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ISTE12 Reflections, Saturday and Sunday

Okay, now, let’s get it done. I promised reflections about ISTE 12, suggested everyone who receives public or organizational funding to travel should do the same, and I’ve been doing a little bit of procrastination here. I’m halfway into a 4 hour plane ride from LAX to BNA (Los Angeles to Nashville for the acronym aversive), I had a Scoobynap, a tiny dose of Jack Daniels (not necessarily in that order) and I’m up and at ‘em. It’s likely a good thing that the wi-fi they had on the flight out to San Diego isn’t featured on this older plane. The fewer distractions the better.

In my first post a few days ago, I started out goingbackwards from Wednesday’s Online Learning Institute and failed to get beyond that. I enjoyed writing that and after a few days relaxing and taking in the outdoors up north in Ojai, I spent a couple hours in LAX musing about theKeynotes. All done.  Now let’s work on the conference proper. I’m going to abandon my former blog-like back to front approach and see if, in fact, I can actually write in a linear way. Woo-hoo.

I arrived in San Diego International Airport and pulled out my luggage at the single, gate specific luggage area (how civilized!) then rolled it all out to my friend Lisa Linn’s car at the curb, hustling her for a ride for Marrie, a colleague from Nashville, to Marrie’s hotel. Okay, Lisa, slow down: I have exactly 96 new gray hairs from that brief ride into the city, induced by your (let’s say “assertive”) motion through traffic. Really, it’s okay—I have just spent several months training my dear teenage son to drive, and let me tell you, he gave me more on the order of x10 that. We got me to the Hilton Bayfront in one piece and to my surprise they let me check in early, at 1:30, Dropping my gear in the room, we headed over to the San Diego Convention Center to see if we could catch some of the SocialMediaCon pre-conference.  We got registered first, and then walked our way to Room 6, a room to which I would return frequently over the next few days.

SocialEdCon (formerly EduBloggerCon), was founded by Steve Hargadon I think 3 years ago. I’ve attended three of those over the years and one of the framed pictures in my MNPS Virtual School office is a set of group photos containing one from the first year, a kind of a “where’s ScottyWaldo” with my old self dead center in the large group of colleagues on the floor and the huge stairwell above packed with more. Steve has done an amazing job of organizing over the years and this year garnered a large group of participants. An “unconference,” attendees sign up to present prior to the conference and concurrent sessions carry on throughout the day. The sessions are displayed prominently on their spreadsheet and folks move from one to another until the end of the day.

We came in on the second to last hour of the day, and I only witnessed two sessions in progress, but I have to say that what I saw agreed with the comments made in the lobby by a prominent member of the edublogger community—what I saw were sessions that were more or less one person talking to a large group of people in a lecture format with various degrees of question and answer. I ended up plopping down in the back of the room with stellar thought leader Stephanie Sandifer and shooting the breeze. I was gravitating to the real reason I had come to ISTE12, not to sit in class, but to learn from other innovators and thought leaders. It’s all about the networking, baby.

This is not to detract from Steve’s amazing-as-always work as social maven. Heck, how many educators  are members of Classroom 2.0 now? [Answer: 67,951 as of 070412] However, this was to be a recurring theme of my week, and I just wanted to address it directly here before we go further.

I headed back to the room for a nap, insanely believing it would help me stay up later after taking in a San Diego Padres game, to which I had purchased an ISTE-block ticket for 11 dollars. As it turned out, I didn’t nap, but caught up with my email and other work and social online tasks then, realizing I was going to chew my arm off, took in a fairly good burger served up with fairly negligent service at the bar on the ground floor of my hotel, the Fox Network sports bar. I then took a walk, enjoying the incredibly perfect weather that is San Diego’s. I was in bed pretty early that night, and glad to be so.

The video archive caught Andy Wheelock and me being attentive :)
Up early without the NightStand app modem sound on my iPad needing to wake me, I hit the fitness center for a quick stationary bike run. Those who know me may know that I’ve been aerobicizing every morning since March, and I’ve come to realize that I do better with the rest of my day if I start it out getting the old ticker pumping. It was a great gym, and a fine workout, after which I showered and dressed and walk/sprinted over to the morning’s work, the ISTE Leadership Symposium. Where was it? Room 6. After the usual eloquent introductions by ISTE Leaders Holly Jobe and Leslie Conery,  Michael Fullan held forth on the wide-open topic, “Leading and Learning in the 21st Century.”
Michael Fullan's theme
I enjoyed Fullan’s talk, but again I heard some grumbling in the peanut gallery afterward. There’s just something a little “off” about an expert extendedly talking to a room full of, if not “experts,” at least “thought leaders.” What did I like? I liked Fullan’s turn of phrase in terms like “simplexity” and “successfulness.” I liked his emphasis on practice over research. I liked his inference that our educational systems may be on the way to overcoming the industrial model with a newfound resurgence of Project Based Learning, though you know as well as I do that as long as we persist with current models of assessment as the foundations for funding that will be nothing more than another pendulum swing.

What did I not like? I did not like being lectured to. The more we talk about how that doesn’t work anymore the more I am surprised at the way lecture (sometimes called “presentation”) hog-ties our time and throws it in the pokey of our wilderness conference town. Okay, yes, I agree with most of his presentation and I found it interesting. Wait. Where’s my time?

The prominent exception to this is the presentation of a true master like Yong Zhao, which I described (and embedded) in the previous post. Go there and watch it now. Then come back and take in as much of this as you will.


I was in the ISTE Leadership Symposium and just about to hit one of 4 breakout sessions on Leadership topics.  Our assignment was to attend these and come back with notes. Oh, a jigsaw—I get that.

I chose the one on Designing Learning Environments and it was, while not a disaster, an extended commercial for the Flipped Classroom. This was to become another recurring theme: “Wherever two or more shall gather, one or more is selling some fix-all or some product.” Again, and it was if anything more pronounced here, there is something just plain wrong about someone who considers himself an expert lecturing a room full of innovative educational leaders about anything. I was lucky enough to be at a table (there were around 10 of those in the room, with 6 to 10 people at each one) with ISTE President Holly Jobe, and she helped keep us in line. Dear brother Andy Wheelock was also at the table, as was Lisa Linn, and I guess I’m calling her a sister for the first time here, but I guess that’s what she is. I have a lot of those, come to think of it. Anyway, Lisa got a bit contentious (there’s a surprise J) and our discussion got a bit shall we say heated. Admirably, there was a backchannel chat available (see transcript), and I found myself retreating into that to good effect, both for learning and for sharing.
Knowing what verbs are important. "Learning" should be the beginning, not "Digital" -- the adjective, or any tool, the noun.scottmerrick at 17:34 PM, 24 Jun 2012 via web

There was a “reporter” roaming around tables, charged to report out to the group as a whole, and I swear he spent half his time at our table—perhaps because we had Holly. One of the points he shared out was our synopsis of our discussion, which we were to share out digitally in some way: “Innovative Learning Design begins with highly effective learning and teaching.” Pretty much everything we all said that hour and a half could be summarized in that statement, and I’m sticking to it.

We adjourned the breakout to the main room and here’s where it got a bit wonky. We were instructed by the indefatigable and stalwart Chris Johnson (there’s another brother, though maybe Chris is more of a cousin) to seat at least one person from each breakout room at each table. This proved to be impossible for the group as a whole to accomplish without some further guidance. I think my table had 3 out of four, including Flat Classroom’s Julie Lindsay, ISTE’ Peggy George, and a few other luminaries. We were told to talk amongst ourselves and to come up with one takeaway we would bring back to our leadership work after the conference. Our table mainly discussed our various breakouts and how they seemed to all suffer the same someone-plugging-something model.

The reporter reported, Michael Fullan said some inspirational words along his theme of PBL, and we were done with the ISTE Leadership Symposiam for another year.

I had intended to hit the conference kick-off with another sister (I like that conceit and I hope it doesn’t get too stale) Peggy Sheehy, but when confronted by the crowds I decided to visit the space where our SIGVE Playground was to be on Monday, the following day. Andy and I hit that and were appalled to see that the glorious room was so bright, even in mid afternoon, that the Smart projection boards were virtually useless. We scrambled to restage the space to feature the large LED display for our presentations, called to arrange for two  CAT-5 drops there (one for the presentation podium and one for the streaming laptop) and then we left the convention center and went to my hotel room to chill, ordering light room service to get us to the 8:30 President’s Reception, which thankfully was at my hotel.
With ISTE President Holly Jobe at the ISTE12 President's Reception. photo by Helen Crompton

It was a festive event with an open bar, and I tread lightly there as well, knowing that the next day was going to be busy busy busy. I schmoozed with friends, got hugs from Holly Jobe (above), Kathy Schrock, Anita McAnear, Helen Crompton, Jan Zanetis, Cynthia Cologne, and many more once-a-year-in-person colleagues; was introduced to the new ISTE CEO, Brian Lewis, who seems like a wonderful choice to lead us through the rest of the decade, heard some excellent violin music off in the corner (which reminded me of my lounge lizard days--the young musician striving on despite the roar of chatter); heard our own Holly Jobe do battle with attendees who by the time she talked were at least two sheets to any wind; and left early enough to get another good night’s sleep. More reflections in the next post. I’ve gotten through Sunday now. Good for me!

Hitting "Publish."


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