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Reflections from ISTE2015 in Philadelphia, PA, Part 2 of 3

Allllllrighty then.

I have been at this education game a while. Certainly not as long as many, as I came to it late in life. Actually, I spent the first half (or so--exact numbers to be determined at a much later date) of my life educating myself. Returning to college at the age of 40 I got all formal with it. Now, just last week, my work to help build online learning options for my hometown of Nashville, Tennessee has ramped up a bit. I'm still in the same position, but it's been redefined as half-time actually teaching and half-time supporting teachers and working on the system as a whole. New job title? Yup. How's this for a woozy? "Associate Virtualization Engineer."

I'm fond of saying that my brother, Ed, who is a real engineer, is very proud of me. Here at MNPS Virtual School, which I helped conceive and create, hired in 2010 by my dear friend Kecia Ray to do so, we are still making things up. Associate Virtualization Engineer: Really? Really.

So, to lasso my focus and drag it back around to the topic of this post, I have always contended that anyone who is sent to a conference or event by his or her school or school district should be required to report out about it to the rest of the faculty/staff. I have thus tried to always do that, usually in blog posts. This is part two of "How I Spent Your Money" for my colleagues and Nashville tax-payers. I'll get on with it.

Where was I? Checking Part 1 now.

Wow, I only made it through Sunday.


I mentioned I took the shuttle into the Philadelphia Convention Center. Usually at ISTEs I prefer to walk like a madman. Many a year I've had to purchase foot care products to help take care of overworked extremities. This year, it took a good long while for MNPS to process my registration payment and reservations, resulting in my being parked 'way out of the beaten trail, 5 or so miles from the convention, at the Crown Plaza Philadelphia West. That had its good side and its bad side. The bad was that I had to shuttle in and cab back if I missed the last running shuttle at 7:30pm each day. I could have wangled a public bus, but not with my gear--I had a huge bag containing a green screen which I'd brought for the Online Learning Network's Community Fair and my backpack with laptop and other electronics. And Philly has a good train system but the closest station was, you got it, 4 miles away. The good side was...hmmm, well the room was clean and the staff was friendly and many of my local colleagues were there as well, including Carl Carter, Tabitha Batson, and others from The Academy at Old Cockrill. Wainhouse Reasearch's Alan Greenberg, an old colleague, was also parked out there and I ran into him a couple times for catching up.

Monday. My whole schedule is online in a Google Doc. That helps me recall that my first deal that morning was the ISTE Professional Learning Networks Leadership Awards Breakfast. I got there early for the 8:00am breakfast and joined my dear friend Andy Wheelock at the "kid's table" up front. Susan Larson from ISTE joined us for a photo-op. I try to always sit up front in a big room because I can be distracted by everything between me and the speaker(s).

It was a table of 8 or 10 and filled up quickly, and Mike Gorman, out-going President of the Online Learning Network joined us along with other leaders from other networks. This past year I was Veep of that PLN, and by rights and tradition I should have stepped up into the primary leadership role. However, mid-year I began to see that this coming year will be a huge one for my school's growth, and together with Mike we identified the ineffable Michele Eaton to step up into that role. One of the best decisions I ever have made, methinks, since Michele is completely competent, capable, and driven and will take the PLN places I would never have imagined. Yay!

The breakfast was yummy and the event warm and thankful to all the international PLN leaders in the room. I was able to bestow the OLN's Online Learning Award to Jennifer Garcia from Equador, and then to step up on my role as Co-Chair of the Virtual Environments Network, with Andy, to do the same for Rosie Vojtek for the first ever Virtual Pioneer of the Year award. It was particularly rewarding to hear all the folks who were stepping up as first-time leaders stand up and share why they were doing so--there were probably 20 or so of those who made me proud and who made all of us excited for the future of ISTE:

After the breakfast, I joined Andy at the PLN Lounge to help share the good work of the Virtual Environments Network. We took turns speaking extempore about what goes on there (see and then let the website speak for itself on the display screen. We seriously plugged the Virtual Environments Playground, which we'd determined was going to need that since we were parked up off the beaten path upstairs. More on that later.

That done, it was time to eat again. We made it to the PLN Leaders luncheon in time to enjoy the meal and make it to the part where we both received the President's Volunteer Service Award, Andy a Bronze and me a Silver. As soon as the requisite photo was taken I hauled myself across the Convention Center to:

Monday, June 29, 12:45 p.m. - 1:45 p.m.
PCC 204C
It was already underway. Michele had so wonderfully organized, rehearsed, and delivered this set of 8 marvelous 5 minute presentations that all I had to do was sit up at the presenter table and smile. I was particularly struck by the closing presentation by Bill Gumula, called "The Compassionate Online Classroom," which I plan to share with my teachers at our new teacher orientation come the 1st of August. Slides are here, if you're an ISTE member and can login. There are 177 of them from all the presenters!
That was, indeed, an information packed hour! Susan Poyo's "Partnering with Virtual Schools: Transforming Teacher Prep" also rang some big bells for me. We are going to need to do a lot of work with pre-service teachers to turn out capable and forward thinking teachers if we are to successfully grow online learning in the right directions, and Susan's group is spearheading that aspectd of the movement.

From that event I spent a bit of time on the Expo floor. As always it was amazing. I was to take it in with small visits over the course of the conference. Here's a quick 360 video:
Then I had to get to a small portable room at the edge of the Expo Center. I had an appointment to take a preview look at the beta Google Expedition, a Google Cardboard development that though it can use some polish, looks promising for delivery of virtual field trips to students using that cool 3D imaging hardware/software package. 

The Machinima Fest was my final official event of the day. I hiked another mile or so within the Convention Center and ended up in a good-sized theater. Though there were more folks in it than have yet attended the Festival, we looked pretty sparse in that room. Andy presided with Gridjumper helping and I sat off to the side and shared it with Periscope--we had a total of 19 viewers over the coming hour or so. New this year was a keynote speaker, and then the prizes were awarded. I have not seen a published list of winners, but I'm sure it's coming soon. Here are the award categories, and congratulations to the winners of this increasingly prestigious international film festival! You know who you are!

Machinima Awards
Best in Category Awards

Judges Awards

Technical Awards
Best Overall
Special Effects 
Best Sound
Literary Quality Awards
Script Writing 
Character Development 
Best dialogue 
Best narration
People’s Choice Awards--Voting was open to the public during the week prior to the Machinima Fest.

After the Machinima Fest, I took a cab back to the hotel, caught a salad at TGIFridays, right across the parking lot, then put in for the night. I'm going to save this as I need to get to work--you know, that Associate Virtualization Engineer gig? So we'll go 3 parts. I'm certain I can get the thing done in one more stab at it, even though Tuesday was a very big day, featuring the now somewhat legendary "Balloon Popping Event" that got me in trouble with ISTE and with Google, of all companies, in the afternoon. More later, good reader. Good day.


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