It was my privilege to attend and present at the ISTE conference in Atlanta this weekend. Eighteen thousand educators, education leaders and corporate entities gathered to share, learn and explore the many amazing resources and initiatives that are happening all around the world. The major challenge for most attendees is being able to be everywhere and see everything!
I spent a long time in a long line to see Ashley Judd’s opening keynote. I expected to learn more about her global advocacy work but instead was surprised to hear the story of her troubled childhood. She poignantly shared with us her memories of abuse, abandonment, and depression and how she more often than not dealt with these issues alone. She often repeated the phrase, “Where were you?” not in an accusatory context, but to remind us that as educators we have a huge responsibility to know our students. “The most important thing you can do is believe the child who comes to you. It is incumbent on us to see, to ask questions,” she said. She highlighted teachers and educators who saved her life by giving simple words of encouragement, by demonstrating faith her in abilities, by showing that they cared. It was a powerful start to my conference experience.
The next two days were spent running around trying to learn more about the maker movement, S.T.E.A.M, augmented reality, genius hour and so much more. The Expo alone would have taken days to explore and the whole place was fairly buzzing with excitement, exhilaration and passion. In the hours leading up to my own presentation about teaching kids to harness the power of technology to solve global problems I experienced many moments of abject terror. What could I possibly have to say that would be original or inspiring or worthy? But the lovely Krissy Venosdale calmed my nerves with her constant encouragement to all teachers to share, share, share! And ultimately it’s that sharing, connecting, and engaging with peers that makes ISTE such a significant event.
I was so fortunate to be able to spend quality time with outstanding educators like Kelli Etheredge whose knowledge, compassion and commitment to students inspires me every day. Joli Barker, fearless educator and author of The Fearless Classroom rejuvenates my joy and motivates me to dream big. Adina Popa ,School Improvement and Accountability Specialist at Loudoun County Public Schools strives for excellence and encourages me to unleash student potential through innovation and transformation. At the birds of a feather session hosted by Suzie Boss I was able to make new connections with educators from all over the nation who share my love of project-based learning and I look forward to the new learning journeys we will embark on together. I left the conference energized and uplifted but my bubble was burst when I got to the airport.
While sitting at the gate I received tragic news about a former student and I've spent the last twenty four hours scouring my memories of the time I was lucky enough to spend with her. ISTE is a truly amazing event and learning about new products and services and tech integration strategies was invaluable. But I have to remain mindful of the fact that the tools and the toys must not distract me from my primary responsibility-the kids. Ashley Judd’s keynote has left an indelible mark on me and I take away from #ISTE2014 three simple words: Where were you?