Well almost everyone who is engaged in educational technology or EdTech as many conveniently call it, converged on Denver, Colorado over the last few days. ISTE or the International Society for Technology in Education is a global organization who is attempting to redefine learning for students all over the world, create global citizens and enhance classrooms worldwide through the effective usage of technology. Although I was an ISTE conference newbie, I was prepped by veteran attendees on what to expect, things to look out for, and given a general game plan for attacking this event. I was grateful and definitely took all of their wise advice into consideration. Here are my takeaways from my first ISTE experience I wanted to share.
Meeting people you respect, appreciate, and admire in real life is the coolest!
There are quite a few people that I have connected with online, gotten a great vibe from, and many I can call friends. Being physically in their presence really took our interaction to another level. The first time I met a few of these individuals I even became a goofy and awkward teen fan girl with them (luckily they still decided to talk to me again).
It is so important when navigating new waters (the EdTech community in my case) to have allies and people you can be yourself around, trust, and know they are genuinely themselves around you. It is great to know these connections and face to face interactions provide opportunities to actively keep moving our educational system in a positive direction. Educators, remember we all have our own pockets of influence. It is imperative to connect with educators in real life as well as via social media to magnify our pockets of influence and our voices. When we collectively raise our voices and the bar above status quo norms, we will make things better for all students in every school. ISTE provided me an excellent opportunity to finally meet educators all over the world I respect tremendously, allowed time for fun and engaging face to face conversations and ultimately helped to continue to strengthen our friendships and rapport.
There are still people that don’t get it.
I know, I know, I come off that great high talking about meeting great people in education and then my inner negative Nancy come out. Yes, there are people that think it is all about them. Yes, there are still people in this (education/EdTech world) for selfish reasons and attention. In the social media world, you can get a sense of who some people are but the interaction in real life really pulls away all masks that the internet can provide. It was interesting to see people in real life and watch them maneuver the conference in ways that reminded me that my idealist way of thinking about all educators is, unfortunately inaccurate. Swag in a bag was more important than connecting. Looking important was more pressing than learning from people doing it better. Crowded buzzword filled sessions were in some cases less impactful than small, sincere group conversations. Individuals whose intentions and motivations are not in the right place (doing this work for students) are people that cause me to want to work harder to combat the poor behavior/attitudes they are bringing into our schools and districts. Unfortunately, not everyone is in education or EdTech for the right reasons, which isn’t okay, but the conference was a reminder that I need to keep fighting for what is right and there is still work to be done.
Edu-fame is real….well just at ISTE.
As a new kid on the block, I take Twitter followers, retweets and likes with a grain of salt. I like who I am on and off social media and am good in the friends department, so I don’t use my social media presence as a gauge to determine if I matter. These past few days many of my friends and even I (shocking, huh?) got approached not by a hello, but instead “aren’t you are so-and-so, I follow you on Twitter!” How do you respond to that? I honestly had no clue and stumbled around my words and said: “really, okay thanks, that’s great.” It might have seemed condescending but how should we really respond? Greeting a person in that manner, what is the motivation? Are you trying to let me know that I’m important? Are you trying to make yourself feel important? I don’t know the answers, but I am grateful for all the genuine people I’ve connected with via social media. The difference between the ones I’m grateful for and others is this: I’ve engaged in conversations with them, supported and cheered their work and efforts, and actively built a sincere rapport with them. As mentioned in a previous post I wrote, like is an emotion that is fleeting, respect is what I always aim for. Although this weekend reminded me that Edu-fame is still very real for many, it’s not my cup of tea.
Here’s a little advice (albeit unsolicited) to those new or not as connected to the education social media train should always remember:
- Don’t try so hard to fit in by using social media and your Twitter presence as a form of validation.
- Actions always speak louder than words.
- Do the work. Remain humble.
- Sincerely support and encourage others.
- Always remember why you are in education. Edu-fame is not real.
Silenced and oppressed voices are making moves but there is still a long way to go.
Kudos to ISTE for getting Dr. Michio Kaku and Dr. Ruha Benjamin as keynote speakers, bringing diverse voices of color in front of thousands of people. Although it was my first time attending ISTE, it was also great to see a good number of people of color leading sessions and sharing their voices at this massive event. With those positives being said, improvements can still always be made. The EdTech community has been a certain way and filled with certain voices for a very long time. Breaking through the glass ceiling can be painful and tiresome, but is a necessary process. With strong leadership and active efforts from groups like EduColor, the Digital Equity PLN, and EdSpeakers, I hope ISTE continually sees the value, importance, and works to empower diverse perspectives, rather than diversity and inclusion being the new flavor of the month.
Can’t wait to rest from ISTE and catch back up on the things (family time and grad school work) that I missed while I was in Denver. This was definitely a very memorable experience but I’m sure glad to be home.
3 thoughts on “Fun, Fame, and Fighting: My ISTE conference take aways….”
Amazing post. Full of truth and honesty. Happy to have met you in person and excited to continue learning from you.
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Shana, I am so glad you are blogging regularly. I appreciate your straight-talking approach. It’s funny that you mentioned the edu-stars. While I was there I almost forgot about them because as soon as I found my tribe, I was good to go. But you’re right, edu-fame is a thing. As we build audience and become perhaps more widely acknowledged, we need to remain intentional about doing our work and serving the populations to which we have committed ourselves first and foremost. It does become a challenge when our egos get a taste of recognition and then become hungrier for more attention rather than for actual engagement with people who share our interests. That can definitely happen and show itself, particularly in a public forum like this conference. This is what makes the building of community all the more important. It is where we ground the work in real relationships and can support our mutual and individual commitments. EdSpeakers, Educolor and Digital Equity PLN are all shining examples of this type of nourishing community.
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Shana, I have enjoyed and appreciated both of your recent posts (which I read in reverse order). Although we did not meet at ISTE 2016, I find it interesting that we were both at our first ISTE conference in Denver. I also greatly appreciate both the enthusiasm and honesty of your ISTE comments. I look forward to reading all of your previous posts and those yet to come. Your insights, ideas, and comments are thought-provoking and engaging. Finally, I do hope that our paths will cross in person (and if the opportunity arises, I will do everything possible to make sure that I approach you as a fellow human being — with a smile and a hello — rather than as a faceless member of the social media ether).
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