I've been here at ISTE 2011, in Philadelphia, for a couple of days now. It's been quite an interesting journey. I love following the tweets at #ISTE11. There is an overload of information with which to keep up.
We started the day yesterday by just hanging at the hotel and not really getting out until after noon. We took a very short walk to Penn's Landing and had a Taste of Philly, part of the events leading up to the 4th of July.
We got over to the Convention Center and checked in just in time to hear the opening keynote speaker. He was a molecular biologist named Dr. John Medina. A molecular biologist? Yes. He was really great. A very dynamic speaker, in fact. He talked specifically about how the brain process information, a terrific topic for a room (gigantic room) full of teachers interested in how to be more effective. I guess I'll have to read his book, Brain Rules.
Before I knew it, 7am arrived and I had to be up, have some breakfast, and get to the convention center by 0830 to hear Dayna Laur talk about "Meeting the Common Core: Rigorous, Relevant, Project-Based Learning." The presenters talked at length about this site, the Buck Institute for Learning. I was afraid it was going to be about how we needed to pay for their stuff, but it wasn't. In fact they talked about some free resources we can use for PBL stuff, in addition to the fact that all of their stuff if free. I am working to move my class more toward a PBL model. I think my students would all benefit from the model as they are mostly honors students who "just want the answer." This particular demographic is one that has been taught to value the "right answer" above the method by which that answer was ascertained. In PBL, the goal is to have students show their mastery of skills instead of arriving at a pre-determined answer. In fact, in a good problem-solving environment, the teacher won't know the answer since it hasn't been solved yet! A great strategy they talked about was one in which a class is connected (via Skype) to a professional in the field (pertaining to the problem) to give critique and expertise throughout the process.
I then moved on to "Technology to Improve Staff Morale" with Rushton Hurley, a Japanese-language teacher from California. He had some great tips for sharing technology and moving into a true collaborative model with colleagues. The "take-away" for me from that session was to try and share something with my colleagues and let them come ask questions if they want to move beyond just an introduction. My vision for this is to share a 2 minute tech tip during faculty meetings. I can start it and then see if I can get my colleagues to start doing it as they find something they like and feel is "share-worthy." I'll then become the facilitator. I could even begin to video these and post them to "Tech Tools for Teachers."
During lunch, I got to go to the OTA Affiliate booth and sit for an hour to "pay" for my trip here. I am here as a result of being named Technology Teacher of the Year by the OTA. However, it comes with a price. I have to work our booth for two full hours. I say that with a smile on my face, because I would gladly work that booth for an entire day or two to get to come. I met several folks stopping by to say hello. I got to tell them about the OTA meetup at the The Field House from 1630 to 1800 on Tuesday evening. It will be lots of fun, so if you are around, stop in and say hello.
After lunch I had some free time so I went down and sat in the blogger's cafe and tried to process some of what I had learned. As I was doing this, I began to realize that this conference would benefit so many people who are not here. For someone like me who has been to technology conferences before, I am able to get a few ideas to use tools I already have to be better, but there are people who aren't here who would be much more willing to use this stuff in their classes after hearing success stories. If you are reading this and have never been to ISTE, go ahead and plan to go to San Diego next year. It's overwhelming and one of the best things a technology adopter can do to get out of their comfort zone. During this time, I also got spend some time with @mishelleyb since we both had a little time with no sessions, this was clearly one of the best parts of the day.
The last session I attended was #teach with #tweet. These 3 guys (@joebender, @crafty184, and @brueckj23) shared how they have used twitter in elementary/secondary/higher ed classrooms. They had some great ideas and I was able to think and process about how I would like to integrate it into both my high school physics and university geography classes. I got to attend the session with a colleague from SNU and we talked about online classes over the summer. I'm stoked to collaborate with her (and @mishelleyb) while I teach online during the upcoming summer session. I'm a little nervous, but it should be fun! I almost forgot, there was also a flash mob during this time. A little crazy.
Finally, the kids came in from the hotel and we walked over to the Reading Market. @mishelleyb had been wanting to go and sample the Amish stuff in there and we were all pretty excited about the eats we had heard about. If you want to see what we experienced, click here. We had a great culinary adventure. It seems that much of our travel is driven (no pun intended) by food. We are a foodie family and have some of our best times around the dinner table, whether ours or some restaurant.
The fact is these two days have been a tremendous amount of fun, work, and learning. I'm sure many people think "Who in the world wants to go to Nerd Camp for 4 days? Especially with your own kids and wife?" I do! These trips are some of the most rewarding of my life, both professionally and personally.