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THE BEST ISTE EVER: Day 2 Reflections, part 1

Yes indeedy it was an early one. And a late one. Let's begin at the beginning.

Sunday morning, up at 5:00 a.m. to an alarm and into the fitness room for a long stationary bike ride. Quick shower and out to the Hyatt Ballroom A to meet up with the EPIC Leadership leadership team. I met Chris Haskell for the first time, got my first ISTE hug from dear Anne Collier, Bron Stuckey, and met several new pals. We were issued event tee-shirts and red bandanas, which we were instructed to wear and to customize with a sharpie message.

Scott and Andy, dis and dat. Ready for EPIC Leadership
Peggy Sheehy is the genius behind the event, a staple of ISTE conferences for years. Sometimes called the "Leadership Symposium," it has gathered thought leaders from around the globe year after year. This year, though, with Peggy in charge, we were all in for a new experience. Those of us who had either enlisted or been volunteered to help already knew that, but wow, were the clueless in for a clue.

For starters, Peggy set the theme with a welcome that eased the attendees into the event sort of traditionally, a description of the events to come and the rules of the game, , including a closing appearance by the amazing opening keynoter (this conference was literally the first time I heard that term, so I'm excited to use it!) Jane McGonigal. She held a dramatic reading of the challenges to come, wherein the assembled were to look for numerals that would decode into a solution to the location of "The Palladin." This is where brain cells began to fry in the room. The next three hours would be challenging, frustrating, and a learning experience for all assembled.

Peggy then announced an icebreaker, Kae Novak, soon to ascend to the Lowly High Grand Poobah (read "Chair") of ISTE SIGVE, took the stage.
"You all have at your tables one brown bag with the instructions written on it--'Do Not Open.'" Laughter. "Inside you will find a long strip of tape, a quantity of uncooked spaghetti, and a marshmallow." Silence.

"Your task is to work with those at your table to create the largest possible free-standing structure with the marshmallow on its top. The clock is ticking. Go (paraphrased)."

For the next ten or 15 minutes each table worked to do so. The ensuing activity was frenetic, fascinating, and as a facilitator I found it enlightening in surprising ways. As noted by dear friend Bron Stuckey, men mostly took over the tables. Some confusion about the task existed. Cheating and stretching rules ensued. We made it through the allotted time and a winner was announced.

After that event, Anne Collier was up. She shared an enlightening presentation centered around the families, students, and attitudes about gaming and online security. Awesome as always, she implied that we are doing a great disservice to our students to ignore the obvious--there is value in games for learning, and parents needs must know what's going on.

 Breakout sessions moved to 3 separate staging areas each with two ongoing presentations on one of six topics, happening twice so attendees could pick and choose between them. They were number and color coded and we learned that a map cheat-sheet would have helped. Here are the sessions:
I roamed between the sessons during that period of the morning and in retrospect I wish I'd picked two and caught them in their entirety, but I was caught up in the helping thing. I did take time out to chase Andy in his detective's disguise (he made me do it) through all three sessions at a run, for no reason other than that we could. Here's a poser if I ever saw one:

After the sessions, the game got intense, we only had an hour left, and Jane McGonigal was scheduled to close us. According to a complicated and only partly understood by me set of rules, tables were playing against one another and were charged with determining 10 numbers that would be decoded into a final clue that would lead to the elusive Palladin. Finally, one table determined it was a phone number. With prompting from the stage it was determined it was a 212 number, then one table called it and over the speaker we heard the winner proclaim, "I have found the Palladin." Loud applause, a wrap up reminding the assembled that failure is an important process of the gaming experience, that mysteries are not meant to be easy to solve, and that fun is fun and that must also be kept in mind.

Jane McGonigal is an amazing individual. A game designer by profession, she has been called to the spotlight by experiences including injury, brain damage, frustration leading to depression and suicidal thoughts, and then pulling herself out of that by doing what she does best--designing a game called "Super Better," with which she has helped people all over the globe regain stability. Her 2010 TED Talk has garnered 3,127,045 views as I write. If you haven't seen it, take the 20 minutes or so it'll take to do so. It may not change your life, but it will help you understand how dynamic, sincere, empassioned, and intelligent Jane McGonigal is.

She walked out to resounding applause and said words to the effect, "I'm giving a talk tonight, the opening keynote, as you may know, so for the next half hour or so I would just like to do some questions and answers." She proceeded to do so.

I can promise you this: Anyone in the room who may not have been a fan before this intimate session (and there were many in the room who came into it disbelievers and may have left only with their old-school mind sets only slightly affected) has to have been seriously challenged by it. McGonigal was natural, open, candid, and she even granted permission for our Rosie Vojtek and her husband Bob to record the answer to their question and share it through the vehicle of the hot-off-the-virtual-presses June issue of the Virtual Education Journal. You must give this 194 page issue a read!

Here's the answer to Rosie's question about McGonigal's personal favorite "Fiero Moment." Watch closely for a very personal moment:

Here's a bonus for getting this far in the post, my Flickr Set of the Event!

That marvelous session done, we moved to the "Making IT Happen" awards and lunch, the SIG Open House, and the Opening Keynote. I can see I have to break up this day or else present such a long post not one of you will read it. Signing out for now, but not before thanking Peggy Sheehy and all the facilitators of EPIC Leadership: Beyond the Hype of Gamification for making it the most memorable Leadership Event of all the many ISTE/NECCs I have attended. Over and out. Typos? I'll edit again on the plane!


booklady9 said…
What??!? Only one comment on these amazing posts so far? I am so glad you're writing these, Scott; it gives me an eye and ear into events that I couldn't go to myself, as well as your point of view. Keep writing!

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