28 June 2010

ISTE 2010: Day One Recap

Today was the first day of the International Society for Technology in Education conference. It's no secret that I get around to a variety of events, although this is the first conference in a very long time where I have not been a presenter. I have, however, accumulated some wisdom along the way about what does and doesn't work at these carnivals.

What I Like (So Far):
  • Roundtables: These are rooms with 4 - 8 simultaneous conversations. It's a chance for people to present some research or pose a question with a few people interested in the same topic. This is a great opportunity to present dissertations or very specialized items of interest. The only downside is that the rooms are a little noisy.
  • Poster Sessions: This is a lot like an electrified science fair. Every three hours, a new group of presenters sets up their presentations. The sessions are organized by topic, e.g. early childhood, STEM, English language learners. There are even students presenting EdTech projects. It's a little crazy to walk around in, but it's a great opportunity to showcase how technology is being used by different areas.

What I Don't Like (So Far):
  • It's All About the Stuff: There appear to be no conversations or sessions that are focused on instruction. It's all tools all the time. Yes, I do know that I'm at a technology conference, but I don't think that excuses people from just reeling off one tool after another. There is no connection to a "So what?"
  • Teachers Who Don't Prepare: I am the first to admit that when I made a jump from working with kids to working with adults as learners that I didn't know what the hell I was doing. Sure, there are some similarities, but there are also unique needs for every group. I saw a presentation today consisting of running through a series of spreadsheets---there was obviously no thought as to audience needs or organizing a message. The presenter had not tested the tech being presented and there were major errors and gaps along the way. If you are selected to present, take the time to create a quality learning experience for others.

The Score (So Far)

At this point, I would say that if you're looking for a national conference to go to...and want to see technology in action...I would make a beeline for ASCD. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, do not go to ISTE. If you're serious about classroom instruction, this does not appear to be the right place to get support.

Tomorrow, I'm exploring the exhibit hall and attending a few more sessions. Maybe ISTE will wow me then.


Anonymous said...

A colleague on Twitter posted the link to your post. Several teachers I know flock to ISTE and speak of it as if it were the Holy Grail of conferences. Given your comments, I now have a new perspective on the subject. To be able to answer the ,"So what?" is why we do what we do as teachers. Thank you for your very honest and candid assessment of ISTE, and for sharing it.

The Science Goddess said...

I have jealously watched tweets from ISTE the past two summers. From afar, it did indeed appear to be the Holy Grail of Conferences.

Here's the deal: If someone is the type of educator who likes to collect sparkly tools---then this is definitely the place to be. Go them.

The difference is that they believe they put the tools first in order to get to learning. I believe in putting the learning first to get to kids.

That's not to say that there aren't some great opportunities here for everyone. It's just not all that and a bag of chips.