Thursday, July 4, 2013

My #ISTE13 Reflections

It has been a week since returning from ISTE13 in San Antonio, Texas and I have had some time to reflect, read fellow colleagues' ISTE13 posts and share with colleagues in my own district. This is one of the many understated gifts of ISTE; learning is not over at the conclusion of the conference.  In fact, I think it’s after the conference when much of the value of ISTE is actually realized.  I cannot help but return to same thought over and over again.  ISTE is less a technology conference, and more about a community of educators celebrating ways to the disrupt the industrial model of education, and specifically, how to innovate within the traditional, rigid structures of schooling.  The more I think about this, the more I am inspired to relentlessly adapt, create and innovate, in order to contribute to this sweeping movement in education.  We critically need change.  (Thank you to @gcouros for sharing his inspirational ISTE13 talk and innovative resources on this subject.)

EdTech K–12 Magazine ‏@EdTech_K12 28 Jun .@SandraTrach you had one of the top inspirational tweets from #ISTE13 in our roundup:

I was struck by how large, and yet small the conference felt.  20,000 participants would be an educational sea by anyone’s standards. Surprisingly however, it felt like the smallest ecology of 20,000 people I have ever been a part of. Everywhere I turned, I met the friendliest people from around the world who were interested and invested in each other’s learning.  I will admit that meeting educators from international locations (at one point, I was conversing with two principals from South Africa), diverse educational roles, and from my PLN on Twitter were true highlights for me.  With that said, the humanity of ISTE13 is palpable.  Educators are kind, dedicated, hard working, intelligent, insightful, collaborative, innovative -- and I would say -- give me great hope for the future of education.  In addition to the wealth of knowledge and experience you gain from ISTE, what you also gain is inspiration, camaraderie and support.  Not only did this happen for me in person when I engaged in conversation with attendees, it also happened through social media. For instance, when I had  a specific instructional question, I contacted @patrickmlarkin in my PLN. He offered me immediate, specific feedback (while I was in the one of my ISTE13 sessions.)  Not only did he quickly answer my question, but he also referred me to another expert @dvillanojr, who immediately provided me feedback and offered support after the conference.  In addition, I was invited by a @teachingwthsoul to participate in a #caedchat book club and surprisingly, one of my tweets was selected as a top ten of #ISTE13. These are only some examples of how large and small the conference was for me.  Yes, the ecology of educators was large, and this was a vivid reality at ISTE13.  However, it was also small in the sense of a tight knit community, where if you did not know someone or something, all you had to do was ask.  At every turn, the community took care of you.  At ISTE13, there was a sense of mutual investment within the learning of one another at the conference, and beyond when the event concluded.  

While I continue to think carefully about the number of leadership inspirations, instructional models and creative ideas that were shared, (and these energize me over and over again), I think the real lever of change is relationships.  Relationships are the accelerator and brake of change in an organization.  It is the lever that most affects leadership, risk-taking, creativity and innovation.  No leadership wisdom or great idea will ever get a running start without mutual investment in the learning of one another.  Said differently, relationships are the learning, not separate from the learning. Relationships create a culture of openness - open to the inspirations, models, risk-taking, creative ideas and adaptive change that we critically need in education.  This was a resounding message in the closing #ISTE13 keynote by @adambellow.  ISTE13 is an example of what happens in a truly open culture.  The continual exchange of ideas that causes you to reflect, innovate and share as a continuous cycle is the gift of the ISTE13 experience, and one that leads well beyond the realm of the conference experience. Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Although the ISTE13 conference is over, I look forward to our continued learning together and our collective ability to affect the critical change we believe is possible in education.