Five days have passed since I presented on "10 Best Practices for Instructional Technology Coaches" at ISTE2015, and I am still absorbing the experience.
When I walked up to Room 111 just after noon on June 30, I had convinced myself to expect 15 or 20 people at most. Who was I, after all, that people would choose to come hear my thoughts about instructional tech coaching? Instead, I walked into a room buzzing with nearly 100 people. More people flooded into the room as I set up, and the room attendant (a fabulous young woman named Lauren) told me that at least 50 more people could not get into the session and were asking for links to materials and Twitter feeds so they could participate from the hallway. I was awestruck.
That energy continued as the session progressed. Participation, both in person and on Twitter, was enthusiastic. Faces shone with excitement. Discussions between attendees were accompanied by big gestures, laughter, and high fives. And I was able to absorb and reflect back that energy just as I do in my classroom on those awesome "superstar" days when everything is working just right. That kind of experience doesn't happen unless everyone in the room wants it to.
That hour spent with my colleagues from around the country was absolutely one of the highlights, not only of ISTE2015, but of my professional career. But I walked away wondering--what made this session different than so many of the others I attended? What drove the need I felt in the room? Why are my colleagues so thirsty for information and connection?
It was while mulling over this question in the Philadelphia airport that I received a Tweet containing a link to an article that Education Week's Sean Cavanaugh wrote about the session ("Blunt Advice for Harried Ed-Tech 'Coaches' Offered at ISTE"). And after picking myself up off the floor (again), I realized that I might have an answer to my questions.
The role of technology coach is nebulous and hazy--the "Jack/Jill of All Tech Trades"--and often lonely. We have to appear confident and knowledgable so our colleagues will trust us and rely on us, yet we usually do not have administrative authority and therefore must tread the murky political and social tides in our buildings with care. We must often balance our coach duties with teaching our students, and as much as we love what we do, we can be worn down by the weight of all the expectations and needs we carry.
THAT is what I felt in that room on June 30 and THAT is why the session was newsworthy. That hour was one of the few opportunities that any of us had to meet face to face, share our triumphs and challenges, and learn from one another. No wonder the energy was so high and the connections so intense. And I am both overjoyed and humbled that my session offered the chance for all of us to have that time.
If you were not able to attend ISTE and are looking for tech coach connections, check out the Twitter feed #techcoachBP to review the online discussions taking place during the session, and look under Presentation Materials for the slides I used. I plan to continue posting to the #techcoachBP hashtag to keep the connections from ISTE2015 alive. And please follow me @alytormala--I follow back!
One year ago, I prepared to attend the annual International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference for the first time. Registration? Check. Hotel and plane reservations? Check. Bags packed and tech gear stashed? Check.
I thought I was prepared. I mean, it's just a conference, right? You've seen one, you've seen them all. (Yes, ISTE veterans, go ahead and giggle. Laughter is good for the soul.)
Wow, was I wrong. What I experienced at ISTE2014 injected me with a dose of inspiration and energy that lasted almost the entire school year. Because of the amazing people and ideas I encountered at ISTE2014, I started this website, developed new connections on Twitter, became a Pinterest nut, advocated for more time and resources to serve my colleagues as an instructional tech coach, and drummed up the nerve to get more involved in local conferences and tech organizations.
Did everything go as I hoped? Certainly not. In fact, for the past two months I've been so inundated with the daily chaos of completing a school year that my Twitter and Pinterest accounts have cobwebs and this blog had almost forgotten I existed.