My family jokes with me that attending ISTE is just an excuse for me to have a vacation with my friends. As I sit and think about that, I know that some part of it is true. Where else can I go to find 18,000 or so people who share with me many of the same core values and beliefs about education?
Another big part of ISTE is attending some great sessions… and there were so many great sessions! From EduBloggerCon on Saturday to poster sessions, ISTE Unplugged, and even taking part in presenting a panel session with three great educators whom I admire greatly… there’s just so much learning and sharing taking place at this conference!
But the most valuable part of attending ISTE for me is the building of relationships. In some cases, it’s about seeing old friends, catching up, and bonding. It’s also about meeting new people, discussing new ideas, learning from each other, and beginning conversations that will continue long past the closing keynote at ISTE (which, by the way, was a phenomenal closing keynote by Chris Lehmann– go watch it here if you haven’t already!).
I’m not sure why this last point is so difficult to explain to people who have never experienced it. The experiences we have– whether they’re taking place in a session, in the Bloggers’ Cafe, the Newbie Lounge, walking to lunch, or at a table while listening to some really fun karaoke– seem, to many people on the outside, like one big party. In some ways, that may be true… BUT it’s also much, much more than that. The friendships I’ve forged in attending ISTE conferences over the last 6 years have been some of the most meaningful, both professionally and personally. These are not my “imaginary” or virtual friends and colleagues. These are real people who have enriched my life for the better.