There are lots of emotions that come with the close of a school year. Exhaustion. Anticipation. Sadness. This school year was particularly challenging, and in the last few weeks I often found myself repeating, “Just make it to San Diego.” Well, I made it and I’m thankful that I did. My trip to San Diego was an enlightening and energizing experience that I will not soon forget.
Here are my top four take-aways from ISTE ‘12:
1. Don’t be afraid to take big risks.
Last year I took a huge risk, traveling across the country to ISTE ’11 in Philadelphia. I was mostly alone, unfamiliar with the East Coast, and relatively new to the edtech scene. Going to Philadelphia was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and I left excited and eager to take risks in my classroom. Some pretty amazing things happened as a result. So, naturally, I wanted to continue taking risks again this year.
I came to ISTE ’12 with a confidence I certainly didn’t have during the previous visit. It helped that I had my buddy, Ryan, to go with. He was a fantastic travel companion and sounding board. In addition to being more focused and selective in the sessions I attended, I also made it a point to learn more about ideas and products about which I was curious, but didn’t necessarily have a lot of information. I took risks introducing myself to others, even if they were kind of a big deal in the ed tech world. These risks allowed me to feel more connected to the ISTE organization and the people I met.
Speaking of which…
2. Conversations with others can lead to amazing collaborations and creations.
I believe that life is about the people you meet and the things you create with them (thank you, Holstee Manifesto). I met some pretty fantastic people and shared some remarkable experiences with them. Our conversations were meaningful, challenging, and at times, downright hilarious. The people I met energized me in ways I deeply needed after this year, and I’m positive that our talks will continue in the future and lead to some pretty awesome things for our students.
So, to my #isteBFFs, thank you.
3. Yes, and…
I’m generally a pretty positive person by nature. Even still, there are times when a discouraging colleague or a lack of resources can get the best of me. Instead of saying “no, but…” to a challenging comment or idea, I resolve to turn it around and say, “yes, and…” It’s a much more validating solution-oriented statement that keeps the conversations flowing, rather than drying up.
4. Think Big and Be the Change
My incredible teaching partner, Amy, knows to run and hide whenever she hears me say, “So, I have this craaaazy idea….” She’s really great at seeing the reality of a situation and making things work with the resources (and time) we’ve been given. Thinking big has lead to both amazing and not-so-amazing outcomes in our classrooms (our virtual field trip around the United States comes to mind), and has allowed me to expand my creativity given the parameters of what I am required to teach my students.
One of the most fortunate occurrences at ISTE ’12 was that I met Matthew, The Busy Librarian. Matthew, like myself, is a big thinker. He’s creative in his practice and deeply passionate about education. We’re scheming up an awesome plan for the upcoming school year to connect our schools and let our students’ voices be heard. I can’t wait to share it with you. It’s going to be, as Matthew says, an “epic win.”
Even after a few days, I am still trying to take in all that I learned and experienced at ISTE ’12. I do know one thing, though—all this new knowledge is meaningless if I don’t go back to my school district and share it with others. Small changes in the ways I teach my students and interact with my colleagues will ultimately have a much larger positive impact in my school community. Even when I feel like I’m unconventional in what I’m doing, I need to remember the potential impact of these small changes and the experiences I gained in San Diego.