ISTE Reflections

I’ve set about writing several takeaway blog posts in the last few of days and never getting to finish them.  So I guess I’ll just write this one big one.

First, I mentioned to a number of people at ISTE about my plans to gradually scale back my traveling and start searching for my next passion – over the next five to fifteen years. However, after this conference, reflecting on the conversations, presentations and panels, keynotes, and especially factoring in the changes in how conference attendees use their own ICTs for learning there — well, what could possibly compete with this.

There is so much left to do — so many trajectories that we need to change. As Zhao asked, “Why are we (USA) reaching so low?

The SocialEdCon (formerly known as the EduBloggerCon) began with casual conversations among people we knew and people we didn’t know. I had to sympathize with Steve Hargadon’s having to reign us in to a slightly more structured set of conversations.

My first was prompted by “What do you think when you hear the term ‘educator entrepreneur’?” The prompt was mine, and the question was poorly asked. I learned that the word, entrepreneur, has connotations that I had subconsciously suppressed, namely that people think that entrepreneurship is typically practiced for the sake of profit. I could make a case for different kinds of profit – and one of the participants shared her business card, which had  printed on it, “Edupreneur.” One of my takeaways was a list of qualities of the educator entrepreneur (if I might continue to use that term). This is by no means conprehensive, and its value is in the fact that it came out of a conversation. Educator-entrepreneurs are,

  • Self-directed
  • Take control of their time
  • Model their entrepreneurship for their students
  • Do not make excuses
  • Take responsibility

It was also agreed that there should be three goals of the educator-entrepreneur:

  • To make their classroom a place where the community wants to be
  • That children are learning things that their community didn’t know – and wants to know
  • That they help their students to brand their classrooms

I also attended a conversation about how to make education “trend” – and realized, once we got into it, that we were covering some of the same territory as a similar conversation last year. My new take-away was how Facebook can, and has, become an effective way of extending the education conversation into the greater community, as educators are frequently friended by people who are not educators. I was also reminded of my own conclusion from last year, that the “media” is doing little to help us — and that perhaps we should be competing with the media for ears and eyeballs through the new avenues and compelling communication tools we have increasing access to.

Yong Zhao was nothing short of phenomenal. He didn’t really teach me anything new, but I come to these conferences for new language and new stories, and he more than satisfied me. I was especially impress by his description of the Easter Island statues. In his telling, the statures were built to impress, but their construction used up the island’s resources, resulting in their society’s decline — No Stone left behind.

Yong is very good at telling stories, whose real meanings do not emerge until the final punchline. Ewan Macintosh said that its a story with two punchlines. Zhao’s message was simple. “Why is china not celebrating?” And, “Why have we lowered our standards to compete with Shanghai?”

I could go on with more sessions that I attended and conversations I had, but one of the aspects of this annual conference that always intrigues me is the “buzz.” What was the buzz of the ISTE 2012? I asked a few people I respect for their thoughts, and the most common response was Flipped-Classroom. Although there were several sessions about the topic (almost as if any proposal, mentioning the concept, go accepted), the flipped-classroom has been around for a few years.

I’m not sure it could be called “the Buzz,” but ISTE12 might be thought of as the year that personal fabrication or 3D Printing fisrt made a commanding appearance. There were a number of exhibitors who featured related software and hardware. Wednesday also saw a fabrication playground that drew a larger and more enthusiastic gathering than any of the others, in my observation.

I wonder if Personal Fab may be a next big thing — and that’s not just in our classrooms.