Random Thoughts

ISTE 2010 – Reflections

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I have 30 minutes before I leave for the airport and head back to Seattle for what’s left of my summer vacation.

As I reflect on this years ISTE conference a couple things come to mind.

A HUGE shout out to the organizers and the Convention Center. By far this has been the best WiFi access at any ISTE conference since I’ve been coming (this is my 5th). It was slow at times, but overall the ability to keep a connection running among 13,000+ geekie educators was very smooth. I hope it stays this way in the future.

They were everywhere! I know they sold 2 million in the first two months, but I swear half of those were here at the conference! I’m not sure what the future holds for this device, but all I heard about was battery life, battery life, battery life! Looking forward to seeing how they are used in schools next year with students.

My first ISTE presentation:
This year I finally made it in the program and gave my first ever ISTE presentation. I hope it was useful to those who attended. You can find the handouts here along with the videos that people seemed to enjoy.

Once again I’ve been reminded on what’s the real reason we still fly to conferences like this. It’s for the conversations. Those planned like the ones at EduBloggerCon and those unplanned like the one’s we have here at Blogger’s Cafe. In the end, we like being with others in person, we like the human factor of sitting and chatting with those we learn from year round. I spent more time offline rather than online this conference just enjoying being here with others. I’m online with them the rest of the year…..I only get three days of being with them in person.

Where do we go?
I keep asking myself if anything has changed in the 5 years since I’ve started attending ISTE (NECC) conferences….and I’m not sure if anything has. There are more people hanging out at the Blogger’s Cafe, there are more blogging educators and that’s fantastic. But looking through the sessions I didn’t notice much of a change. There was no sessions on RSS this year, yet some educators I talked to who are attending for the first time had never heard of RSS.

The theme of “Mobile” and “Global” were prominent and I’m seeing the same trends in conferences around the world. Everyone is talking about mobile devices and how do we help students become more globally minded.

I believe it starts with teachers. We need more teachers to think globally. The tools are here, the ideas and lessons and connections are out there….now we just need to do it.

We need to help teachers to learn to reach (shameless self-promotion) out and create connections that they can bring back into their classrooms in supporting kids.

We can’t help students be globally minded if we are not globally minded ourselves.

So there’s your focus this year. How do you become or help others become more globally minded? How do we help students teach students the power of connecting and understand the networks that this new digital landscape is made of?

Those are the questions I’m walking away with this year from ISTE.

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. I think the main goal is to have more of us reading, writing, thinking and being more international in *practice*. There are plenty of folk talking a good game about global thinking. Finding practical examples of it is that much harder.

    From personal experience (and what stats I have) I can safely say that international conversations about learning happen less and less – the world of edublogging has become highly localised (not necessarily a bad thing and, largely, a very good thing in terms of making messages more relevant) but it has become highly blinkered to what is going on beyond the language and education system in which the educator is based (a bad thing).

    While more and more north American teachers hanker after largely North American thinking through and reinventing the wheels that were being invented 2, 5 or 10 years ago – and the SAME, I hasten to add, is replicated in Scotland, England, France… pretty much everywhere – it means that they also reach out to an echo chamber all of their own. I think the days of me regularly reaching out to and being reached out to from North America, NZ, Oz, Middle East are going to get rarer and rarer unless a concerted effort is made by everyone to find ‘otherness’, question their own practice and that of those around them.

    That is one of the principle reasons I’m reveling in sharing my own tour this summer/autumn – my own selfless plug: http://edu.blogs.com/edublogs/2010/06/ewan-mcintosh-edutour-2010.html

    The fact that being able to take part in such a tour to find out about how other people are teaching and learning makes a half dozen retweets and no comments, whereas two or three years ago I’d be wrestling with comments, critiques, suggestions and requests, speaks volumes.

    Thinking globally is a nice rhetoric, but so rarely practiced by so few. What does that mean for the notion of otherness that our youngsters are picking up on?

    While not scientific by any means, all I pick up on is this kind of deaf circle of “wow… I agree… right on… isn’t this a powerful tool” that isn’t prepared – or able – to pick up on conversations that have moved beyond that and in cultures and countries that have chosen to do things in another way.

    The result is that swathes of people slave over questions of “assessment versus learning”, when Assessment for Learning has proven largely successful at reconciling this when implemented in depth in NZ, Oz and Scotland in particular: http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/assess

    Likewise, we don’t do a great job of looking to sectors outside education and translating it to what it means in the classroom, hence lessons from the startup world of digital media, which can be found from reading one or two key sites once a week max, are lost on a world that hasn’t changed that much in 100 years.

    /rant over. I get frustrated, as the comment shows, but I understand, too, that no such statements can ever be universal, that great practice does happen and I don’t know about it. However, if I don’t know about it, there’s a good chance, a very good chance, that few of the teaching population and parents do either.

  2. Nichole Hassell Reply

    Hi Mr. Utecht,
    My name is Nichole and I am a part of Dr. Strange’s EDM 310 class and I have been assigned to read your blog for the next 3 weeks. My blog is here
    The thought of global learning never crossed my mind until I entered this class. The deeper I am getting into it, the more I realize that I’m not going to just stop once the class is over. It’s great for teachers and students. Where is there a better support system than that of kids from all over the world helping each other through blogs? That is collaboration at its height.
    But, while what I said sounded great (at least in my head), the educational system is stuck in the past. I believe that the “old school” should be put to rest and let’s bring on an educational system that truly empowers children to grow in creativity and mind alike.

  3. I enjoyed your concise, well organize reflection. Tough to do when you’ve just been through a conference brain dump!

  4. Hi Jeff,
    Your comment about spending less time online during this conference held true for me as well. The people I’m normally online with were there with me, for the most part, and I wanted to just spend time in their presence. So often I found myself just listening to conversations and enjoying being in the presence of great educators. There were definitely more people in the Edubloggers Cafe, yet it still appears to be the best hidden secret of these conferences. It was the place where I would head prior to and after a session to discuss something I just experienced. It was the place where I would sit to work on my presentations and my colleagues there would help me make some decisions about what to include. It was also the place where I felt I could safely take a quick nap: http://www.flickr.com/photos/shareski/4751345524/ (Although, you never know who’s lurking nearby with a camera. Good thing I wasn’t drooling at the moment.)

    As for the level of knowledge; its a constant challenge for me as I prepare presentations to imagine that my participants won’t already know what I’m sharing. I constantly feel as though I’m “preaching to the choir.” Yet, people come up to me and share that my information was valuable to them.

    Although there are many teachers who don’t understand RSS, I’d feel funny spending too much time on it because I tend to make assumptions about those who attend conferences such as ISTE and BLC. It’s these assumptions that help me make the best of everyone’s time; or so I think. How do we include beginners in these conversations while addressing their needs for basic techno-literacy?

    ISTE held only a few disappointments for me this year (opening keynote for one) but mostly was a great experience. There were a few outstanding presentations that I attended (yours, Rushton Hurley’s and Chris Lehmann’s) and it was the natural, unplanned conversations (like ours over a late-night burger) that were the best take-aways. There were many educators there from around the world and when you have the opportunity to speak (in person) to these folks, there’s a huge difference than holding a conversation in 140 characters or less. It’s much easier to maintain a more global perpective if you can maintain some connections with others who have very different (and yet many similar) experiences in their educational environment. I think that’s the key to being more globally-minded. Connect online but maintain with equal importance the value of the offline connections. Reach out for every opportunity to maintain and build on those relationships.

    I look forward to seeing you again at BLC10.

  5. Hi Jeff,
    Thank you for a great presentation. You are such a natural that I was very surprised to realize this was your first time presenting at ISTE. I have already been thinking how I can use the activity you had us do with my fourth graders. I loved how much was accomplished by the groups in the fifteen minute time frame and how you pointed out that all levels of Bloom were also incorporated.

    I attended fewer sessions and spent more time in the Bloggers’ Cafe meeting members of my personal learning network (PLN) I conserve with in 140 characters or less. Our conversations extended our learning and our connections were deepened. I met so many PLN members face to face and set up collaborations for next school year.

    Last year I connected with many classes across the United States. This year I’m going to try and establish connections with classes in other countries so that my students can be “global”. I want my students to establish blogging buddies and do collaborative work using wikis and VoiceThreads.

    I will be doing more research about mobile learning at the elementary level. My school is not ready to go there yet, but maybe I can convince them to let me have a go at it. Since I won a technology model classroom for the coming school year, I am able to do much more than most of the other teachers in my buildiing. My track record shows that I am innovative and use technology to extend my students’ learning experiences.

    I paid my own way to ISTE this year because I know how it recharges my “batteries” for the next school year. It is money well spent to allow me to continue to build great connections with so many like-minded educators. Thanks for adding to my learning.

    (PS. Loved your book. Thank you for sharing it with us.)

  6. Jeff;

    It was great reading your ISTE Reflections. I’ve also listed it here together with other Edublogger’s ISTE Reflections: http://tinyurl.com/2crhazc

    My two favorite things about ISTE are Edubloggercon & The Blogger’s Cafe. What a great opportunity to just hang out with people we learn with all year round is what I enjoy the most!

    Congrats on your first ISTE presentation and thanks for including a lnik to your handouts. I look forward to reading them. It was great seeing and visiting with you in Denver!

  7. Pingback: Bloggers Reflect on ISTE 2010 | ISTE Connects - Educational Technology

  8. Pingback: Angela Maiers - WIsdom of the Crowd: Reflections from ISTE 2010

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