Written by CUE Member Reuben Hoffman
The convention center was sparse. The registration lines were empty. Where are they? I asked myself. Traveling down an escalator, I started to hear the buzz of voices. I turned the corner and there they were, sitting in groups of 10 to 30, circled up. Some were on the floor, some in untraditional convention spaces and others in conference rooms with tables with chairs. Hundreds of educators were spending their day before the official start to ISTE in Atlanta at the Hack Education Unconference. My ISTE 2014 had begun!
Before I could sit down and join a conversation, I started connecting with numerous friends, either people I had met face to face at other educational gatherings or those that I had known for years via social media. I even ran into a friend from Australia I met last September at the Mobile Learning Experience 2013 in Tucson, AZ. This is the power of ISTE! There is no other conference I attend that brings together as many educators interested in educational technology from around the world as the ISTE Conference.
BrewCUE, Photowalks, Ignite Talks, a presenter that wows you, taking time to explore the World of Coca-Cola, having dinner with friends you only see at conferences, presenting to a packed house and being overwhelmed by the vendor hall are just some of the things I’ll remember during my five days at ISTE 2014.
While everyone experiences ISTE in their own way, a few things had everyone buzzing. On Friday night, after the Hack Education Unconference, the BrewCUE event at Der Beirgarten, organized by Moss Pike, was the place to be. While people came and went, the smiles, hugs and laughs continued for six hours. On Saturday, many people took advantage of their pre-conference free time by hitting a tourist attraction like World of Coca-Cola, the Center for Human and Civil Rights, the Georgia Aquarium, CNN Tour, a stroll through Centennial Olympic Park or a trip over to MLK Memorial National Park.
Saturday afternoon, the Ignite Session, kicking off the conference, had a line that snaked through the convention center. The five-minute inspirational talks were delivered to a packed house with many more eager people trying to catch it in overflow areas. Immediately following the Ignite Session, people were lining up two hours early for the opening keynote.
On Sunday, the general sessions started, my favorite being Ken Shelton’s “An Eye on Visual Storytelling and Visual Literacy.” Ken focused on visual storytelling, digital storytelling and cinematic narrative. While his content was excellent, his delivery choice of images, flow of information, and the way he built in audience participation was perfect modeling of an effective presentation. I walked out of Ken Shelton’s session pumped to get back in the classroom. That night was vendor party night. While some of these parties were exclusive, others were not. The biggest hit was the Gaggle Party, where everything was free all night. Needless to say, many people had a difficult time making it to Monday morning’s keynote.
After the morning keynote address, Dan McDowell and I presented an ISTE Live session. Who knows how we fell into that, but the packed room, with lights shining brightly, the camera focused in on us and sitting down with our moderator afterwards to answer questions of the virtual audience, equalled a great experience for us. That night, many ISTE attendees sang and danced the night away at the CUE-sponsored Ed Tech Karaoke or headed over to Turner Field to watch the Atlanta Braves baseball game. On the final day of ISTE, Tuesday, things were winding down and people were attending their last sessions, grabbing the last of the Georgia Peach Fruit Bars or maybe just milling about in the convention center to say goodbye to their friends before heading home.
ISTE is many things to many people. For me, it is is a chance to see some of the most innovative and inspiring individuals in education present, hear and see what is at the forefront of educational thought, reflect on my teaching and consider what new things to try next school year.
Most importantly, though, it is the one opportunity I have every year to connect, face to face, with friends from all over the world.
Reuben Hoffman is a Social Sciences teacher at West Hills High School in Santee, CA. He has been recognized as a district teacher of the year and a technology lead learner. Reuben became a Google Education Trainer in 2013 and, more recently, a Google Certified Teacher at GTAATL. He is also the 2nd VP for SDCUE. If you would like to know more about Reuben, visit reubenhoffman.com