Here’s a quick summary of some of the sessions I attended at ISTE 2011. Skip the details and read the punchline at the end if you prefer.
Saturday, June 25
Led by Jon Becker and joined by 10-12 others.
This session considered what we mean by “reform” and considered various challenges and barriers.
Key takeaway: Size of organization plays a huge role in allowing innovation. Finding the optimum size for schools and organizations to flourish and grow is essential.
Teachers as Advocates
Led by Jon Becker and joined by 10-12 others
Jon asked the question, “Are teachers responsible for being advocates?” Advocacy can take on many roles from public relations to policy change.
Key takeaway: The voices of teachers need to be heard beyond the classroom walls and school buildings. The questions I leave with are “what should we be advocating, how do we seek and develop common messages and to whom should our voices be directed.
What are we doing for our Leaders
Led by Scott McLeod and about 30 others
Scott’s basic premise here is that instead of blaming leaders for not “getting it”, create conditions in which they can. Stop blaming and start enabling. A few ideas were shared about how to make that happen.
Key takeaway: I wasn’t terribly thrilled with this conversation. May have been my own fault but I didn’t find a new idea here or anything to consider. Again, likely my fault.
Sunday, June 26
The Netbook Rollout
Led by Ben Grey and joined by 4-5 others
This was a bit of an ongoing session that began at brunch and continued on various times thoughout the conference. Spending time with Ben will do that.
Key takeaway: The image they’ve used courtesy of Jim Klein is robust and seems very easy to maintain.
Dr. John Medina
An overview of his book Brain Rules which I have read.
Key takeaway: I wish he would have explored more on the area of design and what schools should look like to better accommodate how we think and learn.
An great conversation about Zac’s efforts to blog every day and comparing that to me posting a photo a day.
Key takeaway: What we might feel is lesser quality and even a throw away effort, often resonates strongly with others.
Enough Blogging, Let’s Do Something Already
Led by David Jakes and joined by 5-6 others
David asked an honest question whether all the blogging that educators do is really helping make a difference for students. He’s concerned about a lot of talk and not that much action, wondering if our time was better directed towards students as opposed to blogging. It was a sincere question about whether everything that needs to be said has been said and perhaps we need to shift focus from talk to action. It was a great conversation with many bright folks contributing.
Key Takeaway: Reminds me to be careful to keep students first and foremost in our conversations and pay attention to what actually makes a difference for kids. Most agreed it’s not a zero sum game, however, there were some good reminders and perspectives shared.
Monday June 27
Led by John Spencer
I introduced myself to John and identified him as one of those “smart people” I pay extra close attention to. John shared how he felt a bit out of the edtech group but I only know he writes well and has much to offer. He began sharing about the Living Facebook project he and his wife explored earlier this year. I had heard about it but was intrigued even more as he explained what he learned.
Key takeaway: He really is one of those “smart people”.
Creating Touchstones of Potential with Peer Coaching
Led by Shelee King George, Peer-Ed with Colet Bartow and Mary Knight
This was a poster session and Bud and I had a nice conversations with these folks about their coaching model and implementation.
E-Book Quick Tips and Tricks for Interactive Whiteboards
Led by Christine Voigt and Paul Wood
Paul shared with me the way Bishop Dunne was incorporating ebooks at their school. Certainly they are leading the way.
Key Takeaway: Publishing companies still aren’t sure how to market and sell ebooks.
Vendors, Testing and Politics
Led by Scott Floyd joined by 4-5 others
Being Canadian and somewhat sheltered from much of the nastiness and controversy surrounding politics, testing and big companies, I look to Scott as my go to guy for all things edupolitics.
Key Takeaway: The reason the vendor floor looks like it does is because there is big bucks to be made often by leaders who are uniformed and are looking for quick easy solutions. Reminds me a bit of the earlier session on reform.
Led by Bud Hunt and dozens of others
Bud’s very interesting experiment of considering how to pause.
Key Takeaways: Slow down. And Ben Grey does lovely work.
Tuesday June 28
New Media, New Literacies: Educational Transformation through Digital Creativity
I’ve always wanted to hear Jason present. He shared 10 ideas for using Digital Storytelling.
Key Takeaways: Surprisingly not as much new here as I would have liked. Wes blogged the session here. That’s not to say it wasn’t a good session, just nothing new for me.
Wednesday, June 29
Simple Tools for Sharing
Led by Wes Fryer and Me
I was honored that Wes asked me to help him lead this BYOL session. We did a lot of stuff in an hour.
Key Takeaway: The balance between scaffolding and play is a very difficult one to find in a one hour hands on session.
A model classroom session exploring and deconstructing the power and idea of citizen journalists. I was one of the “students” in this session and thought they did a nice job.
Key takeaway: Deconstruction and reflection is critical for showing students the value and purpose of social media.
ISTE Closing Keynote
Chris hit a home run with students and a powerful message focusing on agency. While I’ve heard this message in general from Chris several times, the inclusion of students as well as a few new twists made it a great way to end the conference.
Key takeaways: Certainly reminding our students they are beautiful is a message we can’t hear enough.
Customized your TinyURL
Led by Chris Craft
Chris talked to me last year about some geeky custom URL installations. I’m still interested in the idea but would like something that works with a mobile device.
Key takeaway: It’s nice to have geeky friends.
iPhone App Sharing
Led by Tim Wilson and 2-3 others
Tim shared a few key apps and other interesting tools he’s exploring
Key takeaway: See the previous takeaway
This session took place on the roofdeck of Chris Lehmann’s house where I questioned Chris and others if ISTE had a responsibility to have their keynotes address technology more directly. A rousing conversation ensued and a few ideas sparked this post.
Key takeaways: I love it that I can challenge my friends and push back on their ideas and they do the same for me.
So in case you’ve not figured this out, most of the sessions I mentioned were not found in the program guide. That’s because they didn’t exist there but were rather conversations that I was privy to or indeed initiated. Simply by surrounding myself with smart people, listening a little more than I normally do, I found great value in ISTE 2011. These are often the conversations that, while they exist online in many places, lack the intensity and focus and the ability to clarify that a great face to face conversation has. I attend this conference because of the sheer numbers of people that I can learn from in various contexts and settings. A mix of intentional and serendipitous learning. Everyone has their own approach. This is mine and it’s working pretty well for me.