Walking into my first ISTE conference felt a lot like being a captive dolphin returned to the sea. Terrifying. Exhilarating. Thrilling.
Exactly one year ago, I had barely dipped my toes in the water of educational technology and its possibilities. As a member of our school's 1:1 iPad implementation team, I was still navigating the challenges of "The App Zone" (and often still getting hopelessly stuck there) and trying to wrap my mind around how a 1:1 program should work.
And here I was one year later, now the Instructional Technology Coach for my school, striding into ISTE Central, seeking out the Registration sign, and plunging in to what would certainly be one of the largest and most memorable conferences I've attended.
Even a week after ISTE 2014, I am still processing what I learned. But a few keystone ideas have bubbled to the surface--ideas that will fuel me as I begin my eighth year as a teacher and my second year as a Tech Coach.
1. "I look for teachers who say, 'I will always teach kids before I teach content.'" These words, uttered by a principal from Montana who was being recognized on stage before Ashley Judd's keynote address, have persistently floated in my mind through every lecture, conversation, Twitter chat, and reflection. Every class of students who enters my room comes from a different experience than the one before. Every class who graduates from my school is entering a world requiring skills and understanding that we cannot possibly fully anticipate. It is more essential than ever that our students learn how to learn. So as teachers, we should always begin our process with a question: How can I best serve my students' future?
2. "Play is serious business...shame on us when we marginalize it." I found Kevin Carroll's keynote address both invigorating and challenging. How often do I get caught up in the details? The stress of grading papers? The urgency and pressure to cram in all the material I can in the short space of a day, week, month, year? How often do I push aside the opportunity to make play a part of my students' daily experience? I have to remember to listen to my own inner child. To create learning experiences from a sense of joy and experimentation. To not only encourage my students to find fun in learning, but to ensure that I give them every opportunity to do so.
3. Social media can be a teacher's greatest tool for professional learning. Two years ago, I would never have agreed to this statement. I barely looked at my Facebook account, I refused to start a Twitter account, and my LinkedIn account (started only because our school asked us to) didn't even have a photo on it. Even when I opened a Twitter account last summer and got a taste of what it could offer, I still didn't fully dive in. I pushed through my first year as a Tech Coach often feeling alone and blind. It wasn't until the ISTE conference that I fully plunged into the world of Twitter, and WOW. Suddenly I am no longer alone. I have a vast pool of professionals who offer information and ideas, who can help answer questions, who struggle with the same concerns or needs that I do. If I can do anything for my colleagues this year, it will be to help them discover Twitter and other social media resources for themselves.
This isn't all, but it's a start. And that is always the most exciting part of any journey.