I've just wrapped up four days in Philadelphia at ISTE 2011, and my first reaction is "Oh damn, I have not written nearly enough." I do have at least half a dozen stories on the docket, and that's likely how I'll spend my Fourth of July holiday weekend: hammering those out.
Someone asked me earlier today what my favorite part of the event was, and I replied without hesitation: "seeing everyone." That's really the draw of ISTE for me: to be in the place where educators gather. I didn't attend many sessions; and I didn't really spend that much time on the exhibit floor. Yet the time flew by, and I was busy as hell: talking to people, seeing old friends, making new ones.
"Did you see any interesting new tech?" was the follow-up question -- a fair one, to be sure, since that's what I'm supposed to write about as a tech journalist, right? And I did see some neat things. But that tech wasn't necessarily on the showroom floor. There were some cool things in the exhibit hall, don't get me wrong. But it was great to see the guerilla-style demos -- folks showing off their apps to teachers and soliciting feedback -- crucial -- not just sales. I think there should be a hackathon at ISTE 2012, quite frankly, because we need to have teachers and students and developers come together to build things, to solve problems, to meet real needs. There's such a disconnect between the education and the tech sometimes, and it's disheartening.
The question about "my favorite thing" came prior to the closing keynote. And now I have an addendum as the students from Science Leadership Academy who performed their poetry before their principal, Chris Lehmann, delivered the keynote were simply brilliant. The poetry group spoke passionately and eloquently about what education means -- what it means when classrooms are like cages, what it means when the government finds money to fund prisons but not schools, and what it means when children go to school in an environment that honors their individuality, their creativity, and their beauty. It was a powerful reminder of what our task really is with education -- to help children become thoughtful, kind, and empowered people, not simply to be "tech users" or "tech consumers" or "tech-savvy workers."