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.