Last week, I had the absolute pleasure of attending my first-ever International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference in Philadelphia. Since I was a newbie, I attempted to gather as much information before arrival as possible. I read up on all the advice the “veterans” had posted on the Conference Ning and the ISTE Young Educators Network Ning, and the awesome Newbie Lounge put together by @BethStill. As I was gathering all of this information, I thought, “Hey, here is a good opportunity for me to really use Evernote!” I had been wanting to use it for some time, but had never really found myself in a situation where I needed to keep all kinds of information in one spot. So I started clipping and bookmarking all of the online resources I found and put them in Evernote. I added websites for information on social gatherings, Google Docs that people were sharing, websites for landmarks that we wanted to see, tweets from others going to the conference, my own packing list, and maps of places I wanted to see. Then, while at the conference, I used Evernote to take notes in sessions, add websites from presenters, add photos of things I liked, and keep everything in one place. It was pretty awesome, not to mention that it synched flawlessly between my iPhone and iPad, no matter which device I used.
As for the conference, I was amazed at just how large it was and how many people were there. I knew it was going to be big from what I’d read, but I was truly amazed by the size of the conference center, including the vendor exhibits. I did attend some sessions, and I was careful to make sure that I didn’t over-plan my days, as was suggested by many. I did make a mistake though. While I did see some excellent presentations, I wish that I had attended more sessions that were out of my “comfort zone.” I found that many of the presentations that I went to did not offer me any new insight or really that many new ideas (although I got some great ones from @DoReMiGirl and @michellek107), mainly because they were about things I already knew. Next time, I will attend sessions that include topics that I don’t really know anything about.
My really big takeaway from the conference was getting to meet so many great people face-to-face. Some of these folks I had literally been waiting years to meet, and it was awesome! Social media (and Twitter in particular) has been a huge life-changer for me in that it has allowed me to become far less shy than I used to be. I wrote about this some time back here. In years past at a conference like this, I probably would have kept to myself and not talked to many people, but at #iste11, I was more than eager to walk up to anyone that I recognized and say hello! The absolute best part of the conference for me was getting to meet these people and the great conversations that we engaged in. There were even many folks who recognized me! This was totally unexpected, and I am completely flattered that anyone would even remember seeing little old me on twitter. There is something truly special about meeting people in person that you have only ever known virtually. I don’t think I can eloquently put it into words. I even got to meet people for the first time that I did not know before! It was an awesome experience, and I even felt a little sad at the end of the conference, knowing that I probably wouldn’t see many of those folks again in at least a year, or maybe even more! But, what’s great is that we are able to continue those conversations through our favorite social media outlets after the conference is over.
It was an awesome conference and I highly recommend it to anyone, if you are able to go! I hope to see many of you again at the next one!