Even though ISTE ’13 in San Antonio is just a few weeks away, I am already excited about the absolutes of such an amazing conference for educators. Having experienced the magnificence of ISTE twice already, I can honestly say those four letters stand for such much more. My tireless mind and teacher’s heart are already preparing for an influx of educational knowledge. In fact, I decided to curtail any informational overload that I experienced during my first two trips by establishing (and ultimately renaming) a preferred acronym that helps me organize and encompass the magic that is the International Society for Technology in Education. Yep. On June 23rd, I will again walk through the doors of ISTE and come face-to-face with Inspiration, Synergy, Trailblazers, and Expertise.
Jokingly, I must admit that if Twitter awarded degrees based on accumulated learning from a social media site I would be referred to as Dr. Hardison by now and, of course, still waiting on a pay increase. I say this not to boast or brag (Lord knows I may be mistaken for Captain Average on my best days) but to provide evidence of such shared wisdom from the ISTE conference. It was in Philadelphia in 2011 that I heeded the advice of my colleague and friend, Greg O’Dell, and ventured out to investigate how social media could elevate, engage, and inspire my Language Arts classes. Yeah, I was skeptical at first, but the “#teach with #tweet” session presented me with all the proof I needed. I was sold. To say that the “City of Brotherly Love” introduced me to “Philadelphia Freedom” by way of social media wings is, I must admit, a bit cheesy. Oh, but how true it is.
If synergy can be defined as 2 + 2 = 5, then this apparently inaccurate equation is given a shot of cortisone and steroids at ISTE and easily balloons to an astonishing 2 + 2 = ∞. Seriously. One simple break between sessions in San Diego last year found me seated in a hallway with about fifty others. I had about thirty minutes to kill and wanted to soak up the knowledge from the previous session. One introductory comment later and I was exchanging contact information with a multitude of educators from New York, Michigan, California, and other states. These educators were on fire for education, and they were eager to establish connections to modernize and bolster their class assignments. Besides offering priceless resources and experiences, they were essentially sharing a way to tear down the classroom walls. It was mind-blowing. In the past, I was elated to collaborate with my in-school colleagues. Just stepping outside my room during class changes was a welcomed invitation to quickly share ideas. It still is, however, sometimes all I need to do is create a quick e-mail, tweet, or Google Hangout. My needed resource may now be three doors down or three time zones away. No difference to me. Synergy is a proven fact. Thanks to ISTE.
Don’t get me wrong. You won’t see any red carpets or paparrazi awaiting the arrival of pompous teachers, but you will most definitely rub elbows with humble trailblazers of education. No pen needed. No autographs given. But a connection established through shared knowledge and a common goal of improved teaching is a certainty. Whether it’s Steven Anderson, Angela Maiers, Jerry Blumengarten (Cybraryman1), Tom Whitby, or Adam Bellow, many titans of education will be present at ISTE, and I’m quite sure they will be more than willing to share.
Perhaps the coolest aspect of immersing myself in such a positively contagious learning environment is the ability to believe that I have something of value to offer, too. I don’t see how anyone can witness expertise through engaging in hands-on workshops, observing jaw-dropping creative products from students, listening to lectures from educational pioneers, or perusing the gallery of present and future educational technology, without asking, “Well, what can I share of value since I have received so much already?” My answer just happens to be a 3-hour workshop on creating classroom magic. I know, I know. Perhaps it appears to be a shameless plug, and maybe it is. But maybe, just maybe, I am merely modeling the purpose of a remarkably successful conference by challenging myself to achieve a higher standard. It sounds like a new acronym in the making. ISTE ’13 may just be an Indescribably Super Teaching Experience and leave me speechless. Now that’s what I call a good problem…one that will certainly inspire US to expertly blaze a trail with descriptive words that encapsulate all that is the International Society for Technology in Education.