Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Highlights from PETE&C 2017

By Rachelle Dene Poth



Pete & C, the Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo and Conference, was held on February 12th through the 15th in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Pete&C is a great event for learning about educational technology, and this year’s attendance grew to an estimated 3500.

Some of the conference events included workshops on topics such as Blended instruction, Certified BrainPOP Educator training, personalizing learning, instructional strategies, and best practices. There was also a Keystone Technology Innovator (KTI) pre-conference event held on Sunday afternoon, which brought together members of the KTI family and some of the nominees for this year’s Keystones Summit. It was a fun afternoon of networking, speed dating, BreakoutEDU, panel discussion, prize patrol and great cookies! (Thanks Jen!) This great event was organized by Scott Snyder and Jennifer Brinson.

The conference started in the evening with receptions hosted by companies including Alma, CDW-G, Edmentum, McGraw-Hill and Troxell Communications, who provided appetizers, environments for great conversation, and fun activities for the attendees. The night was filled with karaoke, networking, and gathering around the fireplace to enjoy time reconnecting or meeting for the first time.


The Keynotes

The keynote speakers this year were Carl Hooker, author of Mobile Learning Mindset, who shared his experience in implementing mobile learning in his classroom, focusing on the learning rather than the device. Dr. Mark Edwards spoke about “every child every day,” and shared lessons from his book Unstoppable Moment, coauthored with Michael Fullan. And the final keynote session by Dr. Luis Cruz, arguing, “Why our why is not technology, but instead working together to save student lives.” Each Keynote engaged the audience with thought provoking discussion and inspiration.

Carl Hooker, Zee Poerio during the opening night receptions before conference Kickoff



Session Highlights

Special Sessions, led by Beth Ziesenis, on “Star Trek was Right” focused on futuristic communication tools for the classroom and the secret tech weapons for school professionals. Aaron Sams led a session on Film School and Start up Mashup, and he engaged attendees through a friendly competition to create a movie and focused on edtech startups, helping attendees to develop ideas, and learn how to make a pitch.



Ignite Talks

Ignite talks were held for the first time this year, with titles including, “Living outside one's comfort zone,” “Frustrations that can come with learning,” “Learning is about more than just devices,” “Empowering students from learners to leaders to advocates,” and more.



Student Showcases

There were student showcases and a student inventors competition which took place on Tuesday. I had a group of students and as always, very impressed by their presentation, knowledge and professionalism. All students engaged and impressed attendees by showing their skills in areas such as 3D printing, digital tools for student voice and student empowerment, green screening, coding, and much more. It is so valuable to take the time to talk with the students to learn from them and seeing their excitement and energy in sharing what they can do is quite inspiring for educators.

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Innovation Stations

The Innovation stations were new and offered topics including 3D printing, Bloxels, BreakoutEdu, programmable electronics, robotics, Touchcast and more. These extra sessions enable attendees to take in a lot of information in a short period of time. Deciding which sessions to attend can be difficult, so this is a nice way to learn a lot in little time.




Encore Sessions

Another highlight was the Encore presentations of sessions which had reached their capacity during the first session. Through the use of the Remind app, the Conference Committee did a phenomenal job updating program changes, adding additional presentations and more.



Looking Ahead

There was so much great learning at this year’s Pete&C, and the hard work and efforts of the program committee are greatly appreciated. I have been to Pete&C three times, and it gets better each year. It's nice to have an opportunity to spend time with your PLN and going to each other's presentations and learning from one another. Pete&C is definitely a conference to attend. If you couldn't attend this year, check out the Twitter feed, #Pete2017, the website for links to virtual sessions, handouts and presentations available. And look forward to #Pete2018 in Hershey February 11, 2018!





Rachelle Dene Poth is a Spanish and STEAM Teacher at Riverview Junior Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. She is also an Attorney and has a Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology. She serves as the Communications Chair for the ISTE Mobile Learning Network, a Member at Large for Games & Sims, the Innovations and Resources Co-Chair for the Teacher Education Network, and the PAECT Historian. She also is a Buncee Ambassador, Common Sense Media Educator, Amazon Inspire Educator, Edmodo Certified Trainer, Nearpod PioNear, Recap Pioneer, TES Ambassador and ​ambassador for ​several other learning communities. She was recently named the 2017 Outstanding Teacher of the Year by PAECT and had a chapter published in the Edumatch Snapshot in Education book.



Monday, February 20, 2017

The Future is Now! What a Week at #​FETC


By Rachelle Dene Poth @rdene915


It is hard to believe that #FETC (The Future of Education Technology Conference) has come and passed so quickly. This was my first time at FETC and I was fortunate to present a workshop of my own on Blended Learning, and had the opportunity to speak at the Buncee and Kidblog booths. The conference offered so many great opportunities for attendees to connect, to learn, to grow, and to get exactly what they needed from the conference.



Preparing for the Future


With so many choices, figuring out your schedule can be difficult, and sticking to it can be even more difficult because of the opportunities that pop up while you are there. When deciding on how to spend your time, I recommend that you start by talking with your PLN. Whether or not you've actually met your PLN face-to-face or come to the conference with friends, or are traveling alone, don’t worry about being alone for long. Events like #FETC are a great place for making connections and building relationships above anything else.

Some of the best parts of these conferences are the times spent with your PLN or “edufriends”. I started to notice such a difference last year with connections made through social media and a Spark (Check out The Summer Spark Experience). Connecting with a core group generated through Facebook and Voxer, anticipating ISTE, and then meeting some friends at USM Summer Spark, brought an even bigger group together. The excitement of seeing friends again and definitely of meeting in person for the first time cannot be put into words. It’s during the time along the way, during sessions in the expo hall, at networking events, and at early morning #CoffeeEdu when learning truly increases. The opportunity to share experiences, exchange session highlights, and also get to know about each other can not be given a true value





FETC Highlights

The People

#FETC gave me another great opportunity to spend time with and learn from ISTE friends, Twitter friends, and have the opportunity to really get to know these people and take in the conference together. It was also great to see my friends leading the sessions, a truly inspiring opportunity. I spent the week with Jaime Donally, Rodney Turner and Mandy Froelich, who added so much to my experience and made it a great week. We are already planning our ISTE agenda!



The Programming

The five different program tracks set up for FETC made it easier to target a specific area of learning: Future of EdTech Leader, Administrator, Information Technology, Special Education and Early Learning. This helped attendees to easily navigate the program and create an agenda that met specific personal and professional needs.



The “EduTechGuys”

In the South Concourse, the “EduTechGuys” invited attendees to be interviewed for their podcast on the #FETC conference experience, and it was a lot of fun. I didn’t know anything about this until my friend Jaime Donally posted a photo on Twitter of her interview with them. This reinforces how valuable social media has become for keeping people informed, connected and able to take in so many more of the opportunities out there. You can find these podcasts and the interviewees on their EduTechGuys Youtube channel.



The Activities

Besides the daily conference events and sessions, there were a lot of activities into the evening. Several companies had events planned for their ambassadors such as Edmodo and Amazon, which provided great opportunities to connect with other ambassadors. The event hosted by Participate Learning was well attended and everyone enjoyed the chance to meet up with PLN and meet F2F. Florida EdChat invited conference attendees to join in the live chat and this is where I had the opportunity finally meet face-to-face with some Edumatch Snapshot co-authors. And of course there was the EdTech Karaoke put on by Symbaloo, which is always a great time--this year was no exception, talented singers, lots of fun and definitely entertaining.






Rachelle Dene Poth is a Spanish Teacher at Riverview Junior Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. She is also an attorney and earned her Juris Doctor Degree from Duquesne University School of Law and Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology from Duquesne. Rachelle enjoys presenting at conferences on technology and learning more ways to benefit student learning. She serves as the Communications Chair for the ISTE Mobile Learning Network, a Member at Large for Games & Sims, and is the PAECT Historian. Additionally, Rachelle is a Common Sense Media Educator, Amazon Educator, WeVideo Ambassador, Edmodo Certified Trainer and also participates in several other networks. She enjoys blogging and writing for Kidblog and is always looking for new learning opportunities to benefit my students. Connect with Rachelle on Twitter @rdene915.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

#WhyIEdCamp: An Educator's #Edcamp Journey



As I continue to attend EdCamps the question as to why continues to change after every event and experience.

I attended my first EdCamp, EdCampNJ, in Springfield, NJ about a year ago after I kept seeing #EdCampNJ all over Twitter. Admittedly, I had no idea what the day would entail. My first experience was eye-opening. Eye-opening because I was able to connect with educators who think similarly, share similar experiences, and were willing to learn from each other. This is where I caught the bug and began attending subsequent EdCamps. I thought this is #WhyIEdCamp.

A few months later I attended another event, EdCamp Central Jersey in North Plainfield, NJ. The morning of I said to myself that at this event I was going to challenge myself and present/facilitate a session. My first experience facilitating a session was very positive. I was able to have the experience of fostering an enlightening conversation, not because of me, but because of the educators in attendance. I thought again, this is #WhyIEdCamp.

Early this year I attended EdCampUrban in Union City, NJ. This event was the first organized by a group of educators serving students in urban settings. At this event, I decided to facilitate a session on a topic new to me, Breakout EDU. Usually, I like to focus on Google for Education's G Suite. My session was again a success thanks to the great educators who participated in the activity. However, what I took away most from that day in October was how lively, interested, and eager the attendees were, despite being a bit hesitant and unsure of what would happen that day. Listening to the conversations, hearing the questions asked, and hearing educators say they were willing to try something new they learned that day. This was the first time many of these educators were provided with such an opportunity. Again, I left saying to myself this is #WhyIEdCamp.




Most recently I attended the fifth annual EdCampNJ. This was the first time I was joined by my colleagues. I had attended previous EdCamps by myself but was finally able to convince my colleagues to attend after my many stories as to #WhyIEdCamp. The days leading up I informed them as to how the day was going to work and what they could expect. Most importantly, I advised them to go in with an open mind. As we sat and talked before the event started we met so many educators, eagerly watched as the session board was updated, and discussed which session we would attend. The atmosphere in the room was energetic, and it was hard to decide which sessions would suit us best. This is where the rule of two feet came into play, and some of them saw this as a positive.

After the morning sessions, we came back together and talked about the sessions we attended. We talked about how open and comfortable the experience was thus far. We talked about how we could use something we just learned. We talked about what topics would be posted for the afternoon sessions. We were all excited for the day to continue. After the afternoon sessions, we came back together again and briefly debriefed the day. This was done all organically, as the intent of EdCamp. The conversation even continued when we returned to school. They even told their stories to other staff members with the hope of convincing them to attend an EdCamp in the future.

​My colleagues overwhelmingly had a positive experience. Some cannot wait to attend their next EdCamp. Some stated they wished EdCampNJ was more than once a year. They all appreciated the organization, the freedom, and the conversations that occurred during the day. I appreciated they all had a positive experience, shared, and learned. This was a new and fulfilling reason as to #WhyIEdcamp.





Shivan Persad (@MrPersad_BA) is a certified Social Studies and Special Education Teacher who currently teaches Middle School Social Studies Teacher at Buzz Aldrin Middle School in Montclair, N.J. Shivan has studied educational history, theory, and practice at Seton Hall University, Montclair State University, and Teachers College, Columbia University. He is an avid Education Technology enthusiast and advocate. His enthusiasm has contributed to him becoming a Google Certified Educator and Google for Education Certified Trainer. Shivan was bitten by the EdCamp bug after attending his first event in 2015. As a teacher his goal is to enhance the learning experience of his students in order for them to become lifelong learners. Additionally, his goal is to share with and learn from other teachers to enhance his and their teaching.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Introducing #TheEduCal 2.0 - New and Improved for 2017




#TheEduCal Friends,

If you are reading this, then hopefully you've already experience the new and improved #TheEduCal. On Tuesday, January 10, we relaunched with a brand new, mobile-friendly site and interface. We're writing now to share more about the update and our plans for the year with you, our readers and supporters.

In addition to a full facelift for #TheEduCal on the new Google Sites, some of our updates include:
  • Improved programming and automation for all site features and social media promotion 
  • Curating event hashtags and sponsoring organizations--special pages will be created on our site for organizations to promote and share their events through #TheEduCal 
  • A new and improved reminder system for e-mail updates for new events in your area, calls for proposals, and blog posts.



#TheEduCal is new and improved for 2017 and we need your help in reaching educators everywhere. We believe that we need to talk more about professional learning and help share learning everywhere--and that’s where you come in.

Please continue to add to the calendar and to share on social media with #TheEduCal hashtag and by tagging @TheEduCal. You can also follow us on our brand new Facebook Page. Most importantly, continue to find and share your events so we can all learn and grow together.




We hope to continue to raise awareness of the site and reach new audiences with your help, and will soon be expanding to Facebook and other platforms, too. We are also excited to have welcomed a new wave of Calendar Ambassadors to our team.

#TheEduCal Blog will also receive a renewed focus and we want to help tell your stories. We would love your contributions for posts that share conference experiences and other stories of positivity and growth in education. Please consider sharing your story here.

Finally, with our relaunch we are proud to announce our new sponsor, Participate. Participate is a great site that promotes continuous learning for educators through collections, chats, and courses that empower educators. We are very excited about this partnership and welcome future sponsorship or promotional relationships.

Share #TheEduCal with your friends, with your teachers, with your #PLN, and with the world. Add, share, find, and learn together. If you have any questions or feedback, or would like to contribute in any way, please let us know.


Best,
Adam and Dani 

Monday, September 12, 2016

5 Reasons to Share at the Next Edu-Conference


By Alyssa Davidson


Congratulations! You have discovered the magic of the edu-conference. You are basking in the glow of new learning, sharing your own stories and strategies, and connecting with edu-friends. You might also be looking at the presenters or discussion leaders and wondering, with a little trepidation: Could that be me?

The answer is: Absolutely, positively, yes! Not only could that be you, it should be you.



1. There’s Always Someone Who Can Learn from YOU


Any teacher who has taught new content or used a new strategy on the fly knows that you only have to be one step ahead to get started. If you know just one thing that someone else doesn’t, you are ready to share. Literally… like Oprah-giving-away-cars ready to share.

Tried a new tool or inquiry-strategy that was awesome? Go yell it from the rooftops!

Did you discover some quirky feature in Google Forms? I want to know!

Tracking student data like a boss? Tell me your secrets!

You might be thinking that what you are sharing is old news and has been done before. I guarantee that there will be attendees that have never seen what you are doing, and are ready to pick your brain and learn with you. I have been sharing Socrative with educators for 4 years; it never gets old.




2. Your Are Doing Something Worth Sharing


Let’s clear up a common misconception. Your presentation or discussion doesn’t have to be about a tech tool or involve technology at all. If you have discovered a classroom management strategy that is shaking up your world, or how to slay parent-teacher conferences or writing workshops, share it!

Teachers want to learn from teachers. In my experience, the best professional development is usually just down the hall. I love seeing classroom teachers teach and share their passions and successes (and failures) with others so that we can learn from each other.

If you aren’t convinced, read Your School Rocks… So Tell People to find out how to start sharing your classroom with the world. Not only will Ryan and Eric convince you to share, but they will tell you how to do so daily.


3. Connection and Collaboration


Quite simply, two heads are better than one. A roomful of heads can go further than your three-headed planning team. You never know who you will find at an edu-conference, but odds are you’ll be challenged thoughtfully and pushed professionally.

You might think that your topic is only interesting to you, but discover that many teachers share your passion once you start sharing. You might meet a fellow teacher who wants to collaborate on that project or resource development with you and then compare student responses and share successes. When you genuinely connect with someone about work or subjects that you are passionate about, the world stops for a minute and then starts again at lightspeed as you move forward together.



4. Opportunities for Innovation and Improvement


Creating a session proposal, informally sharing something, or leading an impromptu discussion forces you to reflect upon and explain what happens in your classroom. Sharing your classroom with someone other than your students and evaluator is a powerful learning experience. A question from the audience might lead to a discussion or train of thought that allows you to question and improve upon your current ideas. A shared tweet or feedback form response could help you clarify the reason behind your classroom practices or realize that it’s time for an overhaul.


5. Informal Conferences Have Lowered the Stakes


There has never been a better time to share the wonderful things in your classroom. Informal events like Edcamps and Campfire Sessions at larger conferences like ISTE have lowered the stakes and created opportunities for every teacher to share what they are doing.

Once, I just put a question up on an Edcamp schedule to see if there was anyone else interested in discussing the question. We ended up with 10 people and a nonstop hour of discussion. The worst-case scenario at an informal conference is no one shows up. I would have been disappointed if this had happened, but it wouldn’t have been a disaster.

Even at a larger, formal conference the worst-case scenario is that your proposal gets rejected or no one shows up. I bet that you have experienced a new lesson getting shot down or wrecked by your students; you can survive a rejected proposal. There's always an opportunity to learn and connect.

There is something worth sharing in every classroom in America. I wish every teacher shared an image a day from their classroom on Instagram so that we could truly see the phenomenal work of our students and teachers. An edu-conference is a way to share or start a discussion about something that you and/or your students are excited or motivated by, and that you take pride in.




Alyssa Davidson is an Earth Science teacher at Ralston Valley High School and a Pear Deck Certified Coach in Arvada, Colorado. Alyssa strives to be a teacher leader by growing her Professional Learning Network (PLN) through social media and sharing her learning at local edcamps, conferences, and on her blog. She blogs about technology, educator wellness, and Earth Science at mrsgeology.com. Alyssa has found value in taking an active role in her professional learning and works to create opportunities for students to become leaders and take charge of their own learning. She would love to connect with you on Twitter.


Monday, August 29, 2016

#ISTE16 Part 2: Highlights & Takeaways


By Rachelle Dene Poth


This post is part two of #ISTE16 reflections from Rachelle. Click here to read part 1: Let's Talk About Relationships.


Where does one start to describe the highlights from a conference experience like ISTE? The tremendous number and types of events offered during this experience make it a real challenge to focus on only a few here. There are so many wonderful things that you could highlight about the conference. With numerous concurrent events, pulling you in so many directions and with all of the choices, how can you possibly decide on a schedule? It definitely is not an easy task, but it does not have to be difficult either. You just need a little focus.

So how do you focus? Talk to people about some of the “must” events, but also think about what your personal focus might be. What are you hoping to gain from attending ISTE? So many choices. I believe that no matter which option you choose, you can’t be wrong because of the endless opportunities available at a conference of this magnitude.



Planning with #ISTE15 in Mind

Even though I had attended ISTE last year, and had a pretty good idea of what to expect, I don’t know that I was any more prepared. It seems to me, that each day had one event people considered to be a “must attend.” Aside from having this one focal point, the rest of the days were filled quickly with a combination of time spent at the poster sessions, playgrounds, Keynotes, Ignites, and 1 in 3 sessions. Every day was also filled with networking and connecting everywhere: stopping in the Expo hall to grab some swag; hanging out in the Bloggers Cafe and the PLN Lounge; enjoying ice cream and shopping for ISTE wear and books at ISTE Central; and so much more.



With so much to do, I think sometimes it's better off to not put too much thought into having the “master plan/schedule” because you don't know who you might meet, what you might find or where you will end up once you enter the convention center. It is so easy to be pulled in so many different directions, so it is always a good idea to have a flexible “plan” of where to start but keep your options open because there's a whole lot going on out there in the world of ISTE

My #ISTE Highlights

A lot of people come in for the pre-conference events starting on Saturday with Hack Education’s ISTE Unplugged and the Mobile Learning Network’s Mobile Megashare. Both of these offered opportunities for people to meet up with their Twitter friends or “tweeps”, make new connections and do a lot of learning and networking. The great thing about these two events on Saturday is that there are so many diverse topics for discussion and so many people to share and brainstorm ideas with. And nobody says you have to stay at either one for the whole time. Just like the EdCamp “law of two feet”, you can go back and forth whenever you want, because you are in charge of your learning. This is your personalized PD. Enjoy the time to CHOOSE what you what to learn about.

For the Mobile Megashare, there were 24 tables each with a presenter or presenters facilitating a discussion about a topic. Attendees were able to choose a table to join in and could come and go as they wanted, or just move about the room and listen in and participate in a bunch of different conversations, moving around from table to table and idea to idea. .

There were two unconference events attached to ISTE, #HackEd and Teachmeet. #HackEd was much like a traditional Edcamp, and with TeachMeet, you can submit an idea to present on a topic for either a 2, 7 or 20-minute time period. It's another place to connect and make new friends, and really build up the excitement for the rest of the conference.

Sunday night kicked off officially with the Keynote speech by Dr. Michio Kaku, who questioned whether we are “equipping students for the 1950’s or cultivating future ready learners.” The Balco Theater was packed, and more people gathered in the Bloggers Cafe to spend some time collaborating and to listen in to the Keynote. In the first two days alone there were many opportunities for personalized professional development and learning.


More Highlights

New #ISTE Student Standard: One of the highlights this year was the launch of the new ISTE Standards for Students. The updated version was released and includes 7 standards of student statements, with focus on empowering student learners and giving students a voice through technology. There was a lot of excitement and discussion of these new standards and the focus toward student-centered learning.

Keynotes:
The two other inspirational and motivating keynotes were given by Dr. Ruha Benjamin and Michelle Cordy. Both shared experiences and messages that called upon educators to take action to provide opportunities and digital equity for all learners.

#CoffeeEDU: If you're not an early riser, then get up early and go to #CoffeeEdu. Join in the conversations, get a great start to the day, talk with Alice Keeler and make some new connections.


Parties!: If you don't normally stay out late, then make sure you get to the Gaggle party or EdTech Karaoke. The Gaggle Party was held at the Denver Athletic Club, multiple levels of nothing but fun and ETK was at the City Hall Events Center. Both of these events are a lot of fun and well attended, so you need to at least make some time to stop in for a bit to find out what the buzz is all about and why so many people are so quick to get those badges and passes to attend.

Hanging at Gaggle: Sean Farnum, Melanie Broder, Bryan Miller, Edward Sun, Katrina Keene & Michael Jaber

Sean Gaillard, Fran Siracusa, Mandy Froehlich and Kahoot!

At #ISTE16, the opportunities for learning came from all directions. Everything and everyone is always moving. Doors opening to sessions, lines crowding the hall, students excitedly sharing their work, drawing you into their poster sessions, and all of the different tables and topics that each of the playgrounds offered. It is hard to pass any one of these opportunities up. And it's even harder to decide when to stop and when to keep going. It’s variety and connecting that made this learning special.


Planning Ahead: #ISTE17

Now is the time to plan your schedule for #ISTE2017. The location for next year is San Antonio, TX from June 25-28, and now is the time to start planning ahead. Not deciding on where or how you want to spend your time while there, but planning to be there to experience the awesomeness of ISTE and the Connected World. See you in San Antonio!

What are your takways and highlights from #ISTE16? Share in the comments or on Twitter with #TheEduCal!




Rachelle Dene Poth is a Spanish Teacher at Riverview Junior Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. She is also an attorney and earned her Juris Doctor Degree from Duquesne University School of Law and Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology from Duquesne. Rachelle enjoys presenting at conferences on technology and learning more ways to benefit student learning. She serves as the Communications Chair for the ISTE Mobile Learning Network, a Member at Large for Games & Sims, and is the PAECT Historian. Additionally, Rachelle is a Common Sense Media Educator, Amazon Educator, WeVideo Ambassador, Edmodo Certified Trainer and also participates in several other networks. She enjoys blogging and writing for Kidblog and is always looking for new learning opportunities to benefit my students. Connect with Rachelle on Twitter @rdene915.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

#ISTE16 Takeaways Part 1: Let’s Talk About Relationships


By Rachelle Dene Poth


This year’s ISTE conference was attended by 20,000 people from over 70 countries, bringing together educators from all over the world and from all levels of education and technology. An event so large at times seems so small when you find yourself running into the same people in different areas of ​​such a large event. ISTE has so much to offer that it’s hard to do it justice, so in this post I will focus on a few of my biggest takeaways about connecting with others.




Preparing for ISTE


To get ready for the conference, I did my homework: I tried doing some research, asking questions on social media, reading through and studying the ISTE website to learn as much as I could. I think I studied the program multiple times every day, each week leading up to my travels. I had a nice schedule planned out, my favorites marked and areas that I wanted to focus on, so it seemed like I was ready to go.

Last year, I was a first-time attendee and had absolutely no idea what to expect. I had been to many different conferences, but none as large as ISTE. I was nervous about not really knowing a lot of people there. I was fortunate to have just gotten involved with PAECT (Pennsylvania Association for Educational Communications and Technology) and two of the ISTE networks (MLN and Games & Sims). Being involved with these organizations helped because I knew some people and had some events lined up, but I figured the chances of seeing them with all of our different schedules, were not too likely.

Connecting with PAECT



But as I quickly learned last year, and definitely felt the same this year, is that it really doesn't matter what you decide to do, what schedule you set up to follow, or whether or not you know anyone because no matter what decision you make you can't go wrong. Honestly. There are no “wrong” or “bad” choices because there are opportunities everywhere. ISTE is a place for learning, for building relationships, and for making connections above anything else.



It Starts with Relationships


Before conquering ISTE, I had to conquer a big fear: flying. Colorado was too far for a drive or Amtrak, so I was not left with much in the way of options. So that meant flying, which I hadn’t done in 21 years. Fortunately, I had a good friend providing me with​ the support to help me get to the airport, get on the plane and get to Denver without worry. At least not too much. I just kept thinking about the week ahead.

My support for the travels started with another conference. Karyn and I met at a Keystone Technology Innovator Summit in Pennsylvania a few years ago. I was also fortunate that with Karyn and her friend Chris, I had two amazing companions to ease my nerves. It really made a huge difference during the flight and throughout the conference to start building those relationships early.

Chris Stengel and Karyn Dobda

Other relationships started through Social Media, where Facebook and Voxer added another tremendous part of this experience with educators connecting in an ISTE2016 group. We communicated in the weeks leading up to ISTE with conversation, questions, and a ton of inspiration and excitement fueled by the chatter, the shared experiences, the anticipation and motivation provided by the guided by “Concierge” Rodney​ Turner.

He​ started each day with a ​Vox, a ​countdown to ISTE, an inspiration, and a story. He brought a bunch of people together, a group​ of connected educators who became friends though technology and were excited to meet F2F after developing these relationships. I could hardly wait to meet the members of this group, officially, because we had already learned so much about each other. And we even had t-shirts and stickers made for our group, thanks to Mike Jaber.

And at conferences like ISTE, meeting your “Tweeps” and #eduheroes F2F is finally a possibility. Even though we all feel like we already know each other, after many Twitter chats and social media interactions, it is nice to be together and talk (about technology) without the technology.


Meetups in the Bloggers' Cafe and VoxUp



What’s Your Plan?


Maybe the best plan is to not have a plan. Maybe just have an idea. A focus. Time goes by so quickly and the choices are​ so numerous that it can be overwhelming, especially for a first time attendee. There can be a comfort in going to a session with somebody you know, but there’s sometimes more value in creating new relationships and learning.

Making these connections, in person and on social media, truly added to the experience. We shared ideas​, attended events together, grabbed early coffees at Coffee Edu, and so much more. I can’t think of a better way to start doing this than by focusing on relationships. It is where I start each school year and it is where I focus for conferences like ISTE.




Share your thoughts and experiences and photos, we would love to hear from you! Next time: a focus on some of the ISTE events and takeaways.





Rachelle Dene Poth is a Spanish Teacher at Riverview Junior Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. She is also an attorney and earned her Juris Doctor Degree from Duquesne University School of Law and Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology from Duquesne. Rachelle enjoys presenting at conferences on technology and learning more ways to benefit student learning. She serves as the Communications Chair for the ISTE Mobile Learning Network, a Member at Large for Games & Sims, and is the PAECT Historian. Additionally, Rachelle is a Common Sense Media Educator, Amazon Educator, WeVideo Ambassador, Edmodo Certified Trainer and also participates in several other networks. She enjoys blogging and writing for Kidblog and is always looking for new learning opportunities to benefit my students. Connect with Rachelle on Twitter @rdene915.