ISTE is What You Make of It

Cross posted at Tech & Learning

After attending my 5th ISTE event in a row, I always enjoy reading various reflections of the event. Those reflections usually reference the opportunity to network with other educators. The proverbial, “the hallway conversations trump sessions” statement continues to be the theme of the posts made by your favorite bloggers.  Of course, one must realize the bias of what you read online. Those who blog and tweet are those who have, and find value, in a networked community of learners. Most of these folks are pretty empowered to pick and choose sessions in balance with informal time with colleagues. They’re the ones that try and make it back year after year not because they think they’ll be blown away by something amazing or new but because they treasure the opportunity to reunite with colleagues and friends.  It’s summer camp for educators.

This year I tried to pay attention to those not so well connected, those who have never sent a tweet or might not know what “PLN” stands for. In the hands on session that Steve and I did for example,  I met a principal who shared that he came to ISTE to understand things better. He recognized the world was changing all around him and felt he was on the outside looking in. He talked about how proud he was that he learned a little more about a tool like twitter and was able to take a photo and post it online. Now many would argue about the trivialness of that act, how it represents the low level thinking of educational technology and lacks the vision and potential of real computing. I didn’t see it that way. I saw it as a thoughtful individual beginning a journey that many of us have been on for years. I sensed this excitement with many people who were being exposed to many ideas they’d not considered or had time to absorb.

I watched people excited as they were being introduced to perspective they had never entertained. As much as many of these ideas have been shared for some time now, I’m never too surprised at how new they are for busy teachers who work 10 hours a day and come home to their families The majority of teachers work in schools and districts with few visionaries who are attuned to ideas that include using technology to make learning better. ISTE represents the minority.

We often hear that if you leave a conference with one good idea you can use in your classroom, that it’s worthwhile. That could be argued from many angles but I think we ought to modify that statement to say if you leave a conference with one great colleague you can learn from in the future it’s been worthwhile.

One of my favorite moments was when I read a tweet by a former student of mine who is in her 2nd year of teaching. She’s a primary teacher and was frustrated with her first day of the conference. She struggled finding quality sessions. I wanted to help her out but hadn’t looked at the sessions from her perspective but knew another teacher who had. I replied to her with the name of the teacher who could help her. The next day I saw the two of them meet up in the blogger’s cafe to map out some potential opportunities. The two had never met before.

Whether it’s the summer camp aspect, the exploration of a new tool or idea, or some combination of the two, I encourage people to own their experience, to not be critical of someone else’s and support everyone in connecting to the best and brightest thinkers in education. To that end, it’s a pretty amazing few days.
Photo by Brad Flickinger

I like it when things just work

It’s been about two weeks since I moved hosting companies and I must say it was one of the best moves I ever made.

I’ve been hosting domains as a reseller and for personal use for about 4 years and although I’ve never really understood all the mumbo jumbo involved with DNS, the datbases and pinging and so forth, I was confident that my hard earn dollars would provide me with the support necessary to use the services.

I decided to go with a Canadian company so I chose webserve. Not having anything to
compare it to, I was content with the service. Questions were usually answered via live chat and downtime was minimal. In 4 years I might have had my sites go down 5 times and never more than a few hours. This fall things changed. My server was constantly going down and worst of all support was non-existent. I spent hours trying to get a hold of anyone who could at least provide me with some comfort let alone a fix. It’s a helpless feeling when others are calling you about something you’re responsible for but can do nothing about it. The only responses were canned email responders and customer service people who assured me someone would call me back. They never did. At one point I was told that the company was growing so fast they couldn’t keep up with everything, to which I responded, “not for long.”  The only thing holding me back was the thought of moving. With some helpful tips and encouragement I did what I had to do.

Every once in a while Steve Dembo gets the urge to sing the praises of his hosting company.  He’s definitely a fan boy of bluehost.  A few inquiries on twitter confirmed his ethusiasm.  That was it. I’d bite the bullet and start the move. It took me a few days to download and backup all my stuff and there were a few minor glitches but my experience with them has been nothing but positive. Not only did they have they provided me with fast, responsive service both on the phone and via chat, but have gone above and beyond their duty. Technically, they are not really supposed to help out with third party applications like WordPress but they walked me through every question and in fact modified code to make things just work. They were pleasant, patient and knowledgeable. I’ve now added a little affliate link to my sidebar. I don’t have any ads on my site and I don’t see this as much as an ad but a recommendation for other like me, who need some guidance.

All this reminded me of the story in Good to Great where the Neiman Marcus employee accepts a return of a shirt purchased at another store and goes so far above any normal standard of customer service that they gain a customer for life.

Price becomes such a small factor when service is exceptionally bad or good.

Image: Error establishing a database connection

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