by Martha Bogart
As I try and reflect on my experiences last week at the ISTE 2012 Conference in San Diego, the overwhelming feeling is of complete exhaustion. I’m not sure why this year seemed so much more tiring than the previous 6 years of attendance, but it really did. My advancing age aside, it might have been because I had just come off the extreme high of my daughter’s wedding less than a week before I made the trip to San Diego, or maybe it was the two hour time difference, or maybe it was because the scenery itself was so conducive to relaxation, but I found it difficult to sit on hard chairs (placed as close to each other as possible) for 5 days in a row and listen to presentations that, for the most part, were not very interactive. I know, I know….what can you really do for an hour that IS interactive? Maybe I picked the wrong sessions. In any case, I came home and slept for many hours and lay around the house in a state of vegetation for many more hours.
So, what were my takeaways? What really impressed me? Well, I’d have to say that of everything I attended, three things stuck out for me. First, was the ISTE Affiliate meeting all day Saturday. I have attended this meeting twice before, and it just seems to get better and better. I have to give kudos to Susan Larson and her terrific staff for making these meetings truly valuable, interesting, and fun. The topics are great, and it is such a wonderful day networking with other affiliates from around the world. There is always a round-robin sort of activity where you get to move from table to table to discuss various topics that of interest to affiliates. I got a lot of great info from talking and listening to folks who also put on conferences. Each discussion was scribed and notes were posted to a Google Doc for later viewing. A new part of the day was the Keynote Smackdown, which allowed us to hear from 8 or so people who deliver keynote addresses at conferences around the world. Each one got exactly 4 minutes, and it was great getting to see them and hear them. Gave us some ideas about what might be a good fit for our METC conference here in St. Louis.
The second thing that resonated with me was the Tuesday morning keynote by Yong Zhou. I had heard him before on podcasts with Steve Hargadon and Alan November, so I knew he was going to be great, but wow! His delivery was impeccable and impressive. What a powerful message—we should not be trying to emulate the Chinese. They are great test takers, for sure, but have not produced any Steve Jobses. You can listen to it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFIkkmaBD9A&feature=plcp. It’s really worth it. Just fast-forward to the part where he comes on.
Finally, what stuck with me the most was the closing keynote by Dr. Willie Smits and the Deforest Action group. This is truly what education should aspire to be. The impassioned voices of the students from Australia as they explained how they had participated in actually saving part of the rainforest in Borneo was so touching it brought tears to my eyes. This is a fantastic project, and one that I think all of our schools should be a part of. To find out more about it, go to: http://dfa.tigweb.org/. We at CSD would love to help you and your students become a part of this exciting, empowering project. If you would like us to help you set up videoconferences for it, or help in any other way, please don’t hesitate to contact us. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my phone is 314-692-1258. In fact, we are thinking about writing a grant to help promote the project and provide professional development around it. If you or your school would like to participant in the grant, please contact us. This project really summed up the buzz at the conference about passion-based learning.
So, those are my thoughts this year about the ISTE Conference. If you went, what did you think? If not, I encourage you to go to the ISTE Conference website and take a look at the archives and at the videos. Even if you didn’t get a chance to go to San Diego physically, you can experience it online by searching the program. Lots of the presenters uploaded handouts and resources, so check it out!