ISTE History: Through the Changing Eyes of a Third Grader Turned Let’s Say Thirty Something

“First” ISTE Conference: I enjoyed my “first” ISTE conference this week in San Diego, CA!  It was exciting for me on a few levels.  I have followed the works of many of the presenters that I attended for several years now, so hearing them present in person was fun, but I’ll leave that for part II.  As I reflect, it is decidedly at a much more personal level that ISTE was unexpectedly important to me.  Perhaps the story of my “first” ISTE conference in 2012 began back in the 1980’s as a third grade girl eagerly anticipating a trip over the mountain passes from Idaho to Oregon to visit her dad who dedicated summers to earning a Masters in Computer Science in Eugene, OR.  Yes, this was back before online learning was an option. 

I have been exposed to Ed Tech my whole life and probably interested in it roughly since birth, but for whatever reasons only in more recent years discovered how much myself.  It was an honor to attend with my dad, an excellent computer science/math teacher at the high school level.  The founder of ISTE, Dave Moursund, was his advisor and instructor in Eugene, OR when I was a just a kid back in the 80’s.   I recall hearing about a man who expected excellence of his students and received respect from my father.  As we sat together during some of the keynotes, the history of ISTE and its leaders unexpectedly became of interest to me.  A new human dimension was added to the organization as we discussed the changes of the organization and educational technology in general.

I should take a step back and clarify.  This is not the only time I have been to an ISTE conference with my dad; it’s the only time I have attended.  My dad presented a couple times, once on Skype in Washington DC in 2009 and a presentation entitled,Think Wireless, in 2001 in Chicago, IL.  The 2001 date is memorable because it was the year I met him in Chicago embracing my 4 month old daughter.  I was honestly more interested in showing him his first granddaughter than in hearing about his presentation.  There also may have been years in my youth in which I tagged along, but if I did shopping and the big city filled my thoughts more than what my geeky father was doing at this crazy convention.  I also recall hearing many enthusiastic stories from both of my parents of where Ed Tech was headed in more recent years after their attendance.  Somehow I just didn’t get it until this year.  And now it has connected in several ways for me: from the speakers I’ve heard my father “introduce” me to over the years— Annette Lamb and Kathy Schrock for example, to the history of the organization, to the concept that technology is NOT the emphasis of Ed Tech; it is fundamentally about education and people (or at least that is how I will choose to see it).

ISTE/NECC History: I’m not generally a history buff, but when connections are made, it comes alive.  My dad said he felt like ISTE has exponentially grown over the years. This year’s ISTE history page shows his perceptions are right on.  In 2011, there were 355 concurrent sessions while in 1979 (then called NECC) 32 sessions ran.  Comparing conference themes as they have changed and remained the same also brings up lively conversations. Add a comparison of the exhibitors and this info. would make an interesting infographic!  This history triggers my interest to know what changes the speakers, such as Lamb, November, Richardson,  Schrock, and Warlick, whom I particularly liked and listened to during the conference have experienced. What advice would they give to a “newcomer” such as myself?

And my story doesn’t end quite yet:  My daughter and mother also attended the exhibits.  If you were there, you may have seen them walking around in yellow Turning Technologies capes.  It’s hard to say if my kiddo was more interested in Ed Tech or shopping as I was at her age, but she did give up a day at Sea World for browsing the exhibit hall.

Seemingly random but connected ending thought of a let’s say thirty something year old:  This is not verbatim, but I overheard two ladies presumably walking to a conference session on augmented reality.  One lady animatedly expressed, “I AM augmented reality.  I augment my student’s reality everyday with who I AM as an educator.”  Yes, it’s about the people.  More specifically, it’s about the educators and learners, and the definitions hopefully blur as we move forward.  Moving forward with the technology is exciting, but the history and being grounded in the people—students/educators, keeps it real and in my case in the family.   

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