Some of the best sessions happened away from the conference center, in the in-between times.
I had a list of things I wanted to learn about:
- How to differentiate instruction in app development for student coding
- Using Raspberry Pi in maker spaces
- Engaging students in social justice through partner city projects
- Maker spaces in low-SES contexts (and also how to set up an open environment while still keeping it safe)
- Technology integration in ELL classrooms (my context this last year)
I quickly realized, after looking at the ISTE app, that the conference tended to cater toward a broad audience and toward those who are new to technology. They also tended to focus less on the context and more on the platforms being used (tons of app-tastic stuff). I have experience with blogging, podcasting and multimedia design. I know how to use apps.
Initially, I wanted to criticize the conference. I wanted to make big, bold statements about the focus of educators. I wanted to stand on a pedestal and judge. But then something snapped in me. I realized that I was at a booth next to someone who was doing amazing things in her school.
So, I asked questions. I crafted my own sessions uses a much more human search engine of "Does anyone know anyone who does programming with middle school kids?"
I found someone who taught design and computer code and he brought me over to someone else who shared a ton of resources with me. We talked about the possibilities and limitations of Raspberry Pi and he shared some ideas about robotics and Python. I met up, yet again, with Gregory Hill, to talk about how we navigate the chaos of maker spaces in low-SES contexts.
I met up with Lisa Dabbs and Jeremy Macdonald and talked about ELL strategies. It wasn't just a sharing of ideas. It was also a sharing of our own shared experience in teaching that subject. I hung out for hours with Philip Cummings (below), talking about how to do project-based learning and how to find books that boys love.
Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed the sessions I went to. I enjoyed the experience of getting to know people in person that I already know online. I enjoyed hearing about people's passions for things outside of education (photography, ultimate frisbee, etc.). However, I also enjoyed having one-on-one conversations about people who have the wisdom, expertise and experience in areas where I am just beginning to explore.
I still attended ISTE. I still went to the formal, prepared sessions. However, when they didn't have what I was looking for, I found people and asked questions.