The past 5 days have been a whirlwind and full of emotion. Seeing friends and colleagues in person for the first time in nearly 4 years (I last attended ISTELive in 2018) made my face hurt from smiling so much. Being in the Big East gave this event even more soul (and sweat) than other “Anytown, USA” locations. This reflection is my break down on the highs and lows of ISTELive as a presenter and attendee.
The number one reason why I attend an event like ISTELive is the connections and I’m not alone in that sentiment. While live podcasting during the event (check out my new Forward To Different podcast), guest after guest commented on the joy of reconnecting with Ed Tech friends face to face.
Hugs, hugs and more hugs. That seemed to be the norm when running into an old friend. The only difference is now it’s accompanied with the obligatory “are you ok with a hug?” question that we will carry with us out of the pandemic. The convention center had several spots for socializing in between sessions and I camped out in ISTE central interviewing passers by and my PLN.
+Poetry in eMotion
One of the highlights for me personally of this experience didn’t happen in the convention hall. I had the privilege of hosting the Ed Tech Poetry Slam on Monday night. This event, held at the incredibly funky Toulouse Theatre brought together 12 amazing Ed Tech superstars leaving it all on the stage.
The poems ranged from hilarious to deep emotion. These poets opened themselves up on this stage in so many moving ways it brought tears to my eyes several times. Stories of family suicide by 2019 Brian Smith (@brianrsmithsr) had the audience in stunned silence. Nancy Jo Lambert (@nancyjolambert) shared what she has experienced coming out as a bisexual woman and now considered “an other.” Diane Doersch (@doerdi) had a riveting call to action, using her poem to express the rage and heartbreak over the overturning of Roe vs Wade.
In the end, there could be only one champion and that title was claimed by the powerful words of Dr. Amy Jackson (@techyouverymuch). Her poem spoke of the struggles of being a woman of color in a leadership position, often left out of many decisions. Her second round improv presentation about dating life in the modern age had people laughing to tears. And her ending opus and call to action after she claimed the title had the entire crowd ready to storm out of the building to raise the voices of those in the margins. All-in-all, an amazing event and a well-deserved champion for 2022.
– Conference Wifi
Every conference has their set of issues. Wifi seemed to be a constant problem in an event centered around technology and connectivity. During my “Nailed IT!” Session, which pits attendees against each other in a series of Ed tech challenges, many were frustrated by slow speeds and crashing signals. Co-presenters Tana Ruder and Adam Phyall kept the audience engaged despite the struggles and it ended up being a hilarious and engaging session that attendees loved (one attendee even posted the meme below to showcase the struggle) Here’s hoping next year’s event in Philly cranks up the bandwidth!
+ Amazing keynotes
While I only had time to catch a glimpse of some of the keynote sessions (did I mention that I over booked myself?), what I did catch was phenomenal. Dr. Cornel West is one of my favorite orators and he did not disappoint. His call to action that we don’t turn education into a place to indoctrinate how students think really resonated with me. I hope to go back and watch all the keynotes (and other amazing sessions I missed) in the coming weeks.
While I love New Orleans, hosting an event there in June is a huge gamble. Probably the number one topic of conversation was how humid and sticky it was outside the convention center. Attendees joked about taking an extra shower each day as the temperature regularly soared into triple digits. We were lucky to catch a couple of rain showers, but that only intensified the humidity when the sun came out. I’m not sure if ISTE will be back unless they plan a “Winter ISTE” event in the future.
On Sunday before the opening keynote, I found myself in a bit of a pickle. I was wrapping up live podcasting and then had to run to find my Ready, Set, FAIL! Session. Those of you that attendee will note that finding some of the rooms took some navigating. As I ran past the room a couple of times, I finally glimpsed the signage which had my name on it.
As I approached the room, the “bouncer” told me I couldn’t enter because it was over capacity!! I honestly thought there would be only a handful of people in attendance as people were just arriving. It turned out to be an amazing session with a great crowd only to be book-ended by my ending session (one session before the end of the event) which had my partner in rhyme Adam Phyall (@askadam3) and I do a LIVE version of our UndisruptEd podcast.
There are so many other experiences and people that I’m failing to mention in this post that made it magical. I didn’t even mention the ClassLink Ed tech trivia night and my other session “Learning Unleashed” which had me moderating an amazing panel of ISTE authors.
I’d like to give a special thanks to Linewize and Book Creator for hosting book giveaways and signings at their booths. Most importantly, I want to thank the most important person in my life who came with me on this journey. My wife/handler/business partner Renee Hooker keeps me upright and focused which was very much needed during my days in New Orleans.
I love all of you and hope it’s not 4 years until the next time I see you!