Expanding Horizons at ISTE 2012

http://isteconference.org/2012/

It’s all kind of a blur. ISTE 2012, that is. It was an amazing 4-day ed tech conference in San Diego, chock-full of great ideas and like-minded professionals all with the goal of using technology authentically and purposefully to enhance student learning.

Here are my top 10 highlights:

1) Building my PLN! I connected with educators from all over the globe that I WILL contact in the near future:)
2) As an aside to #1, I discovered some global collaboration opportunities that I’m super excited about, including connecting with some of my new PLN, as well as looking into using ePals, edmodo, and/or Skype in the Classroom. I need to sit down and vet them to make sure the tools I choose to use serve my purpose and don’t overlap. Anyone with experience in any of the above, please share any advice.

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3) I grew more confident as a Twitteree;) I recruited some more followers (I literally made them take out their phone on the spot and follow me;), and then some people that I didn’t even coerce are following me! Pre-ISTE I had 9 followers and post-ISTE I’m up to 22–WOO HOO! Knowing that I have an authentic, global audience motivates me to write with more volume, clarity and inspiration. It makes sense that students would feel the same way if they are blogging their writing! I’m interested in having my students blog their writing rather than use the paper/pencil notebook. I spoke with a teacher doing this, and she said the quality of her kids’ writing rose exponentially when they were able to share their work with a wider audience as well as write and receive comments for and from others. Anyone doing this with success? Or doing this and NOT having success?

www.todaysmeet.com

4) I learned about 2 tools, Poll Everywhere and Today’s Meet, that I cannot wait to use with my students (and colleagues). They are web-based tools that allow you to gather data in real-time. You should have seen how engaged all the adults in the room were. I can see this being used in the classroom for quick, formative assessments and even to start off the day with a fun question or end the day with some type of reflection of something they learned that day. So many possibilities.

5) Visiting exhibitors in the 5 and 1/2 football-length hall. I felt like a kid in a candy shop sometimes as I grabbed free highliters (yes, I’m a dorky elementary teacher who loves nothing more than to color-code) or signed up for the myriad of raffles. More importantly, this is where I was able to speak  with people from Evernote, ePals, Poll Everywhere, Edmodo and other wonderful booths to see how I could better utilize their service with my students.

6) Poster sessions. As an ISTE first-timer, I had seen these in the program and thought they were just random people presenting random things that weren’t ‘good enough’ to be one of the workshops or sessions. Man, was I ever wrong! This was one of the meatiest parts of the conference! Here I was able to talk 1-on-1 with real people out in the trenches putting this technology to good use.

7) Keynote sessions. Sir Ken Robinson and Dr. Yong Zhao were particularly inspiring for me. You can view their keynotes here: Sir Ken (start watching at 45 min. mark) and Dr. Zhao (start at 53:45). Both are funny, funny guys.

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8) San Diego! I went to university in this beautiful city many a year ago, and it was GREAT to be back, even though the majority of my time was spent rushing from room to room in the gi-normous convention center. I did take time to go biking on Coronado Island and visit my MOST favorite spot on this planet–La Jolla Cove.

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9) Filling in some of my tech knowledge gaps. I finally learned how to use QR codes. I didn’t even know what QR stood for (it’s Quick Response for those who also don’t know;). There was a fantastic QR 101 article I read in the ISTE publication Learning and Leading that I read on the place to the conference. Then, I got to put it into practice as I paraded around booths zapping codes.

10) I was thrilled to gather several resources to teach global citizenship and internet safety. I feel really strongly about explicitly teaching these skills to kids. If we focus more on the hardware and what tool we’re putting in kids’ hands, we are putting our kids at a loss and setting them up for disaster. It’s just not fair. I think one of the biggest things we need to remember is that there’s no guarantee that our kids are going to be 100% safe and never see an inappropriate image or word, even with all the citizenship lessons we give. As an adult, I come across spam email or inappropriate comments or images on blogs all the time, but I know how to handle them so that they don’t interfere or distract me from my work or whatever I’m trying to do. We need to teach kids how to do that as well…rather than just installing cyber-nanny-blocking services on their devices.

11) Okay, so I know I said this was my “Top 10″ list, but I have to put in 1 more…Spending 6 days with my husband and without my kids. I love my kids more than ANYTHING in this world. It’s important though to balance oneself–whether it be between work and home lives or making time for yourself or a loved one. Balance is key to production…and sanity.

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The tricky part now will be to sort through everything I learned and decide what my priorities will be. As I write this on the plane ride back to St. Louis, I’m starting my ‘To Do’ list. As much as I want to put everything in the number one spot, it’s not realistic. I don’t want to set myself or my students (or colleagues) up for failure, so my goal is to start small and grow from there.