So. Where was I?
Oh. ISTE2017 in San Antonio, Texas.
I have a confession to make:
In spite of pre-selecting a good number of sessions at ISTE17, using the online scheduler “Favorites” function, which nicely translated into the conference app for my iPhone, I actually attended not...session...one.
I suppose I am tired of "sit and git." I prefer a more learner-centered experience, with "student" choice and flexibility according to my interests.
It was more useful for me, and more rewarding, and more of a personalized learning experience, to doggedly peruse the Poster sessions that were available at nearly all times of day and to visit Playgrounds. When I first set foot in the long hall when sessions were going on (I had already more or less presented one, with Barbara and Andy, at the Sunday PLN Networking Fair), I was struck by the rapt groups of educators looking at the bulletin boards at each station, scanning their QR codes and iPhotoing displays with links, and listening to truly impassioned educators discuss the topic they had come to present.
Watch Moving at the Speed of Creativity blogger and superstar educator Wesley Fryer’s Poster Session (part of it--I did not want to Periscope the whole thing because I did not have permission--it was an ad hoc recording).
Wes made me want to submit and share a poster session for ISTE18. I don’t know what it will be, but I plan to create one. He was clearly having so much fun! I met a MS OneNote warrior from Bowling Green whose brain I intend to tap for the upcoming year's work. I saw multiple presentations that gave me new insights into how Minecraft can enhance learning opportunities for students. I learned more about 3D modeling and printing. I learned a lot!
Monday early evening our group caught the Online Learning Network’s annual social and ate well there at Rita's on the River. Great food, great beverage, and a fun time for all. Michelle and Nathan do a bang-up job with that event, and with that PLN, and I got to see my dear pal Joanie Roehre. After, we hiked up to another TexMex restaurant, and I had one of those monster margaritas with a bottled beer upended in it. I was to regret that (only a little) in the morning.
Tuesday morning was an early one. Alarms went off and we got up and showered and dressed. A quick forced march the three long blocks to the convention center then the obligatory hike halfway around the giant more-or-less circle that comprises the building to the double meeting room where the PLN Leadership breakfast meeting was being held.
There was LOTS of food. Before helping myself to the gracious plenty of the food tables, though, I logged into Second Life at our table then made sure our Beth was there. Beth O’Connell, aka Beth Ghostraven in Second Life and mostly anywhere, is this year’s recipient of our Professional Learning Community’s “Pioneer of the Year Award.” Since she was not in San Antonio, we planned to bring her into the event in order to receive her award. Last year, Mary O’Brien, aka Selena Offcourse, received hers and we had her up on the projector screen and it was a show-stopping moment.
This year, as we got into our PLN awards (every PLN gives one award, sometimes two, annually), Simon Helton called the presenting representatives from all PLNs up to stand in a line. I would suggest that not be done next year, since in the time we made it all the way to the end--think V in the alphabet--Mary signaled me that my laptop was dying with a drained battery, Andy fire up his MS Surface and got logged into SL, and apparently fitting his video dongle into the input on the podium was something that could not be accomplished in time. Mary bravely turned the screen of the Surface to the audience (there were 200-300 folks in attendance) and the award was awarded. Beth had prepared some words but Andy only had time to share the first two lines, actually only the first line, since the second was thanking Andy and I and Andy is too humble to read that to the assembled. It was GE Good Enough, but next year let’s try setting up the video before breakfast! Congratulations to Beth, who is hard working in the ultimate extreme.
After breakfast I had some online image uploading, some emails, and some blogging to do, so I headed over to the Bloggers Lounge to work a bit and to watch the second keynote on the flatscreen feed there. My friend Helen Compton was working on a paper there and we hung out together with occasional chit chat catching up the way I do with colleagues I see in person only once a year but whose works I follow online all year. Helen, who is a Professor at Old Dominion University in Roanoke, Virginia, has published over 90 scholarly chapters, papers, articles, or books over the past four years and is on track for early tenure at ODU. She’s a writing machine, whose special area of focus is mobile learning. I watch her globe-trotting over the year as she is in high demand for speaking engagements all over the world.
The second keynote was even more well-received than the first. Jenny Magiera, of the National Teachers Academy, proved eloquent, well- but simply-spoken, and charismatic. My attention was in and out of the presentation, but I was listening closely when she talked about how when you meet someone in day to day life, you might not learn she’s a lawyer until well on in the conversation, but a teacher will share profession early on. Why? Because it’s what she/he is. It is core to a teacher’s existence to be a teacher. Coming to ISTE every year, it strikes Magiera that everyone she meets feels at home, liked, embraced, since literally everyone in the vast room knows their challenges and shares their passion for teaching and learning. This year, with 21,000 people in the “room,” that effect was never so powerful for me. I relate, and apparently the audience did too!
Helen had to get down to a Poster Session and I met Andy to do a little Expo Floor “exploration.” I spent much less time out there this year--I don’t know why. Yes, I do. It’s because I’m not in need of much. And the commercial feeding frenzy that the Expo Floor represents is less appealing to me in this day and age of budget cuts to Education. At least I think that’s it.
I went back down to the Poster Session floor. Every year when I tell local colleagues I attended ISTE, it seems I get the question from someone, “What was the buzz word? What’s the hot trend?” Well, this year I can list a handful.
- STEAM--To the four STEM strands of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math the Arts addition has been mostly adopted. IMHO that’s a good thing. The Arts, and the art within each of these fields of focus, can help tie each one of them to the rest, as well as stand alone. Long ago, we called that a Liberal Arts education, and yes, it’s a pendulum, and yes, the pendulum swings.
- Virtual and Augmented Realities--These have come along nicely, and as the application of Moore’s Law finds its connection with them, and as price points go down and size decreases as memory and functionality increase proportionally, they will continue to. Our Virtual Environments Network is broadening its scope to embrace these topics/technologies and you could certainly tell that at our Virtual Environments and Games & Simulations Playground. Treat yourself--visit the one-hour-plus Periscope I did for our Playground, which lasted three hours. It was a hoot doing that for people who could not attend and if that is a category of educator that fits you, this was for you. I did so under the auspices of the SLMooc17, a month-long sharefest of learning and teaching ideas from virtual worlds.
- 3D printing--more than a few of the Poster sessions celebrated the Makerspace movement. If students get involved in creating things, especially in creating tools and objects which can make a contribution toward solving real-world problems, this will continue to gain traction.
- Coding--It the words of Reshma Saujan, ISTE17 final keynote speaker, “Coding is the new Craft.” As those who made and maintained horseshoes were relegated to a small population of specialists in the past, those who drive trucks, repair auto bodies, and deliver, well, anything, will need new skills. Many of new jobs will require coding skills--in banks, corporations, factories, you name it.
Tuesday, of course, was the Playground for us. I was disappointed at first by two of the three scheduled table presenters, including Classcraft and a group of VR and AR presenters who had been scheduled to be there at 1:30 to set up and scrambled to have some content there for folks. A lovely young teacher named Heather came to the rescue to play and talk about Minecraft at one table, while I set up Second Life at the other until Devin Young and crew showed up (apparently waylaid by reps from Microsoft, as I understood it) for that table. One can’t be mad at that crew for long though. Said Gavin, “We work for the students first and then for the business.” That’s a good working business model, and it’s working for them. Look into Classcraft.
After the Playground it was a quick hike to the other side of the convention center and the Edumachinima Festival. As you likely know, we have been putting this on with Kae and Chris from the Games & Simulations Network for several years. This year, in an effort to create a larger audience than in the past, by creating perceived shortage of space, we printed tickets and handed them out. It was a fun hour, but we need to rethink a number of things about it for next year--turnout was light to say the least. Still, it was fun!
Boom, then it was time for EdTechKaraoke.
I had never attended, but aside from the $15.00 beers, it was totally fun. I’d recommend it to anyone attending ISTE18 in Chicago. By the time we had grabbed a gnosh at Pat O’Brian’s and hiked over there, the three finalists were performing and we heard their mostly really good performances. A good time was had by all. Some pics:
To bed and done with all presenting. Wednesday was another day of a little Expo floor, a run through the Posters (I met a Microsoft OneNote wizard high school teacher from just up the road in Bowling Green and learned a lot from him in a short time), and a quick lunch down at Stella Public House a mile or so from my friend Bill’s studio. That proved fortuitous, since I was able to have my Uber driver drop me at his place then walk to Stella. Bill had gifted me an autographed copy of a book celebrating his The Wall installation/performance in San Antonio and I had left it there when leaving. I now have it and I’m glad I do! Here’s a link to a story about Bll’s work.
After lunch I ubered back and met back up with Andy, Mary, and Barbara to cash in that Special Entry entitlement one last time. We sat for the music, this time a solo performance by another local talent who sang and played an open-tuned acoustic guitar. I did not catch the artist's name, so please comment if you know it! Good stuff.
Mila Fuller, ISTE Board President, introduced Reshma Saujani, who outlined her work with “Girls Who Code,” a non-profit dedicated to addressing the gender inequity rampant in Computer Science and in particular the Coding professions. I’ve already written about coding, above, but you should know that Saujani has turned out tens of thousands of afterschool program graduates, and that 93% of those grads have declared their intentions to pursue a major or minor in Computer Science in their post-secondary educational lives. I was particularly struck by her plea for everyone to pursue their passions, as she related her own failures to enter politics and her discovery of the CS gender inequities that fueled her pathway. Take a step, she said, take that first step, then you’ll find that the second one comes, then the next, “until you have taken so many steps along your own path that you can never go back.” For her, the first step was buying the girlswhocode.com domain for $1.99. What is yours?
I quit the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center at the end of the day Wednesday with the gratification that comes from being a well-recognized fish in a relatively small but challenging and forward-thinking pool. ISTE17 is my happy place, just like Tinwings is my lovely Lee Ann’s. I learn and share, that’s what I do, and Lee Ann cooks and shares, that’s what she does. I’ll stay in touch with my colleagues via various social media and tech platforms throughout the year and I’ll see you, one and all, in Chicago next year at #ISTE18. Be there. That is all.