ISTE Conference Recap: A CMLE Scholarship

The following report was submitted by a recipient of our new CMLE scholarship program.

Submitted By: Laurie Conzemius

I attended the ISTE 2010 conference in Denver Colorado, from June 27 – 30 at the Colorado Conference Center. To say that the ISTE conference is big would be an understatement. Over 14000 attendees experienced this exciting event, which boasted over 500 vendors in the exhibit hall, over 600 presenters, representation from more than 20 countries and literally hundreds of sessions and activities to choose from.

The convention, titled Exploring Excellence, was organized around four themes:

  • School improvement
  • Technology Infrastructure
  • Professional Learning
  • Digital-Age Teaching and Learning
  • Virtual School/e-Learning

There are multitudes of ways to interact and participate that span almost 24 hours each day! Students and teachers from around the world are sharing at poster sessions, educational technology experts offer lecture, panel and spotlight sessions, model lesson sessions are offered, and the convention attendees enjoy a large number of “café’s” and “playgrounds” based on topics of interest. It is overwhelming – and frustrating, because there is so much to do and just not enough time to do it all!

 When I attend a national conference I find it helpful to consider my goals and objectives prior to even leaving home. ISTE provides a great online tool for searching the catalog and selecting possible sessions to attend and this is extremely beneficial. I wanted to attend sessions of best practice for media specialists. I was hoping to find sessions that dealt with leadership and school change that would be helpful in my own school. I always love the Web 2.0 tools and I wanted to catch some new tips and tricks for using Google Docs. I was hoping to do some networking, both with members of our special interest group, SIGMS, but also with some school districts around the country who might be interested in collaborating on some projects. In addition, I was hoping to briefly visit the exhibit hall and see the new options with interactive whiteboards and projectors.

 On the ride from the airport to the hotel the networking had already begun! I got one of the best tips of the conference there – when a media specialist from Virginia told me their kindergarten and first grade classroom whiteboards are mounted on adjustable mounts so they can be pulled down to “kid-level”. On Saturday, the day before the conference started, I attended an ISTE Leadership training day. We focused on leadership within our own special interest group and then broadened to leadership in our district and state. I got some great tips there.

 Sunday kicked off the official start to the conference with the opening keynote. From there the conference took off quickly. I spent much of Monday working in the 21st Century Media Center Playground, sharing ideas with media specialists from around the world. I was also able to attend a terrific session on leadership in schools by Cheryl Lemke from the Metiri Group.

 Session speakers from the next few days included Will Richardson, Joyce Valenza, Tammy Worcester, Doug Johnson, Alan November, Kathy Schrock, David Thornburg and David Warlick. I also listened to many presenters without big names, but with great ideas and suggestions. I was also able to make it into the exhibit area and not only learn about interactive whiteboards, but also make some other connections with vendors.

 ISTE provides an archive of recorded sessions through ISTEVision, so attendees are able to go online after the conference and view sessions they missed. There is a conference wiki where most of the presenters post not only their PowerPoint slides, but also links to their WebPages and a large number of additional resources. The conference will not end for me for quite a few weeks as I sort through these amazing materials.

 Although there are many more thoughts and ideas to share, there are a few take-aways that I have already determined I will use.

  • For our teachers in Sartell, who will be moving from Microsoft products to Google Apps this year, I have picked up a great resource of training and support materials.
  • For leadership among my ISD 748 media and tech team I plan to share a great session online that included a huge number of web 2.0 tools and great suggestions for using them with students. I thought I would invite them over for an informal gathering where we can actually watch the session together and further discuss the use of these tools.
  • For my own teaching I am now armed with a great resource of digital storytelling ideas and plans. I’m excited to incorporate these into my own teaching and into our school curriculum.

 I know that as I reflect on the conference over the next several weeks there will be a number of other invaluable lessons I will apply as well.

 As we left a particularly great session on Tuesday, the “Smackdown” for library media specialists, David Loertcher left us all with this great action plan for our new learning, and I believe it is important in my own staff development, in the SCSU classes I teach, and in my day-to-day work with students. He asked us to complete the sentence: “Today I learned _______” but to extend that with the question: “So what?” A web 2.0 tool, fun new technology gizmo or slick piece of software is only valuable if we use it to increase student achievement and success.

 Thank you to CMLE for the scholarship, which helped allow me to attend ISTE 2010. ISTE 2011 will be held at the end of June in Philadelphia. I would love to bring a large cohort from Minnesota. Will you join me?