Connections…again, it’s all about the connections #tcea14

February 7, 2014 § 1 Comment

I just finished up a full week in Austin at #tcea14, and just like with ISTE, my conference was made all the more valuable by the connections I made with people.

A few years ago, I had really soured on the idea of going to conferences like ISTE and TCEA because I felt like most of the sessions were geared toward folks who didn’t know ed tech like I know ed tech, and that it had become less about discovery and teaching and learning, and more about how many amazing things you could show people in a short amount of time.

I also felt like the exhibit floor had gotten stale, and there wasn’t really anything new or innovative as far as technology from the vendors presenting there.

I still feel that way about the general conference, but there are always gems to be found, and I’ve learned what sessions to avoid. I also had to start telling myself that it’s OK to NOT go to session every hour of the day, and that it’s OK to sit around in the digital square to have conversations with like minded people.

My biggest takeaways were from the conversations I had with others. Today was a perfect example. As I walked in out of the cold, I heard my name called out as I was passing by the digital square. Miguel Guhlin (@mguhlin) said to me, “Tim (@timholt2007) is about to start a podcast. Sit down and join us.”

Sitting at the table with Miguel and Tim were Jake Duncan (@duncanbilingual) and Wendy Sanders* (@kenya75), both of whom I’d never met in person. Sort of. Wendy had been in a session with me earlier in the week, which I’ll get to in a minute.

Unfortunately, Jake had to leave shortly after we started our conversation, but we sat there and talked for at least an hour about all kinds of things that we’d seen at the conference. At one point, Wendy brought up a session about learning spaces that David Jakes (@djakes) had led earlier in the week. She started talking about the person who had asked about mounting projectors and the problem that poses with rearranging the learning space. That person was me, and she realized it halfway through her criticism of my point of trying to mount projectors for all teachers, then turned and apologized to me for arguing with me about it. I told her not to worry. That conversation had actually changed my mindset about how the classroom should be set up, and that I’ll bring it up the next time I meet with our district technology committee.

By the way, I also learned some really interesting things about Barney from Wendy. Yes, that Barney. Ask her about it next time you see her.

We also talked about what we felt the conference should be compared to what it actually is. That has inspired me to submit a proposal for next year’s conference that goes in depth with a small number of apps or web sites and show teachers how they can use them to address key curriculum pain points, which almost no one does at this conference.

I was finally able to meet Kristy Vincent (@bigpurplehat) in person this year. We’ve been tweeting at each other for years, and we got to chatting when both of our LearnEd sessions went bust. She and I both became Technology Directors this year, both in small districts, and we started trading war stories. I told her that TCEA really needed a “new tech director’s” session, which she tweeted out, and immediately got retweeted and favorited.

I met Jon Samuelson (@ipadsammy) this week. Again. Turns out we lived on the same floor in college at Illinois State University. We used to go to basketball games together, and I have a photo of him in a group with all of our dorm-mates from 25 years ago. Crazy. Small. World.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the connections I made with the people from my own district. I had great conversations with my Instructional Technology Coordinator, Cheryl Young (@clib78), our High School librarian, Nicole Ellis (@nellis221), and our Jr. High librarian, Roma Burrhis (@romaburrhis). The latter two had not been on twitter before this week, but I think this conference opened their eyes to the power of the tweet. Just being able to be in one session and get notes from virtually every other session at the same time gave them a great introduction to how twitter can be leveraged to learn.

Finally, the connections that Joel Adkins (@mradkins) and Eddie Mathews (@egmathews) made with each other and the people who attended our session were really valuable. I always feel awkward being in front of a group of people who I feel like might have more knowledge than I do, but the questions we got during our panel discussion “Survival tips for technologists) were amazing and led right into the things that we had talked about when we were planning the session. I’m really glad that Eddie talked Joel and I into doing the panel with him. I felt like those that attended got something out of it, and I know we all did as we sat and planned it out the day before (yes, we did it last minute, but it was mostly Q & A so what do you expect?).

I did get a lot out of the sessions I attended, but more than that, I got to connect with people. To me, that’s becoming the most valuable thing about conferences. Talking with others, having your positions on things confirmed or challenged. Being able to talk about big ideas that will hopefully turn into actions in the coming year.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to talk with me this week. I know I haven’t included everyone that I talked to here, but you all know who you are. The conversations are amazing. I’m fortunate to have all of your in my learning community.

*I had mistakenly put Wendy’s last name as “Davis” in a previous edit of this post. I have no idea why I thought that was her last name, and I apologize for the mistake.
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