This has been a crazy summer. You can tell that by the fact I am just getting to writing about ISTE. ISTE for is all about the relationships, and this year was no different. I saw a few sessions, but my time was spent presenting, seeing friends from all over the US, and reconnecting with my PLN. The best part of the experience though was that my wife, Kendra, got to do it all with me.
ISTE even had a crazy start. My wife is from Colorado, so we usually take a vacation to that area anyway. Every summer, that means driving. The cost is just so high to fly with 5 people (I have 3 kids), that it is only an option at Christmas. That meant I started my trip with a two-day drive to CO. You would think it would be rough, but I actually love spending that kind of time with my family! Our end point was my inlaws house and we got to drop the kids off, and head on the next day.
We got to ISTE on Sunday, and it was an awesome experience from the start. My friends at Symbaloo helped my wife out with an exhibitor pass so we got to go everywhere together. We started our experience with seeing two of my favorite presenters, Adam Bellow and Steve Dembo, do gadgets. I was so impressed with the projects both of them had made with maker space style gadgets. It honestly made me feel like I had let my own kids down, and I need to do more. Sunday continued with a visit to the Bloggers Cafe. I found this space to always be a great space to catch up with old friends, meet companies that don't have booths, and watch some of the big presentations. That's exactly what we did, and I think my wife was the bit overwhelmed by all the folks I said hi to.
The next three days are a bit of a blur. It feels like they moved way too quickly. Much of my time was spent on the exhibit floor strengthening relationships I already had by working their booths. Throughout the conference, I worked Symbaloo, Plickers, Quizizz, and Air Squirrels booth. I also presented my Touchcast snapshot and at a couple of booths. All of which I thought went incredibly well.
I, of course, did walk the exhibit floor a bit, and again it was about strengthening relationships. I saw my buddies at Osmo, Sphero, Kahoot, Wonder Workshop, Go Animate, Nearpod, Ipevo, and several more. I also got to talk with two of my new favorites Pi-Top and Bitsbox. If you have not seen them, you should check them out. Many of these relationships have paid off for me, and I am hoping some pay off in the future.
One of my favorite parts of ISTE is always ISTE after dark. This is where you get to see folks just cut loose and have fun. It also gave me a chance to really hang out with friends in my PLN because I don't see them that often. One of my favorite nights was Sunday night because it was the only time I really got to just hang low-key with friends. Monday and Tuesday were great though as I really got to hang out with the companies I was an ambassador for.
ISTE has awesome sessions, but if you are like me you have seen a whole lot of it. I did get to see one of the best sessions I have seen a while (Pernille Ripp's literacy session), but in reality, ISTE is all about building things I can use in the future. Those things are the relationships with both friends and companies I support. It all goes back to what education is all about: great relationships.
One of my more interesting experiences this summer was working the KSU Iteach maker camp. I have been advocating for the maker movement for a while, but this was my first time actually participating in a camp built around the maker theme. It was an incredible learning experience, and my hope is that we can continue to tweak and improve this going forward. I know the maker movement is where we need to go, and it's time for Iteach to make that push
We did two weeks of maker camp, and we gained some valuable lessons from it. The first was, "Don't overwhelm the kids". When we started with camp the first week, we started with almost all the toys out. That proved to be a mistake. Some of our maker space items were just not built for kids of that age, and others became the shiny object that took them away from really making something great. We also learned that we can't just say go. Many of the items like Little Bits, Sphero, Hummingbird, and others take some learning time. To get kids where we really want them to be, we need to have projects for them to practice with before they even start. We need to build to that time where we just say go.
I think above all we learned the importance of this movement. We watched kids find a passion for something, and it was amazing to see the actual things that they did. My own daughters spent a time learning to sew, and my oldest has already asked her mom to help her with her next project. I saw one colleague's child become virtually obsessed with Sphero. In a world where student motivation is always a challenge, isn't it great to see a child become obsessed over learning? I saw another child who had issues focusing build one of the biggest Sphero obstacle course we have ever seen. He even worked on it with his big sister! Last but not least, I saw a child who was a bit shy his first week come out of his shell and make an amazing stop motion animation video. He was then willing to share it and talk about it.
One of the most interesting things about camp was watching the adults learn to. If you ever want to really find out about the people you work with, run a camp together. It was amazing seeing some of the adults come out of their shells and really jump in there with the kids. We had one adult who became the sewing queen letting several kids experience and make things they have never had. I also had another colleague who it seemed like she came back every day with new ideas to engage the kids in making.
I believe in the maker movement because it really could have changed my life. I honestly hated academics in high school. I was bored. I slept. This is what I needed. If I had a time like this, I could have explored strengths that I did not know I had until much later in life. I could have been engaged. If I had maker time it might have even helped me in other classes. If you have not started a maker movement in your own school, isn't it time?