ISTE 2014 Initial Reflection- More Questions Than Answers


How can I even begin to write about ISTE?  Short answer? I absolutely loved it.

I drank in every moment of it.  I loved the travel (yes, after living through a plane crash years ago, I can finally say that!), the humidity (goodbye excema, even just for a few days), walking through Olympic Park, seeing the skyline at night, the workshops, Chick fil-A 🙂 visiting the Canadian Consulate, meals shared, memories made…

I need to clarify, though.  ISTE wasn’t just the sessions at the Georgia World Congress Center and being a tourist, it was the late night conversations, the unforgettable breakfasts, connecting with my #sd36learn crew over dinners and laughter, the walks/uber/taxi/MARTA rides to and from the hotel and events, waiting in line for the bathroom at the convention center, and even (yes, even) the expo hall…

For me, ISTE was about the people.

I could try to name all the brilliant people that have played a role in shaping my thinking, but I worry I would leave someone out.   You know may or may not know who you are.  Thank you for sharing your thoughts, experiences and building a shared history with me.

Sure, there were things that I simply don’t understand, that confused me, stressed me out and even upset me and made me mad.  But I am extremely grateful to have the experience of being with so many brilliant people who share some of the same ideals and goals that I do.

So here I am at home struggling to find words to describe how I am untangling this experience- trying to reconstruct and put this new learning into my present construct.  Truth be told, I’m a little lost and overwhelmed, but time will help with that.

I’ll try to keep this brief.  Maybe I’ll even come out of the blogging black hole I have been in this year and blast out a post or two more…but for now I’m just trying to figure out what I am even attempting to figure out.

I have so many questions racing around my brain that I am having difficulty even imagining what my classroom will look like in the fall, let alone trying to articulate my learning.  I’ve decided to be more vulnerable than I’m comfortable being and blog about what I am thinking and the questions I have, because my greatest take away from ISTE is that I have a group of people who want to help and support me by engaging in critical conversation.   Feel free to chime in any time, friends 🙂

So here are some questions/ideas that I am wrestling with at the moment:

-Why do we do what we do, what is best for the whole child?  What is fundamental to my professional identity?  Do I stay the course?  Do I change direction?

-Where is my balance in how I approach the weighting of inquiry vs. content?   Is teaching the skills of inquiry (questioning, collaboration, perseverance, critical feedback, communication and more) bigger than teaching the fundamentals of language and numeracy?  How do I marry my belief that practice is important in skill development with my belief that teaching thinking is what kids really need?  How can I integrate skills and processes more?  And what about what I am most passionate about-the arts and creating?

-Why do we use smart boards when a plain old whiteboard will do the same thing? Is technology putting distance and barriers between my students and I?   Am I missing something when I saw all the big name publishers saying their product will make my classroom more ______ (insert latest buzzword here…) and didn’t believe a word they said?

-What about teaching the whole child?  I’m pondering the myriad of qualities I want my students to develop and what I need to do to support my students in the skills and attitudes of being: social-emotional, academic, engaged, kind, generous, gracious, graceful, contributing, appreciating, being present in the moment…when do we lose sight of the basic skills of being happy, content people?

-I am in that uncomfortable space of wanting to know what is the right thing to do for kids and trying to pull it all together-when it isn’t together in my own understanding of tools and processes that will guide a child towards good questioning and inquiry skills…or really, just life skills.

-When are we going to look at tech that addresses the needs of kids with anxiety?  I was looking all over the expo hall for somebody that is the innovator in the field of social/emotional needs in the classroom.  What about something that will help a child to track his/her heart rate and prompt the child to calm, breathe, alter their self talk?  (Kinda like an emotional “fitbit” for kids)  I didn’t find anything that addresses those coping skills and it’s DESPERATELY needed for the kids in my classroom.

Kinda a lot, right?


I’m grateful that ISTE was at the beginning of the summer so that I can have some time to ponder, read and visualize how I will begin to address these questions in my own classroom in the fall.  I need some serious time in the garden to get some thinking done if I’m going to even attempt to have an action plan in time for school to start!

I’m also grateful that I have a brilliant group of friends to reach out to and seek answers with.

And that’s really the best part of ISTE for me.

What questions did your ISTE experience spark in you?


ISTE 2014 Initial Reflection- More Questions Than Answers — 8 Comments

  1. Great questions, Diana! I believe that good questions are far better than any answers we might find anyway. It was great to get to meet you in Atlanta. I hope we’ll stay connected and maybe even get around to doing a book study together.

  2. Diana, I love these questions, and many plague me too. However I also strongly believe it’s our desire to keep searching for what is best for our students that helps us move in the direction of what is best. We may never actual get there but we can keep our heads held high in that we are committed to try. On going reflection and life long learning is who we are as educators, and while we will make mistakes along the way, we are able to acknowledge them and move forward. As for the social emotional piece, I so strongly believe that we can help our students there with the relationships we create and foster with them. Nothing makes me angrier than a tech company that thinks it knows my students and can replace the relationship I have with them. Thanks for getting me thinking this morning my friend. I can only imagine how deep our conversations around these questions will be F2F.

    • As always, I appreciate your wisdom Karen! We need to make a point of committing to a regular chat time, it’s kinda funny that the first time I saw you speak was when we were both on the other side of the continent 🙂 Thanks again for your support and encouragement at ISTE, right down to practicing my ignite talk with me in the hotel hallway at midnight! I look forward to many conversations to come!

      • Diana, I think it’s pretty normal not to sit in sessions of people you can see face to face. The funny thing is I got most nervous when people from my own district stopped by my sessions. Some how it’s much easier to share passions with people you don’t know, than with people you do. Strange right? As for the regular chat sessions I 100% say YES! You always get me thinking and I love that. I also need to help you see how truly incredible you are as an educator. Seriously girl! Now the question is do you think I can add the midnight hallway Ignite session practicing into my ISTE blog post? xoxo K

  3. Wow! I find myself agreeing with your questions Diana. I’m sad to have missed ISTE, but tried to keep up with the Twitter feed and now the blogs. Your questions about balancing inquiry with content are heavy on my mind right now as well. I believe as long as we keep questioning our practice we will better prepare ourselves and our students. I’d love to hear more of your thoughts… 🙂

    • Hey Laura, you would have contributed so much to the #sd36learn crew that went to ISTE! I would love to chat with you more and pick your brain, I really respect what you do in your classroom!

  4. Wonderful questions as you reflect about your experience. Although not at ISTE I followed hashtags #ISTE 2014 and #NOTATISTE14 & now reading blogs about peoples’ experiences. With genuine amazement and delight I see so many writing about connecting to PLN, building relationships and discussions about concerns. Your concerns resonate with me. I teach kindergarten and look at the Whole Child first.

    • Hi Faige 🙂 Even though we haven’t met in person, I have learned so much from you. That is the power of Twitter and having a PLN and am really glad we can learn together. I admire the way kindergarten teachers teach the whole child and have spent two years watching my son blossom in a responsive curriculum in his preschool. I hope to be able to do this more in my classroom this coming year. Thanks again for your comment and connecting with me, I really appreciate it!

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