I was told this was a huge conference (and that I'd better bring comfortable walking shoes). I heard that the Expo Hall was crazy. Colleagues explained that the sessions with BIG speakers would have people waiting in line just to get in. I found all of this to be true but the biggest and best takeaway from the conference wasn't found in the inspiring Ignite Talks or the TED Master Class presentations. It wasn't in the new innovations showcased on the Expo floor. It wasn't the valuable nuggets of information shared in the workshops and interactive sessions from stellar presenters that I attended.
It was the people.
The hellos, hugs, and conversations with incredible educators from across the county, many of whom I'd only communicated with through social media. It was the immediate connections with people who I met just that morning but felt like I'd known for a lifetime.
I know that may seem odd to some (like my husband, who isn't an educator), but the bonds that I have with my PLN sometimes surpass the face-to-face interactions with people I see on a daily basis. It is truly amazing the way that Twitter and Voxer have transformed my personal and professional development. These tools allow me to connect with people and develop meaningful relationships with individuals that I've never even met--until ISTE!
I connected with the awesome people of ISTE in sessions, at the PLN Lounge and at the wonderful social events that surround the conference venue. We shared knowledge, stories, and laughs (and maybe some dance moves, too 😉).
You see, these are the people I go to all year long when I need some inspiration, leadership advice or input on decisions. These are also the people I seek out to lift me up when I'm down or to vent to when I just need a listening ear. They fuel my professional excitement and fill my heart with personal friendships.
These educators have areas of expertise that I don't--social emotional learning, AR/VR, or character education. They have experiences with people and places that I don't, but we use the collective learning of everyone in the PLN to make our knowledge stronger. These individuals fill me up in areas that I need to grow and push my thinking. Their experiences are deep, meaningful, and relatable, but more importantly, their openness to share and welcome others in is remarkable.
When people ask, "How was the conference?" I reflect on the knowledge that I gained in Philly. I share some of the great tech tools that made an impression on me. But most of all, I light up thinking about the people that contributed to making my first ISTE experience an unforgettable one.