My journey to ISTE 2014 began simply enough. We needed one person from every grade level to attend. So sometime during what would become the longest school year known in the history of man, this technologically challenged teacher agreed to do what seemed like a completely crazy thing. I agreed to attend ISTE.
A week before the conference, I really started wondering what I got myself into. Suggestions were flying everywhere; make sure you have the ISTE app on your phone; the Voxer app will make it easier for us to stay in touch; Twitter is a necessity if you want to know what is happening and network; Evernote is a great way to keep all your notes organized; make sure you have a QR reader on your phone. Now for many this would seem like no big deal, but for this Not-So-Techy Teacher it was completely overwhelming!!
Not to be discouraged, I installed apps, searched for available usernames, and created passwords that fulfilled all the capital, character count, and symbol requirements each app desired. Whew! An array of apps galore filled my phone screen and I had 5 whole followers on Twitter! I was ready to rock the technology universe!
Day 1 of ISTE, I began packing my backpack of technology superiority. Since my husband is a technology addict, I have pretty much every gadget known to man at my disposal. The only problem is I don’t know how to do anything buy type a document, answer an e-mail or put up a Facebook status with them! I slumped off to my car dreading that I would need to use all this technology without my personal home TST support. I remained hopefully optimistic that there would be an amazing amount of energy and enthusiasm for the extrovert in me to power through.
I had been advised that the Ignite sessions were worth going to, so I arrived early and stood in my first infamous ISTE line to get in. I sat down looking at my laptop and iPhone waiting for me to take notes as I secretly longed for the pen and paper that I had left at home out of embarrassment. I bit the bullet and opened up Evernote to create the first of what would become many notebooks at the convention.
During the Ignite sessions, I caught a glimpse of what would become themes of the convention. It wasn’t exactly full of information, but felt like a call to arms, a revolution of sorts, but not one that I completely understood. There were quotes that made sense to me. “Go around brick walls. Get out of your comfort zone. Be where the magic happens.”, encouraged Stacy Hawthorne. There was new terminology that I didn’t understand, Genius Hour, 20% inquiry time, and an endless amount of techy language that went way over my head! That feeling of complete and utter overwhelm settled back in as I joined the looping Georgia World Congress line for the keynote. The keynote was a heartfelt glimpse into Ashley Judd’s heart and soul. It was raw and genuine, but gave me no further insight to this ominous ISTE. As my first day at ISTE came to a close, I trekked back to Marta hoping that tomorrow all would become clear for this clearly un-techy teacher.
Day 2 began with more Ignite sessions, Poster sessions, and an iMovie session that wasn’t what I had thought it would be. I really began thinking, when is this going to happen? I was promised a magical experience that would inspire me to WANT to do new and exciting things. I think I am the only person who is seeing that the emperor is naked around here! Show me the magic!
Trudging back late from a long line at lunch, I slunk into one of the backseats of the auditorium as a panel discussed Genius Hour. My ears started to perk up at what I was hearing. Some schools have a time when kids choose what they want to learn?! No worries about the AKS or the standardized tests, just encouraging curiosity and creativity?! What is this mythical teaching practice? How does it work? How do I get to do that? OMG I have found my people! My new best friends are @donwettington, @kleinerin, @angela.meiers, @hughtheteacher and @smartinez! People that I may never know, but can learn from thanks to @alicekeeler’s help to figure out this Twitter thing a few days ago!
With this new energy, I persevered on and saw some slam dunk sessions and some air ball sessions. The big thing I came to realize was that something had changed about me. I had typed and organized every word I wanted to remember in Evernote. I was now a part of one of the biggest networks for teachers, Twitter! Last but not least, I had a new idea that stirred the inner core of my teaching soul which had been feeling lost in a sea of standardized bubbles for way too long! The magic had happened, but not in a single moment as I had been waiting for. It happened one small step at a time as I shifted my thoughts, habits, and thinking about technology for myself. If I could continue to become more comfortable with these tools personally, then imagine what I could do with them in the classroom.
This shift of mindset at ISTE 2014 has become the catalyst for me to finally embrace working more with technology in the classroom. I am embarking upon this next school year with the words from Kevin Carrol, the katalyst, as my mantra. “Don’t talk about it, BE about it. You can’t do anything with a broke want to. If your dream doesn’t scare you it’s not big enough.”
This blog is my first step in towards the dream that I CAN become a technology comfortable teacher. It is only a baby step towards a much larger goal that will forever evolve. It is here to ensure that I am living up to those words. To make sure that I remain accountable for the uncomfortable steps necessary to encourage creativity in a positive learning environment for EVERY student that I work with, while embracing new technology to make it better.
My goal is to share the successes AND failures of the new things I attempt. My hope is that it will help encourage others to try new things in the classroom without the fear of failure. I am not on a mission to become THE Techy Teacher just a teacher that is comfortable using technology. I want to encourage people who are a bit afraid of this journey, like me, to continue to try new technology and creative approaches to learning a little bit at a time. Stay tuned to see what this Not-So-Techy Teacher tries out this year! Twitter and blogging today…tomorrow something new. Small steps, let’s make them together!