10 Takeaways From ISTE 2014

20140701_102350The 2014 ISTE conference in Atlanta GA, was indeed an eye-opening experience. If you’re on Twitter, you’ve probably seen the #ISTE2014 on your feed for the last seven days. I got off the plane ready to take in all of the information, and I boarded the flight home afraid that my brain was going to ooze out of my ears! Therefore, it’s taken me a few days to wrap my mind around the many things I learned while in attendance. So, here are 10 takeaways from this amazing national conference!

1. Technological Savvy requires a personal commitment.

Let’s face it. After attending ISTE 2014, it became very clear to me that there are far too many tools and strategies for one to ingest and regurgitate all at once. If I were to rely solely on the presenters and materials I encountered during the conference, and tried to remember every word spoken, I’d fail miserably at retaining valuable knowledge. Thus, it is my personal responsibility to go back into my notes, research the many links I’d written down and QR codes I’d scanned, and embed those concepts mentally, according to the needs of my school district.

2. You must sharpen your saw, often.

I realized very quickly, that by the time most of us catch up with what’s currently trending in instructional technology, everyone else will have moved on to the next big thing. I want to keep up. I want to be in the know. The only way to do so, is to read, research, and practice.

3. If you’re still trying to prepare students for the 21st century, you missed the deadline.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The 21st century began 14 years ago. It’s a buzz phrase, which has had its day. We need to change the way we think about future readiness. The future for the children we are teaching is the year 2020 and beyond. I think the major hiccup for educators is our own levels preparedness. Are we truly prepared for 2020 ourselves? Are we still operating with a 20th century mentality (or 19th)?

4. Having a solid PLN is vital.

Imagine relying on your fellow teachers and district leaders to provide all of your professional development opportunities. For some, this is exactly what is happening. It is not humanly possible for your technology coach to teach you all there is to know about emerging technological practices. There are millions of educational professionals who share information daily through social media and blogs. You can search YouTube or iTunes and find video tutorials or podcasts on just about anything you can imagine. You are responsible for your own learning. Make a commitment to expanding your personal learning network. Then, you’ll no longer say, “I didn’t know… they didn’t tell me…”

5. Everyone should attend a national conference at least once in life.

I’ve been to some state conferences during my career, and I must say, they were amazing. ISTE was more than I could have imagined. Actually, it was quite overwhelming at first. It wasn’t until I lost the state/regional conference mentality that I was able to get my bearings, and find my way. This conference was not designed for attendees to get every single bit of information from every session. Nor was it designed for you to stick to what you know and who you know. I met so many amazing people, from all over the country. Admittedly, the “session” that I found most beneficial, wasn’t even a session at all. It was the blogger’s cafe’.

6. It’s not about you.

I met a teacher from San Diego, CA who desperately needed help with Twitter, and I obliged. She had come all the way to Atlanta, by herself, and was totally overtaken by all of the madness. After about an hour of walking her through the Twitter App for iPhone and all that she could do with it, she looked at me with tears in her eyes, and said, “Oh my goodness. You have no idea how much you’ve helped me.” I was moved.

You see, at ISTE, everyone is an expert. Period. It’s a time to glean whatever you can from those experts. Taking up time talking about yourself and what you can do takes away from the time you can spend learning and sharing. So, I caught some guys recording a podcast in the blogger’s cafe’. They were using a Snowball mic (which I covet intensely). I struck up a conversation, and I let them take me away. In five minutes, I learned how they podcast, the tools they use for post production, and the websites that I can tap into for more information, as well as their blog address. We even followed one another on Twitter! Cha-ching!

7. Share the wealth.

At ISTE, everyone has a blog. Actually, I don’t know that to be true, but a good number of the attendees do, and for good reason. Having vast knowledge about a concept and storing it all in your own head is the worst sin one can commit in education. Remember that the same way we find value in others, others are looking to find value in you. Therefore, I blog, I tweet, and I share what I learn with the world. In this instance, Karma is a great thing. Sharing always comes back, in a positive way!

8. Learning is eternal.

No matter your craft or subject matter, you never age out of learning. As long as we progress into the future, there’ll always be something new to learn. Essentially, how can we expect children to want to learn from us, if we do not want to learn? I have certainly developed a passion for learning about technology. It’s a flame that I believe will never extinguish.

9. Children want to create.

I remember when I was about 8 years old. My mother and I were in the kitchen, and she was showing me how to scramble eggs and fry bacon. Each time she showed me anything that involved making something, I exclaimed, “Ooh! I wanna do it!” The difference between my mom’s response to my plea and the way we sometimes respond to our students’ pleas in education is that my mom stepped aside, handed me the fork and let me beat the eggs! Instantly, I was making breakfast, and it had a new meaning-a different one than it did when she made it herself, and spoon fed it to me. My eggs tasted better too! Just kidding, Mom.

10. Technology is not optional today.

Charles DarwinIf Charles Darwin were alive today, he’d be a techie for sure! We all know that his Theory of Natural Selection stated in so many words that only the strong survive. Those who are naturally designed to survive in their environment will flourish and those who are not will die out. The strong will go on to reproduce strong offspring, which will outnumber the weak. Darwin observed animals on the Galapagos Islands off the coast of South America. This relates to humans more closely than you may think. The capacity to survive in the age of technology is evidence of mental evolution, or evolution of intelligence. This is the key: technology is not a stand-alone discipline. Integrated across all disciplines, it is a powerful enhancement. The future is now. We must embrace it in order to be “fit” to survive.

Bonus: Never, ever attend ISTE with a pack animal mentality.

I met some wonderful ladies from Houston Texas before boarding the Marta. We were all headed to Peachtree Plaza. Throughout the weekend, we  traveled to Lenox Mall, dined at Gladys Knight’s Chicken and Waffles, and bought goodies and nick-nacks from the CVS, down the street. I am so thankful to have crossed paths with them. I soon learned though, that I would get the most out of the conference if we agreed to venture separately by day, and reconnect by night. The same went for my college classmates with whom I had lunch a few times. There were so many sessions, playgrounds and posters, traveling in a pack was not an optimal plan. Not to mention, to explore the Expo Hall took an entire day in itself. Still, all of them helped me tremendously just by engaging me and practically adopting me during my stay! Infact, being willing to have dinner alone led me to encounter a wonderful bunch at Hsu’s Chinese Restaurant. Thanks, my friends for the wonderful connections, and the CNN tour!

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