“Why think about that when all the golden land’s ahead of you and all kinds of unforeseen events wait lurking to surprise you and make you glad you’re alive to see?” – Jack Kerouac, On the Road
Upon awaking on Sunday, our second day in Texas, I was excited to visit the Convention Center to check in at registration and pick up our badges and the ISTE tote bags full of program info.
The place was empty and as I walked around with my husband I kept saying, “You just wait until later today when the 20,000 people arrive, this place will be packed!” In fact, the hallways were so clear you could see the decals on the floor.
And the pro-inclusion signs outside the bathroom (we gave these two thumbs-up):
After picking up the tote bags and checking in, we strolled around to get the lay of the land. Knowing I would be presenting at 9:00 am the next day, I was curious what the room was like and of course wanted to get a glimpse at the technology I’d be using. The layout of the San Antonio convention center is easily understood and we found the room without any trouble. Not only that, one of the technology technicians was there setting up surge protectors at every table. So we chatted. He let me know that he was in charge of two rooms (just two rooms!) and would be outside in a chair while I was using the room if I needed help with the projector, microphone or DEDICATED WIFI. This is one of the things I love about ISTE. They spare no expense in ensuring the technology needs are met. Technology is taken seriously!
As we left the area and passed the Presenters Lounge, and I couldn’t help taking a little #presenterpride selfie with the sign. Come on, you would have, too!
At this point in the morning there was nothing on my schedule for a few hours, so we hit the streets on San Antonio to explore. Of course we remembered the Alamo.
San Antonio is a city full of flags:
We walked some of the San Antonio Riverwalk and admired this gem of a landscape architecture project:
Before I knew it the time for my first official ISTE session had come. First up on Sunday was: The Devil’s in the Details: How to Turn Your Curriculum into an Authentic Learning Experience with these fine educators:
This session focused on outlining the structure, processes, and tools for successful project-based learning. Here are a few of the slides:
This was a great way to officially begin the ISTE conference as it got my mind working to apply these tools to my own classroom and the project-based learning units I’m designing.
Next up was the session with Adam Bellow (@adambellow) and Steve Dembo (@teach42): Open the Curiosity Door which was an interactive session about how mindset and framing can have a huge impact on student outcomes, both quantitatively and qualitatively. The auditorium was packed for this session and the energy was good:
STEAM With A Really Big A
Walking around with all of those possibilities for further exploration in my head, I went to one of the hotels to attend the New England ISTE San Antonio Mixer, where I hoped to network with educators from New England. (I know, I had to go to Texas to network with New England people?)
At the mixer I met Gaby Richard-Harrington (@gaby13rh) and I’m really glad I did. Gaby asked me about my presentation (she saw the ribbon on my badge) while I was telling her about it, she suddenly said, “Oh! STEAM with a really big A!” I liked that. I like that so much I decided right then and there to use it as a way to express STEAM with Art as the springboard. If someone else is using this, I’m hope you don’t mind if I use it, too!
It was at this mixer that I was asked “What do you do?” and when I replied “I teach art at the middle school level”, and the questioner responded, “Oh, why are you at ISTE?” and I responded, “Our middle school art curriculum is infused with technology of all types. I’m here to learn from others, to learn about new things, and to share what we’re doing in my classes.” And then I asked her, “What do you do?” and she responded, “I teach social studies.” Of course I asked, “Why are you at ISTE?”. Honestly, I don’t even remember what her answer was. Whoops.
ISTE Opening Keynote
Another thing I love about ISTE are the inspirational keynote speakers for whom we are warmed up by jamming’ musicians and bands. The first keynote session band was The Tiarra Girls (@tiarragirls), a band of young women from a high school in Austin. They were terrific and here is a sampling:
The keynote speaker was introduced by ISTE CEO Richard Culatta (@rec54) whose focus in his speech was Shifts in Education:
Shift 1: From delivery to exploration
Shift 2: From one-size-fits-all to personalized
Shift 3: Using tech to close the equity gap
Richard also made the announcement that the ISTE Standards for Educators had been released and are available for download at: www.iste.org/standards/standards/for-educators
When Jad Abumrad, the host and creator of the popular public radio program “Radiolab,” which is broadcast on 524 stations across the United States, took the stage, we didn’t quite know what to expect. I’m a big fan of radio shows (especially while working in the studio), loving This American Life, Prairie Home Companion, Sez You, etc, but have not listened to many Radiolab shows. Jad Abumrad was fantastic!
Here is the ISTE writeup by Julie Sturgeon:
“For everyone who worries they’ll feel sick at the idea of rocking the boat, Jad Abumrad has an uplifting message: Yes, you will.
The creator and host of Radiolab told the packed keynote audience at ISTE 2017 that he calls this feeling the gut churn.
It’s the place where you are uncomfortable.
Where you feel hopeless.
A void where you aren’t good enough, and mistakes are dogging your heels…
…Abumrad knows it well. As a radio journalist, his career success revolved around how to build his own voice rather than imitate others. It was a test that required looking at things his way, creating his path and filling the emptiness before other voices rushed into his head to crowd out his own.
Along the way, he asked the wrong questions, stumbled in his research, slammed into some dead ends and hit the self-doubt gap — the same frustrations many educators experience when designing new approaches to their classrooms.
He offered these four encouraging tips:
Negativity is your catalyst to reach your goals. Uncertainty is like the dark German forest from fairy tales: It’s frightening every time you find yourself there, but after you survive six or seven times, you realize you can navigate your way out.
Allow the question to become your whole being. When Abumrad is stuck in a problem, he asks, “Am I putting all my nerve endings into this?” Because if you commit to pursuing the question, he adds, “you will probably not get where you think you want to go, but you’ll get somewhere else, and it could be beautiful.”
Do not accept anyone else’s fear. Others are always willing to add cautions or warnings disguised as advice. Kill that sucker. If you stick with your crazy idea, you might let someone down or your end result might not be perfect. But the outcome is not your purpose. It’s to ask the questions.
You will find your voice. While pursuing the seemingly impossible task of trying to describe to a radio audience how different animals would see a rainbow, Abumrad eventually decided to attempt to work with a choir to marry colors and notes.
Conducting that choir was an epiphany. “I thought this was something I couldn’t do; I thought it was something that would never work, and suddenly here we are and it’s working,” he said. “It was a little bit like if you were living in a house and suddenly you opened the door and you realize you have a whole wing of the house you never explored.”
This is the clip Jad showed during his keynote:
But while he encouraged educators to dream big, the reality is that the world has its limitations. Abumrad uses the scientific theory of “adjacent possible” as his way to keep the balance: You don’t have to solve the world’s problems. Just find that one little move you can make right now that will open up myriad possibilities.
And that is the reason educators, in the end, don’t mind the upset stomach.” – Julie Sturgeon
Being an art educator at ISTE, I was thrilled to hear and see Jad’s inclusion of his broadcast on color. With all of the broadcasts he has to choose from, he chose one about a concept that art educators attempt to explain to their students (even though our understanding is somewhat murky – speaking for myself). How absolutely fortuitous.
For the other art educators out there and anyone else who is interested, here is a link to the color/rainbow broadcast, Rippin’ the Rainbow a New One from Radiolab – it’s fantastic: 211178-rip-rainbow
Feeling inspired and mentally prepared to take on ISTE, we left the convention center with only Tex-Mex food as a goal, and walked off into the evening.