Saturday, July 5, 2014

Big Fish, Little Fish: Finding My School of Fish at ISTE

It's been a while since I have been here! The school year has been a busy but fulfilling one and my summer has not disappointed either. I wanted to share with you my reflections as a newbie at ISTE 2014. For those of you not familiar with ISTE, it is the mega Educational Technology conference in the world! No joke, it's massive! I was fortunate enough to be in attendance due to its proximity and relevance to teaching and learning. In fact, the title and theme of this post was inspired by the following conversation I had on Twitter. . .

After experiencing ISTE, I realized it was much more than a professional development opportunity. And way more than a conference for tech junkies like myself. Here is a glimpse of what my brain has processed so far. 

Finding My School of Fish 
Of all the conferences I have attended, I felt like I was at home for the first time at ISTE. For years I have been on Twitter and have worked on building my PLN by connecting and collaborating with other educators, leaders, and ed tech specialists. It was at ISTE that I was finally able to meet some of these folks in person and let me say that was an experience in itself. I was delighted to discover that all those I have been in communication with were just as personable and amazing in real life! While I was able to chat and catch up briefly with some, there were others that I instantly clicked with and that stole my heart. Of course you know I have to mention my two #ISTEbesties Lisa Pagano and Joshua Lemere. I have followed these two exceptional gifted educators on Twitter, but really got to know them beyond the profile and small talk.  We learned, we laughed, and even lived our own ISTE newbie experience together. I can say with sincerity that our time together cultivated friendships that I hope will last beyond our time at ISTE. 

With the fabulous Lisa & Josh!
The Hustle is Real! 
With Top Hustlers: Dr. Will, Eric, Walter, & Sarah. 
Another theme that struck me throughout the conference was the energy, and what I like to call the hustle. It came to no surprise that ISTE was a place where all the "big fish" gathered since it was the mecca for cutting edge technologies and the brightest minds in ed tech. But this hunger for innovation and connecting wasn't exclusive to the "big fish" but rather something I observed in almost everyone I encountered at the conference. To some extent, everyone was trying to make their mark and share their story. I appreciated those conversations where you heard not only the back story to how an app was created, but the struggles that some faced in treading new waters. At the same time, I soaked up all the advice and support that my Tweeps had to offer to my husband, Dr. Will. That type of exchange truly warmed my heart and lifted my spirit. It was great to know that there are folks out there that have our backs. And that right there is real!

 Some more of my favorite hustlers!
With Shelly, Peggy, Jerry, & Krissy. Always supportive & keeping it real!

Choosing My Learning  
Another aspect I enjoyed about ISTE was that learning took place in many formats. I was overwhelmed by not only the selection of topics available to explore but at the same time pleased that my learning did not have to be limited to traditional sessions. I chose to participate in the Digital Storytelling and Maker Spaces Playgrounds, where various speakers presented short, dynamic, and even hands-on demonstrations. My two favorites were led by author, Peter H. Reynolds and Vinnie Vrotny

With author, Peter H. Reynolds. 
Peter Reynolds gave a great talk on the importance of allowing our students to make their mark. As he read his book, The Dot, he emphasized that we are all artists and must seek opportunities to be creativite and explore our passions.  
Vinnie's Maker Space Playground.
Vinnie's showcase of Maker Space projects, just blew my mind! This year I took a step towards Maker Spaces with DIY projects and was very interested in exploring other projects and resources. Vinnie not only delivered on that front, but also taught me much more. When I asked him if cardboard was the foundation to Maker Spaces, he turned to me and said, "The foundation is a teacher willing to take the leap." Priceless. 
I enjoyed Vinnie's playground because I was able to hear the stories and touch products such as duct tape skirts, light up sewing kits, and a plastic frame made by a laser printer; all of which were student inspired and created! I was in awe to say the least and will definitely be on the look out for Vinnie at future conferences. He is not one to miss! 

Overall, ISTE exceeded my expectations on all levels. From challenging my thinking to making deeper connections, I gained much from what at first felt like the ISTE tsunami. While it all came at once, I was glad to take the plunge because below the surface I was able to find my school of fish. Now I feel I can take my next adventure out to sea, and this time, I don't have to do it alone.  
It's all about connecting! 


  1. Hi Elle,
    I love the analogy you used in your post. I'm so sorry, I was not able to sit down and have a conversation with you. We didn't even get a picture. :( This ISTE for me was too busy. I had way too many things on my calendar each day that weren't even sessions. One of my ISTE passions is finding a couple of newbies and helping them navigate the waters of this tremendous conference. Sadly, I really didn't get to do that very much this year. Hopefully we will get to spend some quality time together when you come to NOLA.

    1. Hi Paula!

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! It was great to see you at ISTE, even it was only briefly. I agree it was very busy and difficult to catch up with people. But no worries, we'll make sure to catch up in the Big Easy.

      See you soon,


      P.S. I think we got a picture, but I can't seem to find it! Once I do, I'll make sure to post and share it!