I’m going to ISTE this summer (insert jealous groans). I’ve never gone before, but because of some strategic planning and a supportive spouse, I’m off to Philly next week. Being relatively new to the ed tech community (at least on Twitter), I was surprised by how many other educators are going to ISTE for the first time or have never even been to a national conference. And that got me thinking…am I weird?
Okay, okay. I know people who’ve met me in person probably just got a chuckle because they said, “yes.” Joking aside, I really think I might be odd. ISTE is my 2nd technology conference but will actually be the 6th time I’ve been to a national conference in 9 years of teaching, and that doesn’t include the numerous state and regional conferences I’ve been to.
Why? I’m not really sure. I think it likely goes back to my student teaching. My cooperating teacher for my elementary placement was always involved in our professional music education organizations and attended conferences. So naturally, I got involved in organizations and went to conferences.
Maybe it’s a music teacher thing. Many music educators I know make the annual pilgrimage to the Minneapolis Convention Center for our state music conference. Maybe we do it because there is such a thing as a state music conference. Is there such a thing as a first grade conference?
Maybe it’s because district-provided professional development almost never talks about how to be a better music teacher. Yes, I know that good teaching is good teaching, but once in awhile it might be nice to hear from someone who gets what it’s like to teach ten 30-minute classes everyday with no downtime and then assess and grade every single kid in the entire school building.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have been loving Twitter the past year for growing as a professional educator. But nothing can replicate the anticipation of arriving at the conference site and the excitement of bringing it all back to your kids on Monday (or September). Some professional development still needs to be in person. Connections with other educators still happen face to face. In fact, I would argue that Twitter has made these events even more meaningful – I am willing to bet that many ISTE attendees are excited about the conference in part because they get to meet some of their Tweeps in real life!
Now I know everyone has their reasons for not going to a conference: too far away, too expensive, nobody to watch the kids, can’t get leave from school, etc. But if you can, even once, possibly swing it to make it work, do it. Even if it’s not a national conference. Go anyway. Write grants, get money from your school district, save your pennies, or whatever. Make a family trip out of it if you can. If you pick a good conference, you will be blown away by what you can learn and who you can meet.
I’m actually heading to Philly for ISTE via Pittsburgh to visit some family (remember, make it a family trip?), so I’m leaving next Thursday. I hope to report back before I go to tell you all of the amazing things I’m hoping to do and see while I’m there! While I’m gone, check out some PD conferences, ok? Maybe even some of these…