#ISTE17: An emotional journey of Innovation, Inspiration, and Interconnectedness

3:15 a.m.: Alarm clock wakes up the house

4:00 a.m.: Car arrives for pickup

6:30 a.m.: Board plane for Dallas to connect to San Antonio

8:30 a.m.: Land in Oklahoma City……yup.

Well, getting to ISTE certainly did not go as planned.  I will leave the travel story for another blog post because I don’t want to spend too much time on how a plane running out of gas can change your plans.  We eventually landed in San Antonio and every minute spent was worth every ounce of initial frustration.

With 21,000 in attendance, I am confident that this conference had a dramatic impact on all those who were lucky to spend four days at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center.  Of course, the time spent away from the convention center was equally fantastic.  If 21,000 attendees wrote blog posts, we would certainly hear 22,000 stories.  This I find to be the power of ISTE.  Despite the level of collaboration and networking that exists in every interaction, we were all able to find our voice in the countless sessions, poster conversations, Expo Hall competition, and dinners on the Riverwalk.  This blog post will focus on four key pieces of my emotional journey.

#1: We presented at #ISTE17.  Yes, we PRESENTED at #ISTE17 on the powerful ways educators on all levels can leverage digital tools to amplify voice within school culture.  You can find the presentation at bit.ly/ISTEVOICE.  Emotions ran through all of us as we walked into the large room (217D), as we thought about the audience that would fill the seats, and knowing the immediate power we had in potentially impacting the hundreds of educators (and their students) who chose to visit our session.  Deja Berry, Patrick DiClemente, Danielle Mammolito, Bob Schilling, Tania Willman, and I shared ways in which technology can help build community, culture, and relationships through amplifying voice.  I am so honored to have these passionate colleagues as friends.  Based on feedback from educators from Bellmore-Merrick to Australia, we succeeded in our prime goal: be ourselves and present six perspectives how diverse roles in schools (Assistant to the Superintendent, Executive Assistant for Technology Integration, Principal, Assistant Principal, and Technology Learning Coach) have an impact on students, teachers, parents, and the entire community.  Yet, the one hour presentation is not what had the biggest impact on me.  The monthly and weekly meetings with this dedicated group discussing, reflecting, providing honest feedback, brainstorming, and evaluating instructional and leadership pathways were invaluable in my growth as a leader.  In discussing how we effectively use digital tools, we spoke about authentic audience, digital leadership, the naysayer in building culture, professional learning networks, instruction, learning, and the decisions that propel students to the next level.  Once again, the process is worth more than the product.

#2: Robert Joyce.  For his dedication to providing students opportunities for innovation, Rob Joyce was selected as ISTE’s Outstanding Teacher for 2017.  This international selection speaks to the work that Rob has guided in his classroom.  It also is evidence that when teachers and students are provided with tools for creation and independent learning, we see a redefined experience with no boundaries.  When you read through ISTE’s standards for educators and students, it becomes quite apparent that Rob is the perfect choice.  In getting to the conference center early on Sunday morning, I was first to see the tribute to Rob.  A wall-sized plaque and a drawing of his face (picture below).  I stood there in awe of him, our middle school, our district, and our lucky students.  I had to witness Rob see this representation of himself.  Precisely placed, all 21,000 attendees were able to see this masterpiece.  I waited for Rob to get to the convention center so I could be there when he first walked past this wall.  Standing behind Rob as he looked up at his picture, I was on the verge of shedding a tear.  Rob found his voice when we provided Berner Middle School 1:1 access to endless possibility.  He deserves this highest recognition of his hard work, his willingness to take risks, his passion for student-centered learning, and for allowing his students to experience something different.

#3: Jennie Magiera.  WOW! In her keynote, Jennie Magiera validated everything that I have been pushing in my current role in Massapequa.  She examined the danger of a single story, the untold story of limitless potential, and the magical power of teachers.  After listening to Jennie Magiera share her personal experience and the words of Chaminanda Ngozi Adichie, I reflected not only on the importance of telling our students’ stories but how it is imperative that we share the successes of our students.  All of our students have limitless potential.  We need to remind students that they ALL can innovate and reach the highest peak of their unique genius.   It is for this reason that we opened makerspaces in our school buildings so all students, regardless of test scores, could dig deep into their passions.  Jennie is right.  Our teachers are wizards. They have this magical ability to make every student feel special.  The ability to inspire all students to think the education we offer is made for their individual needs.  For this, I am entirely grateful to work with Massapequa’s teacher librarians.  As Don and Danielle Gately shared in their session at EdCamp Leader 2016, we need to provide a personalized learning experience for all children.  When we do that, single stories turn into realized potential.

#4: Walks along the riverwalk, laughs at dinner, exploration of the Alamo, a water taxi ride to dinner, excitement at the Ignite session, and the list goes on.  In addition to our Massapequa group, we were lucky to be joined by Audra Beberman and Bonnie McClelland for this awesome journey.  I am certainly better for their presence in my PLN.  Bonnie ROCKED the stage for her Ignite session on the gingerbread man and the four Cs.  We sat in the audience happy for her success and thrilled that we are part of her story.  Like me, Audra is a techie geek.  I enjoyed our conversations of different tools and how they could impact student learning.  “Have you seen the new features of BrainPop???” Love it.  Having Bonnie and Audra with us every step of the way pays tribute to the power of networked intelligence.  Those who learn together, grow together.

Now back to the airline.  Eh…who cares about airport delays when the time spent at your destination turned out to be a perfect blend of innovation, inspiration, and interconnectedness.

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