This is my fourth time attending ISTE. For those that do not know, ISTE is the acronym for the International Society for Technology in Education. One of the biggest things I first will note is the amount of diversity that was there this year. People from different races, cultures (because race and culture are not one in the same), backgrounds, students, teachers, administrators, etc. came together to engage in the conversation and work around transforming students' lives and outcomes with technology integration. Compared to my other ISTEs, this one I would say was very intentional about the various groups and cultures represented. To be honest, it was good to see people that looked like me, have a skill set and knowledge base similar to my own, and doing the work of transforming students' outcomes. This brings me to my next point.
I cannot speak for anyone's relationship with God. Those who truly know me though know I have one though and I can be honest and say that there are moments where I have my ups and downs with Him. What was amazing for me; however, was to see how God really worked for me at this conference. My goal when going to a conference is to network. Sessions are great, but far more important are the networking opportunities. Let's be clear though, the purpose of networking is not to try and find your next job or to figure out how to make more money. The purpose of networking is to connect with others so you both can learn from one other. Learning has to be transactional and hopefully, transformational. This has been a reality of mine since ISTE 2014. I have taken this to heart. Since that time I have seen my connections grow. This year prove not only to see my connections grow in terms of numbers , but in terms of depth. ISTE has allowed me to network with some amazing people, in particular, a group that has become like my family, the POC in EdTech.
For many of these people we laugh every week together, if not everyday. We Vox (check out Voxer), text, call, FaceTime, etc. If I have a concern or need assistance, the got my back! For us, reconnecting at ISTE was not just a conference, it was like a family reunion! For many of the members they are like my older sisters and brothers giving me advice and can hang out with. They provide me with resources and opportunities to grow; to the point where they allowed me to form a connection with the ISTE Board President. It is not about the titles though; it is about the opportunity to see how people can come together, learn about each other as people, and to see what insight each can gain about how to make learning experiences better. There are members in this group I call over some family members even for personal advice. There were even members in this groups that provided me comfort and were a listening ear through one of the hardest parts of my life. Many days were I faked smiles and did my work as usual, they heard my pain, hurt, and even heard me cry (which is something I do not do very often). When I say I am truly grateful for this group...many of you have no idea!
This takes me to another point. One thing that this group has shown me is find your God ordained purpose. To quote Dr. Myles Munroe, "When purpose is unknown, abuse is inevitable." Operate in that purpose and do the work to fulfill it. This was the case at ISTE. I am beginning the 2017-2018 school year in a new position. I am now a School Improvement Coach- Math. A large part of my job is instructional coaching. This year at ISTE, my co-presenter (follow him on Twitter @Mister_Kelly) and I presented on Personalized Learning in the Microsoft and Google Classrooms. Essentially, what we wanted to show everyone was that it does not matter if you have access to Microsoft or Google tools, it is a tool. Let's focus on the instruction. We went through the coaching feedback cycle with participants and helped them develop ideas as to how to leverage this work. It's funny though, a few people told me they saw how engaged I was with students through my social media pages. As a result, one of my good friends randomly asked me to speak on a panel. I was nervous, but what I was reminded of while on the panel, stand true to your beliefs and when you are passionate about something, others can see it.
Again, I cannot explain in words the depth in which ISTE meant to me this year. The connections and experiences by far exceeded my expectations. Even if you never have the opportunity to get to this particular conference, form connections with other educators. While we have PLCs in our schools and work, form your own Professional/Personal Learning Network that can help you grow...not in just your career; but, as a person.