The 2017 Nerd Convention

Dear Teachers,

I just got back from my third experience at ISTE, the biggest nerd festival in the history of ever. (Okay, maybe Comic-Con has us beat. But not by much.) I was fortunate enough to attend the conference for the first time 5 or so years ago when it was in San Antonio; that time I think I just walked around with my mouth hanging open, trying to get a handle on… anything. The one word I heard over and over from first-timers this past week was OVERWHELMING, and that’s definitely the way I remember feeling on my first time out.

Last year was ISTE #2 for me; that one was in Denver, a little lagniappe since my son lives there. My team was selected to present at last year’s conference, and that was an amazing and humbling experience in and of itself. But it was last year when I started to see what people meant when they talk about the relationships and reunions that happen at ISTE. My colleague (and now friend) Julie Paddock and I met for the first time at the Digital Citizenship PLN meeting last year, and it was there that we were drafted into service for the #digcit cause. Since that initial meeting last year, she and I have presented a couple of webinars, written some curriculum together, and are making grand plans for developing our PLN. I’ve always been amazed at how on-the-same-page we are. She lives many states away, but the Internet has enabled us to forge a strong bond of friendship.

So the conference was in San Antonio again this year, and this year was for sure the first time that I truly understood what people meant when they talked about the “old home week” feel of the place. After all, there are always over 20,000 nerds at ISTE. How intimate could it be, right? (And – side question – how in the world do they provide wifi for what is probably well over 100,000 devices?!)

Well, it’s like this. I have several worlds of which I’m a part, due to the magic of the Internet and social media. At ISTE, all those worlds get to collide. I met in person for the first time several people I’ve been in grad school with for over a year. I ran into people I have started seeing only on the conference circuit (places like Region 10, TCEA, and others, in addition to ISTE). I had a fabulous reunion with some of the brilliant educators I met through the Google Innovator program back in April. And most of all, I got to hang out with my true tribe, those wonderful folks who share my somewhat obsessive interest in digital citizenship.

So in addition to meeting back up with Julie, I met in person a bunch of people it seems like I know due to the relationships we’ve forged online. I also added a bunch of new people to my PLN, people who already seem like friends because of our shared interest in digital citizenship. Julie and I presented a session titled “Cultivating a #Digcit State of Mind” – which I guess you have to be a special kind of nerd to have any interest in – but we met more people like us! It was awesome! Since Julie and I are going to co-chair ISTE’s Digital Citizenship PLN this year, we got tons of new victims volunteers who will help us in our plan to take over the world develop the PLN and connect people to resources and to each other.


In Tuesday’s powerful keynote, Jennie Magiera encouraged us to compare the “single story/limited potential” narratives that we all experience to the “untold stories/limitless potential” stories that we are as yet unaware of. Just as all your students have lives much more complex than could ever be fully understood by a single standardized test score, we all have untold stories that we hold close in our hearts. While we may be grudgingly tolerated for or even actively discouraged from sharing these stories in our real jobs, ISTE and conferences like it allow us to be our full nerd selves with people who totally get us. We can share more of what might remain an untold story in many other situations.

Into gamifying PD? You will find your nerd tribe at ISTE. Obsessed with the ISTE Student Standards? Yep, there’s a group for you there. Are robots your jam? How about flexible seating, or virtual reality, or global connections? You guessed it, there are people at ISTE who will understand you and want to know more about your untold story.

I think technology is super cool, and I think it’s a really fun time to be in the field of Education because of the many ways that students can now access and create content. But the main reason I love technology is because of the way it allows people to connect to each other. Even ten years ago, it’s likely that I never would have crossed paths with Julie, Rachelle, Vanessa, Jaime, Susan, Mary Ellen, Jennifer, Keegan, Marialice, or Sue, but now our lives and stories are connected.

Photo taken at Jennie Magiera‘s keynote

I am so excited for the future of the Digital Citizenship PLN, and for all the cool people I’ll get to know this year because of our shared and as-yet-untold stories. THAT’s the best thing about the nerd convention, and THAT’s why I’m already looking forward to next year’s ISTE conference.



P.S. Gotta give a shout out to my awesome coworker Clara for her amazing pre-keynote Ignite speech. How’d I get so lucky to work with her, Fern, and Leah? Check out Clara’s talk here. #growthecilantro #bestteamever


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