Saturday, June 29, 2013

ISTE 2013 - Reflection Part 1

I am extremely fortunate to have attended ISTE 2013  in San Antonio, Texas.   Extremely fortunate.  As an enrolling classroom teacher in a country where school  doesn't get out until the last Friday in June, it is almost impossible to be released from my grade one classroom to attend a conference such as this.  But this year it was  different because  this year I was going to ISTE to receive the Kay L. Bitter Award.  According to the ISTE website it is "for individuals who demonstrate vision and creativity in a project or program that effectively integrates technology in a PK–2 classroom."   Since this may be one of only a small handful of times that I can get to ISTE it was my mission to make the most out of my time there.

San Antonio River Rock at Night

I arrived in San Antonio late Friday afternoon and was quickly greeted by warmth and sunshine.  After being in rain for the past week it was a wonderful change.  Once I checked into my hotel Sara Hunter , a 2013 ISTE Emerging Leader invited me to join her and her friends for dinner. Sara and I had only ever met on Twitter but what I've learned over and over again is that most of those friendships I've fostered on Twitter, are equally as real in person.  Sara was no exception.

Sara and I on the ADE Photo Walk
Almost immediately I was feeling comfortable with Sara and her wonderful friends.  Selena Ward, Angela Batten, and Rurik-Rory Nackerud were so awesome to be with.  I'm not officially sure what the table brilliance was but I can assure you it was very high, with an equal amount of love for life. Great conversations, great food, and great company. My first night was excellent and besides meeting this awesome crew of emerging leaders, I met Adam Bellow and Jerry Blumengarten face to face too.   A perfect start to this wonderful adventure.

Joan and I at Hack Education
On Saturday morning  I registered for ISTE.  What an incredibly organized registration process right down to different coloured carpets depending on if you were a presenter, a vendor, or a participant.  But despite the incredible organization the best part of the registration process was when  Joan Young came up to me.  She  and I,  along with four other amazing educators,  meet regularly for an "eduparty" in google hangout.  While Joan and I have had many conversations, this was our first face to face one.  Needless to say there were smiles and hugs! 

Melvina, JoAnn and I on the ADE Photo Walk
Together Joan and I headed to  Hack Education.  It's a free conference the day before the "official" conference. It's set up very much like an ed camp where the sessions are determined by the people in the room suggesting topics and then voting on them.  Even before we got into the room I heard a familiar voice, that of Jen Wagner from Projects by Jen. It was great to finally meet and connect with her face to face. I also met Michelle Cordy and Paula Naugle at this time.

My first session was on Global Collaborative Projects. I shared what my students were doing, and how it doesn't always have to be a "big scale project" to have a meaningful impact on student learning.  I also met Melvina and JoAnn.

From there I headed to a session on Social Media. It was here that I realized how very different my school in Surrey, BC Canada is from so many in the US.  In my district innovation is embraced, and most barriers to innovation have been removed.  Every school in our district has an open wireless network and I have yet come across any blocked websites that I use in my grade one classroom. We can tweet, blog, and video conference on a very regular basis without fear of "big brother" watching us.  I also work in a district that has an active district hashtag #sd36learn created for teachers and admin by teachers. It was a very interesting session to be in. It was filled with inspiration too. Listening to Todd Nesloney use his document camera and personal phone to connect with the world was inspiring and helps remind me to keep pushing limits with my students if it is what is best for them.

Linda Yollis and I at the Blogger's Cafe
I also attended a session on Deeper Thinking with Technology. Here we talked about ways people are using technology at the most basic level and then had some examples of how technology can be used to promote higher level thinking. I shared how my students add voice to their work and share that work on their blogs. My example may not have been the best as I forgot to mention that the voice that they are adding is actually talking about the thinking that they are doing with their learning, the reflecting and synthesizing of their learning and not just retelling facts.  I think eventually that point was made but all the while I was thinking to myself that I should have shared more clearly.  It was a great session and had me thinking about what I do and why.  Any one who has seen me teach (or asked me about my teaching) knows that the "why" is really important to me.  During this session I also reconnected with Jackie Gerstein, and met Linda Yollis.

Over lunch I spent time with Joan and Jackie and loved every minute of it. Jackie had a techno ball that came with apps on her iPad. It was a time filled with lots of giggles. I was very thankful for this time with Jackie and Joan.

I also sat in on a couple of sessions during the mobile technology sharing session.  I listened to Jennifer Bond share how she is leveraging BYOD with her grade three students.  I think a lot like her in the sense that the tool (or app) is some what irrelevant and that it's more about having our students show their learning in ways that work best for them.  I wish I had more time to talk with Jennifer because her students are doing some really incredible things with what they have available to them.

Vicki Smart
In the evening I attended the Hack Ed after party, reconnected, and met many more people. It was great to see Matt Gomez and Heidi Echternacht from the #kinderchat crew again.  It was lovely meeting Vicky Smart from Australia.  I actually met quite a few Aussies that evening and enjoyed talking to each and every one of them. In fact I was one of the very last to leave as I was in a great conversation with Keryn Hempel and Sandra Orr from down under.

Drew, Me, and Brad
On the way back I ran into Drew Minock and Brad Waid from Two Guys with some iPads. They were a ton of fun to chat with and it was awesome seeing them all week long. If you're not already following them on twitter I highly recommend you do. Tons of great energy and a lot of information re augmented reality.

If you know me at all I didn't get back to my room with out a few more stops and meeting a few more people. So far I was loving ISTE and it hadn't even officially started yet.

Krissy and I
Sunday morning I woke up early. As much as I was excited to take part in the ADE ISTE Photo Walk (open to everyone) I was even more excited to meet Krissy Venosdale.  Like Joan, Krissy is also part of my #eduparty crew. And like Joan she is a truly amazing educator and I feel honoured to be able to call her my friend. I think we were both equally excited to meet one another before the photo walk. Meeting her face to face was like I had know her for a long time already. That's the thing with twitter, most of the relationships you start there, are just as real when you finally do get to meet face to face.  Anyhow Krissy and I along with about 180 others headed out for our photo walk. Here are some of the photos I took.

The photo walked didn't last too long because Krissy and I got into conversation.  It isn't every day that we get to spend time together so it was important for both of us to enjoy this 1:1 time.
Jen Wagner, Me, and Sue Waters

Anne Mirtschin and I

 After the photo walk I headed into the convention centre to learn the lay of the land. With poster sessions, playgrounds, spotlights, workshops etc I wanted to have a better idea of where everything was. I also managed to find myself in the Blogger's Cafe where I once again saw Jen Wagner, and finally met Sue Waters from Edublogs.  In addition I met Anne Mirtschin from Australia and a member of a group I belong to called Hello Little Skypers. 

I also met Andrew Vanden Heuvel  and chatted to him about his Google Glass. He even let me try them on.  They were very cool but certainly would take some getting used to.

Andrew and I
Me wearing Google Glass
I then headed back to the hotel to get "gussied up" for the official ISTE Awards Ceremony.  I also made sure to wear the very special bracelet that the parent group at my school gave me. It was the way I could include my students in the ceremony because I still believe that the award should go to them, and not to me because THEY are the rockstars here.

Reflecting back I can't believe how nervous I was for ceremony. I had heard the main ballroom was huge and all I could think about was standing infront of so many people and being singled out.  Thankfully Sara Hunter was also receiving an award along with several other super kind people so the waiting wasn't too bad.  Dean Shareski and Michelle Cordy were also back stage and had a lot more to be nervous about because they were part of the ignite session which followed.  It was great to have Dean back stage with me and to have a little Canadian possie to hang with too.  Here's a small glimps of what the ballroom looked like empty. That big grey rectangle is the first of at least a couple of screens that went back. If you haven't figured it out the room was huge!

My time on stage was actually very quick and I was off the stage just as quickly as I got on to it. They shared this video while we got on the stage and once it was over we left the stage.  I was super glad that  Martin, Shelagh, Kevin, Orwell, JB, and Carolyn from my school district were in the room when I received my award. I really wish Elisa Carlson could have been there too. She has been a HUGE supporter of what I've been doing with my students. Without her support, I would never have won this award.   Here's the movie ISTE showed of all the award winners.  

Once rushed off stage we headed to another part of the conference centre for photos. After photos I felt way better. I didn't realize how worried I was about the actual award presentation. Unfortunately while I was out getting photos I missed Michelle's ignite session but I did managed to catch Deans.

From the awards session I headed down to the Global Education Conference where I met Louise Morgan. There I shared our pages in the global scrapbook and passed it on to Anne M to take back to Australia with her.

Still in my "fancy clothing" with my heels switched out to flipflops I headed back to the blogger's cafe and met up with some more "edu rockstars". It was great to see Maria and Amanda (two previous Kay L Bitter award winners) but I was also sad that Kathy Cassidy wasn't there. Kathy has played a HUGE role in my journey with technology and young children. She's helped me find my feet, and with them I've gone running. Like Elisa Carlson, Kathy plays a huge role in me winning this award.

Me, Amanda, Sue, Wes, Maria, and Jen
I also  met (finally)  Tina Photakis from Australia.

Me and Tina Photakis

From the Blogger's Cafe I headed over to the ISTE SIGs (Special Interest Group) tables for a bit of networking. It was great to see what SIGs were available to be apart of.  Before I got there I saw Vicki Smart again and she was kind enough to get a photo of me holding my Kay L Bitter Award. Once there I saw Heidi and Matt again, and the Global Classroom Crew.  It was great to meet Louise and Preston, along with Julie Lindsay from Flat Classroom, and Anne again.

#Kinderchat Rockstars Matt and Heidi, and I

Preston, Lousie, Me, and Anne

I then met up with my Surrey crew (less Jordan and Carolyn) for a group shot.  I still need to get a copy of that photo and once I do I will add it here. We walked around a lot and headed over to the tower. They all went up the tower but I headed over to the president's reception.

The highlight of this particular reception was meeting Kathy Schrock.  She is a total tech ed rockstar and if given the chance I would have chatted with her all night long. She has so much knowledge and is a super kind person too.  I must admit I was pretty nervous speaking to her but I am so glad I did. She is a very bright lady. I was also able to thank her for putting one of my blog posts on her iPad blog. I told her the impact that has had on that post of mine.

After the reception I headed back to my hotel to crash for the night. It was a pretty exhausting and emotionally draining couple of days. My head was spinning from conversations, and my heart was smiling from connections.  I was in a really good place and so happy, and thankful to be at ISTE.

This ends the first part of my ISTE 2013 Reflection. There is still much more to come.

Ahh, just realized I totally missed talking about the  keynote session with Jane McGonigal and the benefits of gaming. The highlight there was when the entire room had thumb wars.  Here's the ISTE short video on Jane's keynote.  


  1. Congrats Karen on your award! Thanks for sharing what you do in your classroom- you helped me get inspired to start a writing project using tech and the momentum just continues. Have a great summer!

    1. Thanks Tama. I'd love to hear more about your writing project with tech. Please SHARE! Happy summer to you too. :-)