Expanding Horizons? Depends on Your View (ISTE2012 Recap)
An Attendee Recap of the ISTE 2012 Conference
June 24-27 – San Diego, California
Any conference that has Sir Ken Robinson open as a keynote, has a great chance to be a winner. I wrote a few months ago about Sir Ken serving as keynote at the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and how while the rest of the conference lacked the muster, he more than made up for it. With that in mind, I was excited to see Sir Ken take the stage, albeit for only 45 minutes or so at ISTE this week. However, I was disappointed when it slowly evolved from his elegance and wit to a semi-sales pitch. We are all aware of the importance of vendors, but when you have the opportunity to start a conference of this magnitude off with a bang and you elect to let vendors speak to open, it sets the wrong tone.
Unlike NASSP, this conference was not as dependent on a strong Keynote to promote it’s value as an international event. This was mostly due to the level of top-level talent that attends and speaks at ISTE. Combine that with the level of pertinent, up-to-date topics and one quickly realizes that the mix of talent and relevance can make this a one-of-a-kind event.
Assuming you choose the right path.
This was my 4th ISTE conference and I’ve gone from a wide-eyed computer teacher to a seasoned administrator in that time, but I still hold a level of curiosity to learn from great minds in the field. That said, I focused my attention on who was presenting more than what sessions were being presented.
Day 1 Session Recaps –
Tony Vincent’s “Mobilize for Personal Productivity” session was a great way to start of the conference sessions. Tony is always an engaging and fun presenter, not afraid to poke fun at himself. In this session he went over a variety of ways to clean up your digital and personal lives, from zeroing your inbox to organizing your laundry. He had a few quotes from David Allen, one of which really rings true – “The mind is for creating tasks, not for holding them.” A very useful tool he showcased that I’ve started to us is the ifttt.com website. It uses a series of “If This Then That” scenarios to link up all of your social media accounts and save you time in your day.
I followed Tony’s session with “Becoming a Mobile Learner” by Travis Allen. Travis and his crew have been touring the country literally as a mobile conference on wheels. This bright college student started the iSchool Initiative when he was 17 in the hopes to get his own high school on board with allowing mobile devices and promoting digital learning. His main point was that the “industrial model” of education is the Titanic trying to set sail into the information age. Unfortunately, there is an iceberg of government bureaucracy that is in between us and where we need to go. One stat that stood out regarding mobile learning in higher education was that if a college student buys a tablet his first year of college, he’ll save an average of $3100 over the course of the four years due to paper savings, eBooks, calculators, etc.
Will Richardson’s “Eight Ways to Start Conversations around Change” was an interesting dialogue about how we initiate change on our campuses and how we sustain that change (although it was more like six ways). He and co-author Rob Mancabelli discussed some strategies for how to start change via “Tech Nights” with parents, book clubs set at parents’ homes and online posting and dialogue. When it comes to sustaining that change, we need to address the emotional side as well as the rational. We also have to pave the road so that people can see where they are going and have as smooth a travel as possible. While Will and Rob were good story tellers, I felt a lot of their information was already stated in some form or fashion and that they were mostly putting that together to present to us. Still, I walked away with a sense of gauging our own level of change at Eanes and realize we are past the initiating phase and now need to figure out how to sustain it.
I finished off the day with EduTecher founder Adam Bellow. His session was aptly titled “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future.” I met Adam at ISTE last year and had never seen him present, but I was absolutely floored by his presentation. He started off saying he would be presenting 400 slides in his hour with the room, and he wasn’t joking. While he bashed industrial-age teaching like other presenters, his speed and wit to which he made parallels were un-matched. He and I share a common agreement that we need to develop Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for every student, not just those with special needs. The other thing we hold in common is that kids need to be more than engaged, they need to be empowered. He literally put his money where his mouth is during this presentation too. When we entered the room, each attendee was given a QR code and a crisp dollar bill. During the presentation, we were directed to go to the QR code and vote (via SoapBox.com) on a charity to donate. He then gave us the option of walking out with the dollar, returning it, or returning it with more money. All money collected would be donated to those charities. It was a unique way to show how we all are socially-motivated in some nature and we also crave to control our path of learning. What a great way to end a great first day of sessions. It left me walking with a buzz of motivation to change the world that I hope would carry on through the rest of the conference.
I ended the first day on a wonderful harbor cruise hosted by Atomic Learning. You’ll notice pictures in this post from that trip out to the harbor and back. My mom actually came down from LA to watch the kids as this was also a family trip. The wife and I spent likely the longest amount of time together in a while without the kids, and although it was a work-related event, she and I enjoyed the time together. It made me realize with all this change and motivation in my work life, some things in life are too precious to overlook.