10 Things I Learned At ISTE 2013

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celt.keeneby Kay Bisaillon

I returned from my first ISTE conference a week ago…and what a busy week it has been. We purchased a new car and helped our daughter move into her first college apartment. Each day, I have thought to myself, “It’s time to sit down and reflect on my amazing ISTE experience.” Yet, I couldn’t or–maybe the truth is that I wouldn’t. I was still swimming in the deep end of my thoughts and I wasn’t quite ready to put them all together.

It feels a bit like “herding cats” in my mind. Perhaps, as Steven Johnson, author of “Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation” said in his Tuesday morning keynote, it is the “slow hunch” that is building. Unfortunately, due to travel delays, I missed Jane McGonigal, author of “Reality Is Broken: How Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.” That was a keynote I was really looking forward to since I am very interested in gaming in education and was hoping to learn more.

So without further delay, I share with you the 10 things I learned from my first ISTE experience.

10 Things I Learned At ISTE 2013

#10-Delayed flights leaving you feeling behind

My flights were delayed on various legs of the trip.

My arrival to the conference was a day later than I had planned. I finally checked into the hotel and quickly got to the huge convention center. Since, I wasn’t quite sure of the locations for the various sessions and hadn’t had the opportunity to get myself situated yet, I decided to explore the vendor hall. A friend and coworker was there working the Edmodo booth and I wanted to let her know I had arrived safely. The minute I walked into the vendor hall, I felt overwhelmed. It felt like a scene from the 80’s movie, “Honey I Shrunk the Kids”.

I felt about 2 inches tall.

Perhaps that sounds a bit like an exaggeration to you but there is no other way to explain it. I will admit to very little sleep the night before and exhaustion was starting to take over my body and my mind. I wandered around for a bit, found my friend, collected pens, pamphlets and information. After an hour or two, I found the Blogger’s Cafe and started to dig through all of the information.

#9- Hearing a message with passion is energizing (regardless of how tired)

I quickly realized Kevin Honeycutt was about to give a “Tweetwood Mac” concert at the Blogger’s Cafe.

This was a case of being in the right place at the right time. His energy and passion for learning was evident. I felt like a bobble head doll as he spoke agreeing with the wonderful ideas he willingly shared. I left his presentation with a sense of energy, and commitment and many new tools to further investigate. I left with Kevin’s words, “stop dying of humility–share your amazing stories,” ringing in my ears.

#8- Being rested is important

A good dinner and a restful night of sleep was much needed.

It also allowed me to take the next few days by storm. The keynote on Tuesday by Steven Johnson started the day off with a bang for me. He shared how the simple act of drinking coffee changed a society. Previously, people drank alcohol since the water wasn’t safe. The switch to coffee had a huge impact.

This concept is still “percolating” (pun intended) for me. This is so obvious, isn’t it? Coffee is hot and you must sit and wait for it to cool to drink. This gives people the opportunity to sit, share, chat and reflect. Coffee has caffeine and creates an energetic response. People, time, and energy can produce amazing things.

#7 5 Powerful minutes can be enough to share your passion

I attended a few more sessions. My first IGNITE session left me thinking, “Why isn’t this the model for faculty meetings?”

Share your passion in 5 minutes or less. I learned many things from IGNITE.

This shared quote by Woodrow Wilson says it best, “If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.” If you are summarizing your objective in 5 minutes, you must cut to the chase fast and make your point clear.

#6 Communication throughout the convention can make a big difference

I learned from Dan McDowell and Reuben Hoffman (EdTechPirates) who are obviously committed to communication and collaboration in various ways. I am grateful to Dave Burgess, author of Teach Like a Pirate for telling me about their sessions. I even won a real treasure, a signed copy of the book! I tweeted, retweeted and learned from others in sessions I didn’t even attend.

#5 My PLN is full of real and amazing people

Throughout the conference, I eagerly hugged people I was meeting for the first time but felt as if I had known for years (@bonniebird, @alanfletcher, @noeldrew, @MRozsahegyi12 to name a few).

Some friends, family and coworkers think I am silly for the connections I have made with professional educators I have never met face to face in my PLN. They inspire, challenge and encourage me on a daily basis. I was disappointed I didn’t meet as many as I had hoped. Yet, I hope to meet more in the future.

I learned many new tools, new programs, met vendors and interacted with App developers. I was even fortunate enough to work the PLP booth for an hour or so for Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach. I met, chatted and learned with Edmodo and StudySync. I am grateful for the learning opportunities.

#4 I’m intimidate by “Twitter Rockstars” (and that’s MY issue–not theirs)

In the spirit of being completely honest, I did see a few faces I recognized, but was too intimidated to introduce myself.

I felt awkward and unsure how the conversation would continue beyond “I follow you on Twitter.” This is my hang-up and something I hope to force myself to work through for future conferences. I wonder if others have this awkward feeling at conferences as well?

#3 Keynotes are worth your time

The closing keynote by Adam Bellow was simply awe-inspiring.

He recently co-authored “Untangling the Web”, which takes an in-depth look at essential web tools for the classroom. His vulnerability and passion for his words left me with tears in my eyes. I have watched the speech again since returning home and tears still well up in my eyes. I hope you watch it. His invitation to us to “change the world” touched me. His part begins at 22 minutes. My plan is to watch it once a month to recharge my energy.

#2 Reflecting afterwards is very important

Since I have returned home I have interacted through Twitter with amazing educators and even discussed a few things that may help “newbie ISTE attendee” in coming years. I have heard from other educators that were not able to attend ISTE that my Tweets were helpful and inspiring for them.

I have read reflections from others who attended. For example, Amanda Dykes blog post was dead on when she pointedly wrote, “The number one most important thing in education today is people.”

In a selfish way, this conference, for me, was about…well, me. I was surrounded by people who are like-minded, energetic and passionate. I didn’t feel that, “Oh, that’s just Kay being Kay again…” I was energized, challenged and engaged in deep thoughts and conversations. I will take that feeling and protect it, share it and use it when I need it throughout the coming year.

#1 A (hot or cold) drink, time, space and passionate people can change the world

The surprising part of the ISTE conference for me was not the sessions, the tools, or the programs. Here’s what I really learned from ISTE: if you give committed people a cup of liquid (hot or cold), time and space to reflect and chat, add passion and energy, fantastic things can happen.

Now that I am home and reflecting even more, I wonder:  Do we have this opportunity in our face-to-face daily lives? If so, do we take the same advantage of it? Do we allow our students this opportunity during the school year? That sounds like a future blog post….for now, I am grateful for the ISTE experience, the learning and look forward to ISTE14 and many more.

As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts @kaybisaillon

Image attribution flickr user celtkeene

  • Lynn Woods

    Kay, you captured your ISTE experience perfectly! I understand all that you are sharing and am very grateful to be able to say I was there to witness it. Keep being Kay!

  • Paul Wood

    Thanks for the words and thoughts. First ISTE? WOW! My first was in Seattle in 1997 and seems so long ago and yet I am by no means a veteran of these programs. It can be overwhelming and what you say is true, food, drink, rest are all important. Relfective time is also good to have since I truly believe it helps us to grow as professionals. I am sorry you faced the delays you faced as that one extra day may have given us a chance to meet. That’s OK. Thank you for your thoughts and perspectives. We will meet one day soon.

    • Kay Bisaillon

      Thank you Paul for your kind words and taking the time to comment. We will meet f2f at a conference soon! It’s a must!