Not being at ISTE far exceeded my expectations. The comradery between the #NotAtISTE group fervently sharing and notifying each other of all the amazing resources exponentially being shared at ISTE was inspiring. Not to mention the educator community at ISTE who went out of their way to share said resources. When all of the dust has settled, Google Drive folders and Keep Notes have been organized, I have been left with a sense of something I cannot name. The aftermath of not being at ISTE has produced something even more uncomfortable and anxiety-inducing than FOMO: an unwavering urge to, well, do something.
There’s something to be said in the power of educators getting together face-face for a noble cause: advocating for students. Not only is there power in educators getting together for students but even more can be said about the sense of purpose when educators get together for each other. While the fancy gadgets, updates, and the next best thing are awesome indicators of advance; I believe the true Easter Eggs lie in the conversations educators had online, in their little ISTE nooks, with presenters at sessions and playgrounds, at meals, pounding the pavement in Chicago and beyond. When we shift the conversation to how this can benefit students and amplify underrepresented voices that the true change begins. Technology is a catalyst for positive change and what better place to shout from the rooftops the benefit of intentional and meaningful technology integration than the annual ISTE conference?
So what next? What to do with all of these great resources, amazing conversations online and off and connections with educators across the world?
We are ambassadors of our schools and communities as educators. Taking back inspiration to your context is sometimes the most challenging thing to do. To continue to fire the flame of motivation and feeling of purpose and educational euphoria in your schools, classrooms, and district is a priority but cannot be done alone. Here are some tips for making a difference after ISTE.
Ever heard of the Butterfly Effect? The one thing you try in your classroom or share with other educators after ISTE can make a difference. It can spread like a Fornite Frenzy from classroom to classroom and exponentially affect the learning experiences of hundreds of students or more. Think of one thing you were inspired about trying at ISTE. Now go do it. Please.
Red Rover It
Is there a practice that you are doing or is common practice in your school that does not benefit students? Steamroll it by implementing one new thing you learned at ISTE that can help solve this challenge in your classroom or school. Then, share with your team, school leaders and/or online learning community and highlight how this strategy impacted student learning and your teaching.
Follow the Leader
There is some truth in the Top-Down effect. School leaders can make it or break it. Make the culture of your school/district the priority and reflected in all conversations and experiences around students and teaching. How can you take the energy of educators at ISTE and bring that back to your school/district? How can you replicate the sharing of meaningful technology integration and self-motivated professional development both online and offline in your school or district? When students are the casualty in misguided policies it is never OK or the intended outcome. Take a look at the ISTE Standards for Education Leaders for a framework on how to get started.
YoLo Instead of Silo
Get your YoLo on and turn those Silos into Starbucks. There’s a reason why I pay almost $5 for a coffee at a coffee house. I can sit where I want, read and do what I want and meet up and share with people I want to. I often leave a good coffee house content that I have checked off my to-do list but also inspired by conversations with others. Sharing a conversation inevitably leads to change. Provide spaces and time in your school where you can easily share what you learned while at ISTE/NotAtISTE. Create “Campfire Zones” and flexible spaces where both students and educators can have great conversations and experiences. Read more about how to create inspiring spaces here.
Go Big or Go Home
It’s OK to stand out for going above and beyond. Celebrate others who do so. ‘Nuff said.
The Schoolhouse Does Not Rock
Our antiquated version of school needs to go. Now. Students sitting in rows, facing the teacher on the stage, finishing worksheet after worksheet while the teacher writes the answers on the chalkboard, white-board, overhead and/or projector is a hard, established myth of what school is defined to be. Turn the narrative of how students “are supposed to learn” upside down and give the classrooms, or, learning spaces a much need facelift. No, never mind that. Bulldoze them and build your own design and vision of technology integration and learning spaces with students.
Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign
Look for opportunities to advocate for students and teachers. Look to your community, what it needs and what voices aren’t being heard or need to be amplified. Feel like there is an unbalance to students as consumers rather than creators in your school? Testing taking up too much time and not enough teacher-student feedback? Speak up and offer solutions and alternatives or share a tool /strategy that you learned at ISTE/NotAtISTE. Change up the weekly Staff Meeting and highlight a teacher or teacher team who was courageous enough to try something new with students and it worked! Challenging the way things “have always been done” is the only way we can transform the classroom for all learners. Going against the Status Quo can be hard but it is essential to leadership and school change.
Google Certified Innovator
Instructional Technology Facilitator
Vancouver Public Schools