!” to “OK, I’ve had this thing for a couple of years now, so how do I go to the next level?”
And that may be the thing. It seemed over the last couple of years many of the sessions I attended all focused on the least common denominator. Everything was geared toward new users or basic instruction. Its possible, of course, that I just wasn’t paying attention. Whatever the reason, I found sessions to be much more engaging this year.
There are still the “cool kids” that everyone sort of adores and admires (or just worships the ground they walk on). But this year they didn’t seem to overwhelm the system with their presence. It isn’t that they try to do this. They are all either real-life friends of mine, or people that I exchange ideas with online. Most of them shy away from the “cool kids” label. But they have risen to a level of tech stardom that puts them out there whether they like it or not. This year, attendees seemed to take it all in stride. And that is a good thing for all of us.
But more important perhaps than any of this is the fact that this year’s ISTE has inspired many new thoughts in me about next steps. Next steps in my career. Next steps in education. Next steps in professional development. And that doesn’t always happen at a conference.
So, expect a few blog posts over the next few days as I work out some of these ideas, or just share a few anecdotes from ISTE. You don’t have to read them, of course. But I hope you will. And, if you do, please leave me a comment to add to the discussion.