ISTE, where to begin? It was three days of listening, learning, meeting, and thinking. And I’m exhausted! Though I didn’t score much swag (this girl likes to travel light), I came home with pages and pages of notes; numerous tweets and retweets; loads of QR codes, Twitter handles, and websites; and dozens of photos of cool ideas I can’t wait to share.
First of all, I have to give some love to Philly itself. I’ve never visited before, but what a beautiful city! We walked almost everywhere and saw wonderful sites that I’ve only seen in photos, such as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. We took a selfie with the “Love” sign and climbed the Rocky Steps. When we got into town on Sunday night, we saw the Violent Femmes, Colin Hay, and the Barenaked Ladies in concert at the Mann Center, a BEAUTIFUL venue for a summer evening concert. And to top it all off, we saw amazing Lego statues at the Franklin Institute (the artist was Nathan Sawaya – check him out!). On Tuesday night, a group of Minnesota folks met up at a nearby Irish pub to meet and connect. I got to meet several folks who do what I do and pick their brains about ed tech ideas. And I even got to meet a few folks I’d only heard from on Twitter or Voxer (Hey Sharon and Chris!).
ISTE brought another new experience: Uber! Whoever invented this service is my own personal hero. As someone who values efficiency and ease, Uber is the real deal. For those who aren’t familiar, Uber is essentially a car/driver service. Using the iPhone app, you put in your starting location and where you’d like to go. You can see an estimate of how much your trip will cost, your approximate wait time for a driver, and select the type of car you want (there are different sizes and pricing levels if you want). And since your credit card information is in app, you don’t need to worry about getting change or carrying cash. Plus, no worrying about dishonest cab drivers taking a longer route with the meter running. We used the service four times during our trip and I’d highly recommend it!
ISTE itself is…..overwhelming! The convention center in Philadelphia spans about 3 city blocks and I think ISTE used all of it. There was more than once that I was a couple of minutes late for a session because I had to walk from one end to the other. The ISTE app was extremely helpful, though, because it came with a built in map that showed where each session was when you clicked on it.
Okay, so here’s what I learned in terms of planning and logistics:
- Bring a portable charger. You would not believe the number of people camped out along the walls with their devices plugged in trying to recharge. I never had to do that once because I had a power source in my bag. I have this one (though I did not pay $250) which allows me to plug in both my phone and iPad at the same time (assuming I remember to bring two cords).
- Keep your bag light. I tried to do this, but my shoulders are still sore from carrying a bag for 3 days straight (plus 3 days of traveling before). I downsized my device by taking my iPad mini and leaving my MacBook in my hotel room. I took notes on my device using Evernote and took pictures where I could instead of taking physical items. This is also helpful when trying to avoid checking a bag at the airport.
- Diversify your sessions. I’m really interested in PD right now, but by Wednesday I had had enough for awhile. Instead, I went to a stop-motion session on Tuesday that was amazing (taught by Cathy Hunt, an amazing Aussie art teacher) and got a bunch of ideas for my art teacher.
- Check out the poster sessions! Some were okay and some were great! I got so many great ideas just by walking around and looking and listening. And so many of them had QR codes or websites where they share literally everything. Carve out some time and be sure to check them out.
- Share your learning. When I could (and the wi-fi was working), I tried to tweet my learning to others. Not only does this spread the learning love, but it helps you pick out the main ideas and be able to go back through them. On a related note, follow the people you learn from (formally or informally) and grow your PLN while you’re at the conference.
- Do plan out your day ahead of time. The ISTE app allows you to add your sessions to your calendar. This worked well for me and then I added in time between the sessions to check out the poster sessions, playgrounds, and the expo hall. Because there’s really no down time at the conference, it helps to know right away where you’re going next, especially if you also need to hit the bathroom or food cart on the way.
I will be writing posts over the next few days about what I learned in sessions, but I’ll stop for now. All in all, a great experience and I hope to go to ISTE 2016 in Denver. See you there?