Saturday, July 3, 2010

Final Reflections From Denver And #ISTE10

I came home from Denver and ISTE10 on Thursday afternoon and I really needed this long to decompress and reflect on my experiences. This was my first time to the conference and I knew it was going to be amazing before I even got there.

As I mentioned in my last post I got to head out to Colorado a few days early to spend some time with people I only knew from Twitter. Before we go to Estes Park we were sitting in a restaurant and I casually asked Beth Still honestly how big this conference was. Now you have to understand, I come from a very small and rural part of North Carolina so a gathering over 100 people is huge. She asked me how big I thought it was and I guessed 5, 6 thousand people. Everyone at the table gave a little laugh. Confused, I asked what everyone was laughing and was told that there would actually be between 12 and 20 thousand people.

I was glad to be a part of what has to be the largest technology and quiet frankly the largest educational conference in the world. Now that my reflections are some what complete here are some of my general thoughts on the entire experience.

-EdubloggerCon: It is well worth the extra airfare and hotel room to spend one more day at the conference. After this event I knew it was going to be difficult for the conference to replicate the learning I experienced there. Nothing is planned until that morning. Yet with the level of the sessions there you would never know. Each session I attended was like none I have ever been to anywhere before. The advice I have is go to something outside of your comfort zone. There was a session lead by Jon Becker on whether or not we should use the term PLN (for Personal Learning Network). Many in the session got very angry with Jon and I was in the beginning but as the session went on my thinking got stretched more and more and I really like that. Not only that, we talked about his session for several days after the hour and ended. That is what learning should do. We shouldn't walk in to an hour session, listen to something and then after the hour, it's over. ISTE could learn a lot from the Unconference style of EBC. So, my advice, head out a day early and take part in EBC. Well worth the time, effort and money.

-Bloggers Cafe: Before I went out to Denver someone told me that most of my time would be spent in this area of the conference. And they were right. On Sunday I spent over 4 hours sitting there and meeting and talking to some of the greatest technology and education minds on the planet. This was also where I watched the disastrous keynote and had a good laugh listening to the commentary from everyone. Each day of the conference for me started in Bloggers and I found myself there several times each day meeting people or just hanging out. It was in a great location, very central to the conference so everyone had to walk by at some point. The name is misleading. I am sure some blog posts were written there but I feel like more connections were made between people and it was more of that EBC/Unconference atmosphere that many craved. My advice, if you didn't hang out there, make a point to next year, you might just want to bring some comfortable furniture from another part of the convention center.

-Social Butterfly Lounge and #Edchat: This was the first year for the Social Butterfly Lounge and it seemed to be a very popular place. Dawn and Katie over at ISTEConnects did a great job organizing several mini session of popular social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, iPod/iPad Apps and Foursquare. I, along with several others like Kyle Pace and Mary Beth Hertz lead sessions that introduced these topics to people or just offered our advice and insight in how educators could use these tools better. This space also lead to some impromptu sessions too. I ran into Vicki Davis and she filmed me teach someone how to install and use Foursquare. (You can watch the video here.) This was also the space that ISTE kindly donated to us to do #Edchat on Tuesday. And I have to say it was a complete success. We had about 100 people, in the flesh, participating. It was a chance for them to get together, talk but also tweet about this week's topic. I am so grateful to Katie, Dawn, and ISTE for helping us get that event together so quickly and allowing us to use the space. I hope that this can be an annual event.

-Connections: In my last post I wrote about if you can have real relationships with people you only knew through social media. After spending over a week with people I only knew from SM I truly believe you can have those relationships and I saw it at ISTE10 as well. It was so awesome to see people who had never meet in person meet just walking by each other. It really was like old friends reuniting after time apart. I just wish ISTE had made it easier for us to spot each other by putting our Twitter names on our badges, but that is a suggestion for next year. A good idea I saw a lot of is if you don't use your regular picture on your profile to change it just for the conference for people to find you. I have to say besides EBC and the learning there, meeting so many people I know from and talk to through social media sites was the best part. I love just meeting people and talking to people. It makes our connection all that more real.

-Sessions: I have a confession. I went to 3 sessions (not including the one I was a part of) the whole 4 days I was there. Yep, just 3. Two of them were laptop sessions and the other was a ballroom session. It isn't that I just had no interest. It was that many of the session would appeal to people who had limited knowledge of the topics covered there. Honestly, there were poster sessions that would have been awesome general sessions. I think ISTE could do a better job of providing more sessions that are less tool orientated and more action and integration orientated. There were tons of "Lets Learn This Tool" and not enough of "You Know This Tool But Let's Look At Ideas On How To Integrate It And Use It With Kids." I also like controversy (hence my attendance at Jon's session at EBC) and I just didn't see enough of that either. I would really like to see more sessions that are unplanned and that just happen. But that is the beauty of Bloggers. No session, cool. Head over there and strike up a conversation.

What a great conference. Really. Hanging out with the Blue Bunnies from Simple K12. All the tweetups, meeting people, even the free stuff on the vendor floor really helped make my first ISTE conference experience one to remember. I am already looking forward to seeing everyone again in Philly!

Even if you couldn't go there are tons of ways to get in on the stuff that was there:
ISTE Vision has video archives of several session, most not to miss.
ISTE Connects has lots of summaries and links from several of the session. Lots of great resources here.
The main ISTE10 Conference Website has tons more information including links to resources uploaded by presenters. Do a search for a session and see if their stuff has been uploaded. (It should be by now but they have until July 9 so head back often.)

Oh, and it isn't too early to start planning for Philly. So head over to the ISTE11 site and see all the great things planned for next year. And start saving those pennies so we can meet, either again or for the first time in Philly!
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