Saturday, July 18, 2015

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

Let's get this done.

Up at 5:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning, sitting in my family room with my two pooches and my kitty, it's weird to me that ISTE2015 is a thing of the past. Planning for it and looking forward to it is such a part of my life every year that this period of a month or so after it's over is kind of like post-partum blues. I'll be sharing stories with friends and colleagues in Second Life at http://tinyurl.com/istevenetwork this coming Tuesday at 5 p.m. Second Life Time. For the uninitiated, that's SLT, or as most folks know it, Pacific Time (set that way because Linden Lab, the company who created and develops Second Life, is in San Francisco, CA.). Please join us if you can. I hope to take folks to our "My Favorite Sprankle" art show in AvaCon grid afterward, so if you haven't yet entered the contest, this will be your chance to do so with some virtual hands-on help.

Contest information is at this padlet page.

Okay, Where was I?

Tuesday, eh? Tuesday morning I slept in. Up at 7 I ordered and enjoyed an in-room breakfast, really quite good, then walked over to Target to pick up some supplies (including 150 balloons--more later on that), then gathered up my wits and my backpack from my room and headed in on the shuttle. I will comment that Philadelphia rush hour traffic is hell, much worse evan than Nashville's very bad rush hour cluster-cuss. The 5 mile run from hotel to the Philadelphia Convention Center drop-off location took 40 minutes, and I rued my casual pace of the morning as we sat for 15 of those to get through the final light in front of the Center. I dashed to the (of course) far end of the site to the Poster Session area where we were presenting

with David Deeds, Andrew Wheelock, and Scott Merrick.


This was David's baby, and he had done a stellar job of proposing and planning a poster session where we could share virtual worlds learning and teaching with educators new to the notion or more experienced and willing to share with us and our attendees. The poster session format is a really good one, and it appeals to me because it's casual but can be very powerful if done well. This one, only peripherally with my help, was done very, very well. It was also located at the highest-traffic spot in the floor of 30 or 40 locations. I'm glad I got there early, because David was already implementing his plan. He had done the math and figured we could fill up our poster bulletin board with 40 images from virtual worlds. Andy and I helped by submitting some from our own stock and David had printed them up at his school in Guatemala and mailed them to my hotel (since at the last minute it was iffy that he would even be able to attend--luckily he was!). He had also prepped an 18 minute video (warning, file is 1.5+Gb huge) containing hundreds of photos from his own photo stash, which ran on a monitor on the table top and helped further fuel conversations. Here is a snapshot from the session: 
Andy Wheelock and David Deed man the poster session!

Part way through the two hour poster session I took off to and beyond the other far end of the Convention Center (of course) to the Marriott Hotel, where an appreciation luncheon for Core Volunteers was being held. I'm glad I did, because the "favor" this year was an outstanding computer briefcase, which I accepted, along with a box lunch for me and for Andrew and his briefcase. I had to run back to the poster session with those, though, so I could not take advantage of the chair massage station, which would have been a wonderful thing, sigh. ISTE is awesome about honoring its volunteer leadership, and has always been, though I will say it's better than ever with last year's addition of Simon Helton as Community Engagement Manager. 

We broke the poster session down ad 12:30 because we had to get to the Playground, slated to start at 2:00. I was working on adrenaline now. I popped into the Presenters' World support room and created sheets containing multiple instances of the following:
Bring this slip to Playground C (LOOK UP!) with your email on it for a chance to win one of 3 fantastic ISTE Book Store books! My email: ________________________________________
I then printed of multiple sheets on neon-colored paper and handed scissors and balloons to the lovely Mary Howard. Mrs. Howard took them to the Playground and started folding the slips small, inserting them in balloons, blowing them up, tying them, and writing in large letters with black sharpie, "Pop Me!" on each and every one of them. We roped several others into helping, and by around 1:30 we had 60 or so done. At 2:00 p.m., the starting time of the Playground, we had only 4 or 5 visitors in the Playground. As one, we picked up balloons, hauled them to the railing overlooking the busy hallway below, where two other playgrounds were enjoying visitors from the heavy foot traffic, and tossed them over into the crowds below. Stepping back into Andy and Mary's presentation, which was just getting underway, we heard what sounded like a gunfight echoing through the Convention Center. Just 5 minutes later an ISTE volunteer came waving two of the balloons and shouting "Please stop!" She was laughing, but apparently Google had been presenting one of the Playgrounds below and they were a bit upset at the commotion. I deeply apologized, but looking around I could see that we had pulled in 20 or 30 new faces, and Andy and Mary were now sharing with a rapt, if small, audience. Here are all the presentations we gave in the 3 hour block, and here are some photos I snapped:
video 
If that .mp4 doesn't work for you try this link

All three tables were hopping the entire time period. Andy and Mary kicked things off at the presentation station with an informative and inspirational session on their fabulous "Islands of Enlightenment" grant project(s), The Dr.s Patterson presented remotely about their Sub-Quan math innovations in Second Life, AW3DU CEO Rick Noll rolled out stellar developments in the ActiveWorlds platform, including the reboot of Quest Atlantis--this time with the addition of teacher quest-making kits(!!!); and finally Marianne Malmstrom and Peggy Sheehy shared some absolutely brilliant observations about what makes Minecraft engaging for both students and teachers.

The rest of the evening is a blur. As it turns out, this is the night I actually did the trek to City Pub for that huge filet mignon pictured in part 2's post. Dinner Monday was a burger at Friday's across from the hotel. All that meal stuff doesn't really matter. It was sustenance to help fuel the fire of participation in the best annual educators' conference in the world.

Wednesday, I packed everything up, checked out of the hotel, and headed over to check out the Expo floor on the last day with Andy. We sat in on a quick presentation by a vendor and Andy won a remote control helicopter in their drawing. Our last official act before I headed to the airport was to head to the far end of the Center (of course) for Anna and Sasha Barab's fantastic and informative presentation of their work with Quest2Teach, a training simulation for pre-service teachers that they have given their hearts and souls to create and roll out. Here is one of their slides, and if you'll take the time to read it you'll see why this was the perfect finish to a perfect conference. These two individuals embody dedication to forward-thinking and innovation. They are not just criticizing the way we've done education over the centuries, they are providing models for new ways to get the job of education done, and they are making them available to the world. I left the room feeling honored to have spent an hour with two of the smartest humans I have ever met. Don't believe me? Just take a look at the scholarly articles Sasha has published over the years. When you're done there, Check out Quest2Teach and request your own guest account. It may be that you can use this in some setting of your own, for the benefit of your teachers and students. I've completed all three simulations and can highly recommend the experience!

Dr.s Anna and Sasha Barab
The flights home, routing through St. Louis and sitting on that tarmac in ridiculously powerful thunderstorms, got me in too late to get to my son's gig at The End, but you can hear some of what they by all reports powerfully performed at their BandCamp site. Do yourself and us a favor and pick up a download. As their Executive Co-Producer, along with my beautiful wife, Lee Ann, we thank you!

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