ISTE2016: Why connections still matter

I am in Denver, attending the annual International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference, known as ISTE2016. It’s a tech conference, through and through. But with 18,000 educators – mostly teachers – important to not overlook one key part of events like ISTE2016 – the needs to network and make connections as a part of personal and professional development, in lieu of looking for a gadget or widget as being some magic bullet.

On Tuesday, I found myself with a conversation with Craig Yen (Twitter) and Aron Early (Twitter) and a few others, out on the floor of ISTE near the poster display area. Seeing an empty booth, we moved over and set up shop, like we were suppose to be there, and started to greet people. Using the large screen, we projected Tweetdeck, and we started to talk about twitter and its uses, both as a tool but also the reasons people use it and other tools.

Some of it was coaching, some of it was mentoring. It was coaching because we were sharing specific tips and tricks that we were sharing directly to the people with which we were speaking. Once shared, they could take those skills and use them immediately. But some of what we were discussing was also mentoring – they were things for which there wasn’t an answer, but discussions for which the process was important.

Heather Kim (Twitter) is an example of that. She wanted to know about using twitter. She’s been teaching math, but in the fall, she’s transitioning into being a tech coordinator. That’s no small transition.

The neat thing is, in talking with her about this big change she’s facing it, and talking with her about the technology available to her to help with this – this is ISTE, after all – Craig and I had such different approached. He wanted to transfer solutions to her, that she could use right away. Better ways to use Tweetdeck. A better understanding of hashtags, and finding hashtags that would be relevant to her new work. Finding chats she could join, to find ideas.

I understand this. Ms. Kim does have some huge and immediate needs for skill transfers, right now and immediately.  But this is coaching. She absolutely needs to find people and sources for skills that she will be able to use, on her first day of her new semester in the fall, and for every day after that until she is really up and running in her new job. After that, she is going to need to find more of those, as she explores being a tech coordinator – the same as every other tech coordinator faces.

Twitter can be great for that. Finding people who are sharing skills that can be learning quickly. Finding people who are capable of teaching her things – this summer or at later dates. Finding people who have resources – webpages, books, etc – that she can access on her own. This is a great use of twitter, knowing the limitation that Twitter is like a river and that once you take your finger out of it, it moves on without you.

But I was also focused on something that she was going to need – for which Twitter likely wasn’t the answer – finding and nurturing mentors. She would want and need to find some people who had made a similar transition within the last 2 or 3 years, who could share with her and even help guide her as she makes this transition. People who have walked this path, but just a little bit ahead of her.  But only a little bit – because the technology and the experience changes quickly, given too much time.

She is also going to want and need to find some others who are further along in this kind of a transition – more like 7 to 9 years. Others who can talk about the impacts on career and family, who can talk about impacts that will be forthcoming, who can advise on where and when to go back to school for another degree, when to change schools or levels, and challenges like this.

Because in education – in the classroom and as educators – tech isn’t always the answer. That might not be the thing to be thinking much less saying at an education conference, especially one hosted by the International Society for Technology in Education. But it’s true. I have spent these last few days watching teachers walking around in a daze, looking at all these neat gadgets and gizmos, wishing they could have them, wishing they would solve all their problems inside the classroom and out. Honestly, events like this conference really can and should also be a time for people like Heather to also search for and find those others who can help her, now and in the coming years.

But that’s hard. A vendor can’t make and market that. That doesn’t make for a sexy keynote speech.

When it should.

One thought on “ISTE2016: Why connections still matter

  1. I think that would be an excellent topic and as an Ed Tech Coordinator with 9 years experience I know that I would still find this an interesting and engaging topic/discussion. Many Ed Tech Coordinators are former classroom teachers with some very specific skills in technology and coaching/mentoring/teaching other educators. My education and teaching experience was computer science, math and business and I taught both 9-12 and at the college level before moving into my current position. I think what we’re looking for at tech conferences are opportunities to fill in the gaps in our knowledge, to be inspired, and to discover what our peers are doing. I’ve been involved in planning two different Tech Conferences for several years now and we always have our eyes open for topics of interest. Your idea sounds interesting to me.

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