For many years I protested that I had no clear need to attend the annual International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference. From the social media streams and vendor receptions, it has the appearance of an ostentatious event focused on selling the latest and greatest gadgets, apps, and technology solutions to educators. Many of my colleagues and educator friends have protested, “but Ben, the connections?! How can you be missing out?” Truth be told, I’ve been intentional about the individuals that I’ve networked with; I’ve prioritized developing relationships with educators that I have the opportunity to collaborate with face-to-face at state-level or regional events. Many in the ISTE crowds would likely see my actions, and choice not to attend in previous years, as shortsighted, professionally unsound, and otherwise snobbish of me.
All of that may be true. Regardless, I didn’t want to attend this major event until I had something to offer to the collective whole. I’ve been to conferences with national scope before, but they’ve all been smaller gatherings focused on specific topics (games, STEM, social activism, etc.) and I’ve played a role in either presenting, volunteering, or leading a workshop. This last year, I finally found a hands-on presentation model that I felt was unique enough to bring to the bigger ISTE table without using the words “best, app, tools, or epic” in the title. On a professional level, I’m prouder than I should be about that.
I’ll be writing about the presentation, and reflecting on how it was received by attendees, later in the week. For now, I wanted to have a bit of fun documenting my first ever day at the ISTE conference with a classic “Animated GIF Day” post! If you’re curious, check in on this post throughout the day for updates.
3:34 AM – I got up at what I like to call “stupid early” and took care of shaving, showering, and heading out for the airport. The last time I can remember getting up this early was for an ill fated attempt to score a Black Friday deal several years ago…looking back, the crummy free webcam I got from Best Buy really wasn’t worth the dark circles under my eyes by 10 am. I’m guessing ISTE will prove to be a much more worthwhile reason for getting up so early.
4:30 AM – I can’t remember the last time I drove down such a lonely stretch of road. Other than a few garbage trucks getting an early start on the day, the road was rather empty. I live 45 minutes away from the South Bend Airport, so I had a nice peaceful drive, caught up on a bit of This American Life listening, and fought the urge to stop at McDonald’s (fast food is not good food).
5:45 AM – 10 minutes before takeoff. I had the lovely sounds of water bubbling behind me. Still not quite ready for breakfast, and the white noise of the fountain almost put me to sleep waiting for the plane.
7:25 AM – Detroit’s airport has one of the strangest lighted tunnels I’ve ever been through at an airport. Most underground walkways connect travelers to terminals with bright cheerful lights and happy tones. In Detroit, it’s a mix between modern jazz and meloncholy tunes that often sound like a computer-composed experiment in producing sullen travelers. At times the tunnel is almost completely dark, with deep purples, blues, and streaks of red threatening anyone who dare make their way along the moving walkways.
10:00 AM – Finally landed in Philadelphia, and traveling comfortably on the commuter rail into the city. I’m not sure what it is, but I’ve always felt comfortable on mass transit. I know some don’t enjoy the cramped feel of it, but I love blending into the scene, being a part of the crowd yet separate. We’re all traveling in a thousand directions, but for a few moments, we travel together. The blur of the stone block walls alongside the commuter rail was fascinating. Much better than the typical concrete you see in “newer” cities.
11:30 AM – After making it through registration and finding my way to the cavernous vendor hall, I did what any sensible 30-something male with a mild mid life crisis would do; I went straight to the LEGO booth. I met a wonderful teacher named Amanda, who was sadly not on social media, who talked about the transformative effect that LEGOs and play have had on her school. Robots are of course the big draw, but there were plenty of other LEGO kits and I had a fun time
1:15 PM – I had only eaten two complimentary graham crackers on the plane thus far today, and the word “hangry” was taking on new meaning. I decided to wander down to the Reading Market Terminal where I tried what I can only assume is some strange Philadelphia version of a Pastrami on Rye. Coleslaw, Russian dressing sauce, and served cold, I think I’m going to hold out until I get myself a cheesesteak before I pass judgement on the local culinary quirks.
2:30 PM – I found myself firmly anchored in the Blogger’s Cafe, working with Aaron Sams on the session we’re leading tomorrow. I know, I know, my first day of ISTE, and all I did was make it through the vendor hall and then work! It was worth it for me; and I got a small taste of why people enjoy coming to this large conference. Over the course of two hours I was able to chat with friends from New York, California, Pennsylvania, and even some from back home in Michigan. It felt good to spend so much time connecting with people after a morning of travel, rather than sit through sessions all afternoon.
I may do another animated GIF day later in the week, but I fear the time I spend trying to capture good moments that are “gif fable” greatly outweighs the lose in time for sessions, exhibits, and conversations. Here’s hoping I can accomplish all of the above in the next few days. It’s time to sign off for the day, relax a bit, and maybe stem the nerves before I present tomorrow afternoon!