Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Home Sweet ISTE!

(I decided to create a new blog home page. My previous blogs about technology can be accessed on the Technology Tidbits page.)

A view of the San Diego Convention Center from PetCo Park.
       By the sounds of my title, you would infer that I have been to ISTE several times, but this actually was my first year attending ISTE…I was a newbie.  You see, I grew up in Oxford, MI, a small town north of Detroit.  (Yes, the same Oxford that is referenced in Dr. Yong Zhao’s new book!)  Oxford is the type of town where you run into people you know anywhere you go.  My mom is a social butterfly, and a simple trip to Food Town would turn into a 2 hour trip, as she would run into people throughout the store.  When someone asked you if you knew someone they knew from Oxford, most of the time, I knew that person.  It was, and I believe still is, a close knit community.
        Going away to college at Western Michigan University, I never thought I would be able to feel that sense of community in Kalamazoo, yet it happened sometime during my junior year.  I remember going to Meijer and running into several people I knew throughout the store.  I was having a Cathy moment! (Of course referencing how my mom could work a grocery store with her connections.)  My connections at college continued, and I was able to make Kalamazoo feel like home!
      I have lived in Brighton, MI now for around 10 years now, and I think it took around 4 years to start having those moments when I would run into several people in a store.  People from church, from my neighborhood, etc.  Now, most times I go out in Brighton I run into people I know and have several Cathy moments. 
        Traveling to ISTE solo, and with  20,000 people attending the conference, I expected to find myself alone for the majority of the conference.  Boy was I wrong!
       When I found my seat on the plane departing from Detroit to San Diego, I heard a voice say, “Mam, you can’t sit there.”  I looked and saw a middle school teacher from my school district.  I learned that we both were staying at the same hotel too!  He was traveling with others from Tech Smith, so we all rode to the hotel together.  We decided to catch a bite to eat, and upon leaving our hotel, we ran into yet another Michigan technology leader, Dan Spencer.  He joined us for lunch.  I had to get my food to go, as I had to meet a group from edmodo for the Padres game.  I enjoyed reuniting with Lucia, a representative from edmodo that I worked a lot with prepping for last year’s EdmodoCon (FYI…August 8 is EdmodoCon this year!) I also met Jill, another edmodo representative that worked a lot with my district.  In addition, I was able to meet other power users of edmodo.  I was especially excited to meet Robert Miller who is using edmodo is such creative ways with his 5th graders and US History! 
      After being at the game for a bit, I went to get something to drink.  Upon walking back to my seat, I realized that Pam Shoemaker, our district technology coordinator, was sitting a row behind me.  WOW!  Within the first 3 hours of being in San Diego, I had connected with the only 2 people from my district and had connected with others from my PLN! 
Jill Florant, from edmodo, and I enjoyed the Padres game!
     From that moment on, regardless if I was walking through the exhibit hall, ISTE Central, my hotel, or anywhere at the San Diego Convention Center, the most time in between connecting with someone was around 15 minutes. It was as if ISTE became Oxford for me…all because of my PLN!  Through connections built using edmodo and twitter, I was able to feel a part of the ISTE community!  Ironically enough, on my last day at ISTE, I ran into a fellow Oxford High School graduate that I hadn’t seen for 8 years.
     I hope the hometown feel continues through my ISTE experiences…and beyond...a hometown feel I never even thought was possible in a sea of 20,000 people and a large city.  The power of a strong PLN made my ISTE experience! (And hanging out with Jason and Erin Klein who allowed me to be their third wheel on Wednesday!  Thanks for your mentorship! )  I look forward to ISTE 13 and all the conferences in between where I will be able to connect again! 

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