Thursday, July 09, 2015

Reflections from ISTE2015 in Philadelphia, PA, Part 1 of 3

NOTE: Time-jumping re-edit, partly written on the plane home and re-edited and continued at home. Not for the time-challenged!

I've been attending ISTE (the International Society for Technology in Education) Annual Conference and Exposition since It was called the National Educational Computing Conference. My first was in 2000, in Atlanta, Georgia. I'm sitting on the dead last aisle seat on a Southwest Airlines flight home from Philadelphia to Nashville right now and there is no wi-fi, so I can't google it, but I will try to do that later (I did. It's a fact. The theme that year was "Connecting at the Crossroads."). For now, I want to get my reflections down after ISTE2015, while they are fresh, if somewhat exhausted!

So I'm working on my iPad mini, finger-typing. The guys next to me are asleep, and the seats are tiny back here, so I have unwillingly yielded personal space and need to twist in my seat to keep from establishing full upper arm to full upper arm contact with the stranger beside me or forcing the issue. I do have a cheesesteak sandwich with lobster in the bin above and I'm not afraid to use it. I'm drinking a Leinie Lodge Summer Shandy courtesy of the flight attendant partly because we were delayed by over an hour and partly because I talked to him like he is a human being. Life Lesson: That goes a long way.

ISTE. Wow. How do I even begin? ISTE's beginnings are amazingly modest. From http://www.isteconference.org/2012/about_us/conference_history

#1—NECC 1979

Location: Iowa City, Iowa
Host Institution: University of Iowa
Chair: Ted Sjoerdsma

Roots of NECC—1969 CCUC (Conference on Computers in Undergraduate Curricula) 



The major themes were:
  • A hardware debate: micros vs. minicomputers
  • Development of educational software: CAI, CMI, simulations for subject specific uses (math, science, social sciences, health, engineering)
  • Defining teacher competencies for preservice, inservice training




  • There were 32 sessions, including:
    • Computer science (4): labs, programming languages
    • Post-K-12 (11)
    • K-12 sessions (2): interest just beginning to emerge in this area
  • The history at that webpage is only updated through 2011, but to give you some idea of the growth, in that year there were 355 concurrent sessions and 629 additional sessions. This year the announced number of attendees was just over 21,000.

    ISTE is a very large globally dispersed group of like minded educators who are above everything else learners. An aside, I just dropped a sauce soaked lump of lobster onto my iPad: not a pretty thing. Back in, I think 2007, I hooked into a vibrant community of educators exploring Second Life as a platform for learning and teaching. It's primary appeal to me at the time was twofold: content creation and community. The first conference at which I participated in a Playground was in Atlanta in 2007. I remember so wanting to be a part of the group that I ran at one point to a sports bar and brought back dozens of burger sliders for everyone who was presenting.

    Cut to this year, when I can't walk 100 feet through an ISTE conference without someone wanting a selfie with me, or, better yet, a hug. ISTE is my annual validation, my spirit salve, my chance to catch up with my peeps. All year long I work with passionate, dedicated thought leaders and actually meet as an avatar or via social media regularly with many of them, and once a year we come together in the "real world," or what has been called "meatspace," or the "so called real world," and hug, collaborate, rejoice, and renew our bonds. My dear "brother from another mother," Andy; Rosie and Bob; Bron; Peggy; Kae, Tanya, Marianne; Sarah; and David, and Lee, for a few. And new peeps Mary, Rick, Chris(es), and many more. KJ, Kevin Jarrett, a dear old friend, first met in Second Life (as were most) I hugged so hard this year he accused me of causing permanent spinal injury. I love these people, and it's clear to me, deeply clear, that they love me back.
    The Kecia hug!
     All that enriches my life. Immeasurably.

    Back to the present (now the past, as I'm editing this down in my Nashville, TN living room with my dog, Watson and my cat, Ruby, asleep at my feet).

    Okay, #ISTE2015 specific:
    All my pics are on the Book of the Face. Just visit http://Facebook.com/scottgardnermerrick and open my photo album entitled Scott ISTE2015. There are also a few in posts, and those will show up in the albums "iOS Photos" and "Timeline Photos." I'll make an effort to collect all that in one place this week and add in that link here. Maybe Flickr. There, that's done. Now to events I attended.

    Moving back to get all sequential on you, I will add that the Barabs' session the last thing Wednesday (see Part 2) is the only "session," per se, that I attended, excepting those I was leading or helping facilitate. I had a bunch selected and favorited, but I really do find that showing up for my volunteer facilitator duties is some years all I can handle. This was one of those years.

    Saturday:
    I missed my 7:00am flight due to a combination of stupidity and very long security lines. Got there after running the length of BNA Concourse C to the very last gate. An 18 year old student who was with me in the slow security line was heading home to Philly on the same flight; but he missed it too, running ahead of me. I spent some time catching my old breath and rebooked for the 7pm flight. Lee Ann, who had been holed up in the cellphone parking area just in case I didn't make the flight, had to call AAA because her car would not start there, and she had to have a new battery installed on the spot. It was shaping up to be a great day. Long story short, I arrived early for the flight at 7pm and breezed through security, but when we got to Philadelphia there were such violent thunderstorms down below us that we circled for half hour before rerouting to Pittsburg, where we landed, sat for an hour on the tarmac, refueled, then managed to get back up in the air and into Philly 3 hours late. I took a cab to my hotel, located 5 miles past the Philadelphia Convention Center, and got to sleep by 2-ish.

    Sunday:
    Up at 5:30am I caught an early shuttle and popped in to register. The first person I ran into was my friend David Deeds, currently from Guatemala but looking to relocate in either China or Egypt. He teaches in the International American Schools circuit and has chosen to leave his Guatemalan placement due to being reassigned to a tech position from his teaching one. That can be the downside of being tech savvy for teachers. Life Lesson: If you are good at something administrators need done, don't show it unless you want to end up doing it all the time! David is incoming chair for the Virtual Environments Network, and we hung out for a bit. Sunday morning is time for fee-required pre-conference sessions, and I had registered for none of those, being a conscientious public servant.

    We caught breakfast/lunch at the fabulous Reading Central Market. I had a great juice smoothy at a gyros stand, with kale, mango, banana, B12 and protein. Next thing I knew we were setting up at the far end of the convention center for our PLN Networking Fair. I got down there at 1:30 with David and we were the first PLN to be set up, with the help of dear friends Rosie and Bob Vojtek. I had lugged a greenscreen to the conference for the Online Learning Network and got that set up, leaving leadership over there in the capable hands of incoming President Michele Eaton. Michele is such the better candidate for that role in the OLN, and I'm hanging in another year as Veep, since my work is gearing up to be very very complicated this coming year (more on that in a later post).
    Bob Vojtek talks up the Virtual Education Journal, which he and his Rosie publish bi-annually at the PLN Networking Fair. Check that out!
    The Networking Fair was in full swing by 3pm and ran to 5pm. We streamed video into Second Life via UStream (that's my SL avatar on the display, wearing my Lowly High Grand Poobah hat), and folks there were treated to a long series of folks stepping up to learn about what the VENetwork does. It was busy, and it was fun talking, talking, talking. Bob, Rosie, David and I were joined by co-chair Andy Wheelock, aka Spiff Whitfield in Second Life, my "brother from another mother."

    At the end of the Fair we broke down quick-like and headed over for VIP seating at the opening keynote address. Much of it was dedicated to honoring good friend Kecia Ray, who will step down as ISTE Board Chair and President in December. Documentarian and Activist Soledad O'Brien delivered an impassioned and energetic talk about the need for educators to pay attention to the disenfranchised, and I actually shed a tear or two when she shared a video featuring an interview of a 1st grader who couldn't read the word "the" without help. See details about the three conference keynoters. I deem the keynote a great success, though it maybe went a bit long. I was beginning to crash hard by 40 or so minutes in when she began to wind it up. David, with whom I was sitting, looked at me and said "Dude. Go sleep." I caught a cab to my distant hotel and did just that.

    Soledad O'Brien delivers

    I felt sooooo much better the following morning, awakening and working out in the hotel on a recumbent bike before having room service breakfast and catching a shuttle to the convention center. It was to be a remarkably full day, one in which I would receive my silver President's Volunteer Service Award, sit in on the OLNetwork's Blended and Online Learning Extravaganza, Periscope the ISTE2015 Machinima Film Festival, hit the increasingly legendary Gaggle Party, and get more hugs from more of my beloved global colleagues. 

    This is where I'll leave off, and I'll post this part later at work. But wait! There's more! I still have 3 more days of ISTE 2015 to chronicle, and they were fab ones! I promise the final half will not be so verbose. I hope I can keep that promise. I know I have a lot of pics to share, and many a successful session and event. So I'll leave you, dear reader. Until next time, keep learning and teaching!


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