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ISTE 2017--2

It has long been my opinion that anyone sent to a conference on a school's budget should be required to report out in some detail about how his or her time and energy was spent at that event. Though my school and district did not fund me this year, I want to thank ISTE for providing me complimentary registration and also for the gift of a complimentary membership as outgoing PLN leader. I had been chair of the Virtual Environments Network for 2016-17 and am stepping down to Co-Chair this year, giving the capable Andrew Wheelock the virtual reins. This swap is not unprecedented, he laughs.

I encapsulated Sunday already, but let me go back. Flying into the San Antonio International Airport Saturday evening, I looked around for someone who looked like a teacher in order to persuade them to share a ride to downtown hotels. Who but I see but Marrie Duhart, MNPS Learning Tech wizard, and her husband, and after introductions and a little pow-wow we grabbed an Uber into town. I had it from dear friend Barbara Seaton, who had arrived earlier, that the cab fare was 32.00, and a little google fingertipping had uncovered the average Uber fee to be more like 22.00. That worked just fine, as the Duharts were staying across the street from my hotel, the Fairmont Inns Alamo Plaza.

Checking in, I discovered a flashing light on my room phone and on picking up the message was introduced to a new thing--deferral of housekeeping services during my stay in return for Marriot member points. I went ahead and made that choice, telling myself I'd make sure to confer with my roomy, pal Andy, when he got in. I texted my friend, artist Bill Fitzgibbons, and he was downstairs to pick me up within 15 minutes.

Bill is rather famous here in San Antonio. We just started working on the 50th anniversary edition of Druid, a Humanities Magazine but had been friends and staff members on that publication back in 1969-70 at UT Knoxville. I hadn't actually seen Bill in person since around then. But now he shuttled me out to the Lonestar neighborhood to tour his fantastic art studio properties and to meet his son Sean, who is the culprit responsible for the whole anniversary issue idea (I'll be sharing more about this project here as it develops--target date May 2019). We had a beer together, caught up, and then he returned me to the hotel from which I set out into San Antonio for a brew and some sustenance at Yard House San Antonio. Andy joined me and Barbara once he hit town and peeled off on the way back to the hotel to meet up with friends elsewhere as I headed to sleep.

Up in the morning both of us worked out in the hotel fitness center, anticipating a big day, which we got. The included hotel breakfast was really quite good and we moved over to pick up registration materials and begin to explore the conference. I was surprised by what felt like a relative sparsity of people in the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center. Later I found that 17,000 more attendees came in later that day, Sunday, or that evening. It was the largest ISTE conference ever in terms of registered attendees.

The rest of that day has been summarized in the previous post, but I will add that the PLN Networking Fair was really fun and well attended this year. Here's a pic, featuring Barbara and Andy working their networking magic--we had lots of interest and hope to get some new participants in our copious activites throughout the year. It's such a blessing to have the tools to stay synchronous with our colleagues throughout the year without traveling...:
Barbara Seaton, left, and Andy Wheelock, right-center, sharing what we do at VEN, a LOT.

So the elitist thing kicked in when we packed up the materials from the PLN Fair and headed over to the "Ballroom" where the keynote was to be given. Easing around the thousands of educators moving into the huge room, we approached the ISTE staff members holding up little signs that said "Special Entry" (I think). Each one by turn directed us to the other until we were it seemed blocks closer to the stage than the vast numbers of teachers behind us. I admit I like that. If you want to get that for yourself in the future, hook up with leadership in any of the 20+ Professional Learning Networks and help with the PLN Fair. The whole reason for it is so hardworking volunteers aren't penalized for working at events that butt up against keynote addresses (there are three). We grabbed seats toward the back of the front special section, where we could clearly see the presenters without resorting to either of the two huge flatpanel displays on either side of them. 

The 3-piece local band, Tiarra Girls, were great. High school sisters with attitude and talent. The keynote was great, too. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Jad Abumrad of NPR's Radio Lab was intense and sincere and augmented his keynote speech with his musical segues so that I felt as I were in a taping for the show. After, I heard criticisms that he didn't talk mainly about education, and that he went too long, but the real criticism I did not hear but was the elephant in the gigantic hall was this: He got so far into his talk that he convinced himself he was in his home talking to friends, and he said at one point, "Goddamnit,..." Though I wanted to stand for him at the end of his talk--which had brought me to tears during his deep decription of the "Gap" between question and answer, and that between an artist's creative vision and his successful execution of it (are you listening, my Colin?)--I did not. You deserved it, though, Jad, you deserved it. You just didn't filter your talk to the morality/beliefs of likely 80% of your audience. 

After keynote we returned to The Yard, a party consisting of Mary Howard, Andy, Barbara, and David Fleischer. We had a decent dinner, though, yes, Andy and I were underwhelmed by the Reuben sandwiches, and adjourned for home. That does Sunday, right? If you've read the previous post. 

Jump to Wednesday when my dear brother, Ed, picked me up and took me to his lakehouse 3 hours away in Mongomery, TX, then to now, Sunday, when I'm about to shower after 4 days of fishing here and take his ride to the airport bound home for Nashville. I'll fill in the blanks soon. ISTE17 was GREAT! And as a teaser, I'll mention that the 2nd Keynote had a marvelous description of the ISTE experience. I'll detail that next post, but it has to do with being in a room where everyone understands you--the challenges you face, the inequities you battle, and the passions you bring to your work. That's a wrap today. 

White bass catch at Chez Merrick in Montgomery. Yeah.


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