The past week has been a whirlwind. Running an event like iPadpalooza takes energy, effort and organization. But more than that, it takes heart. I saw and felt the love this week from all of those that came to share and learn. While we all came to Austin with our own perspectives and differences, I get the feeling we all left with a little piece of inspiration to push us through whatever life has to offer us in the future.
As host, I miss a lot of the individual sessions and the attendee experience. Actually, I don’t think host is the right word…more like “ringmaster”. This event was a circus. Complete with unicorns and flying drones and ASL interpretations that I can’t quote on this blog. I’ve told people running something like this learning festival is like coordinating 15 weddings all at once. Music, food, travel, speakers, sponsors, schedules, apps, volunteers, and building all have to flow seamlessly to create an atmosphere of contagious learning. My true joy comes from seeing others engaged, laughing and enjoying their experience. That said, I do have moments of joy myself and here are just a few of the highlights from the perspective of the ringmaster.
He’s the kind of guy you feel like you should call by first name. I first met Adam Bellow a few years ago at ISTE in 2011. He was this funny guy walking around with a blue tooth in his ear and seemingly always smiling. It’s the kind of smile that seems like he knows something. That “something” is the truth about what’s real and what isn’t in education. Last November, Adam and I spent a day wandering around the convention floor at GaETC. I was trying to get a handle on the man that had closed down ISTE 2013 with tremendous praise. He had to be our opener for this year because no one else could bring that kind of compassion and enthusiasm to the stage at Westlake high school. Being the tone-setter for an event is nothing to take likely and he did not disappoint.
I always feel kind of a sense of waste when I attend a conference and I don’t have a session to attend or no one to talk to (I know hard to believe, but sometimes I’m shy). The APPMazing race was born out of the need to have fun and collaboratively learn and create with others. While this year’s race was intensely memorable, I love the inventiveness of the teams and their spirit in fighting for whatever bonus points they could muster. I found it interesting that the winning team scored the most creative bonus points by taking huge risks (like taking their “jumper” pic by jumping into a hotel pool fully clothed and hanging out the back of a food truck for their “foodie” pic). It reminded me that sometimes you have to take risks to succeed.
“I’m just ready to get on with my life”
Kids say the darnedest things. During this year’s youth film festival, one of the participants mentioned that he was in fact ready to put this behind him and move on with his life. While it was both honest and hilarious, it made me think about how much we push our kids to do sometimes. My personal highlight of the week also came during this evening event as I got to see my 6-year old daughter take a seat as one of the film finalists. She was deathly afraid to come up and speak in front of a crowd of strangers, but she did it. When I saw her crack me that halfway-Sophia-smile (like looking in a mirror) my pride was actually physically welling up inside of me as a father. While I would cry both at the event and the next day at the closing, I couldn’t help but also be excited for what the future has to offer her and her sisters. I’m just glad I get to play a part of that future as both a parent and an administrator in the district she attends. (Ok….now my tear ducts are filling up again…enough!)
3 to 4 Minutes
One of my favorite moments of ADE2013 was when they had 10 speakers attempt to get out an idea in exactly 3 minutes. Once their three minutes was up their microphone went dead and the spot light turned off. While I liked the concept I felt like it left people stressing time more than the message. The “mini-keynotathon” on day two was my attempt to remix that concept only with the message taking precedent over the time. And as was witnessed by both Jennie Magiera and Richard Wells, the message took precedent over slides even. From Felix Jacomino‘s take on a Frozen classic to Amy Mayer all telling us that change is good and “you should go first” the inspiration was being thrown from the stage like a peanut vendor at a ballgame. One of my personal favorite moments of all-time came as I looked down at this lineup of Ed Tech all-stars that I felt honored to listen to and even more honored to call friends.
Eric and Guy
Having these two goliaths in their industry close down day 2 and 3 was a huge coup. Getting Guy Kawasaki was solely the magic of Lisa Johnson as she was able to parlay a SXSW breakfast conversation into him enthusiastically wanting to speak at our event. Eric Whitacre has always been inspirational to listen to during his TED talks, but hearing him in person was way more impressive than any video I have ever seen. My personal joy moment came when I looked down on the 12th row and saw my music teachers all beaming from ear to ear. We need to remember that art and innovation go hand in hand. These two keynoters exemplified this belief.
11th Hour in the Green Room
With one hour to go before the close, I needed to find a place to put together my closing slides. I was going to find a quiet corner in the green room when I noticed some laughter from the back table. Seeing George Couros, Cathy Hunt, Richard Wells, Rabbi Michael Cohen, Rafranz Davis and several others sharing stories around a virtual campfire was too tempting to resist. All of these amazing educators in one room and I’m trying to find a quiet corner? Forget that! So I picked up my MacBook and pulled up a chair around the fire. While I wont share the stories we shared (those are for me), I can say without a doubt this was a professional highlight of my career.
That brings me to the title of this post. We all find inspiration in different places. Some of us find it in art or music. Some of us find it in technology. One person found inspiration in a unicorn mask. Many of us find it in learning and teaching. I find it somewhere else.
I find it in people.
Being surrounded by people that are truly captivated by learning and sharing is one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever witnessed. It’s an infection that I don’t want a cure for and have a desire to spread to others. June 21, 2016 can’t come soon enough for me and the traveling circus known as iPadpalooza.
Thank you all for being my inspiration!
p.s. Couldn’t attend this year but want to experience some of the magic? Check out this highlight video by Spiral Stair Media –