An ISTE "Break-up" Note
I’ll admit it. Maybe I didn’t get it, don’t get it. I attended my first ISTE conference this past July in Atlanta. I was intrigued by the power of collaborating and meeting 13,000 colleagues. I was excited to learn about the future of #edtech and where it could take us. I was hopeful that I would be re-energized and motivated to build the new. But I left ISTE feeling rather unfulfilled.
As a first time attendee, the vastness of ISTE is overwhelming. There’s too much of everything. Too much space. Too much distance. Too many people. Slowly, I gained my bearings and was able to make sense of the chaos. Even though I probably missed 90% of the sessions and activities, I was still anticipating the ISTE impact. I was still hoping for the euphoria of learning about the cutting edge. A feeling I’m still waiting for.
While the initial IGNITE session was motivational, I felt like I was the sole non-believer at a revival meeting. The cheers and applause for phrases like “own our PD” and to “game-based learning” were loud and emphatic. I felt like such an outsider, sitting there alone, amongst the congregation. But maybe I missed the point of this IGNITE session. I came looking for new, and what I mainly heard was ideas that I’ve been working on for years, but to the room, to the congregation, was it new? Or was it more about affirmation? Was the applause and cheers the fuel that people needed to re-energize them in their work?
All of this would be great, if there was something substantial to follow throughout the next three days to provide fuel for the spark from the IGNITE sessions. But what followed were sessions like “40 apps for the classroom” and “10 Technologies for the Core” where information was shared like how great the “Google Search” app is and the power of Google Drive. It just seemed odd to me that I came to an #edtech conference to learn about Google products I’ve been using on my own for years.
My issue wouldn’t have been as pronounced if I wasn’t also completely frustrated with the Expo Hall as well. What seemed like miles of convention hall space was set up with booth after booth showing off the latest and greatest in #edtech. The reality of the situation was that traditional tech giants dominated the floor space, peddling old methodologies in new shiny packages. What struck me about the sheer immensity of the Expo Hall was that there is actually that much money to be made in this branch of the industry off of education. And the extremely frustrating part is that by and large, the technology represented don’t really solve the fundamental issues we find in education today. In fact, I believe they exasperate them. Reinforcing old thinking with new toys.
This is just one voice from the 16,000 that ended up attending #ISTE2014, and I’m sure this will not be a popular sentiment, but I guess I just don’t get it. It’s not you ISTE, it’s me.
Thanks for reading,