He Tangata, He Tangata, He Tangata
There is a Māori saying, asking what the most important thing is and the answer is the people, not once, not twice, but three times. By far the most important part of ISTE is the people, and if it weren't for the people, there would be no point in me going.
One of the difficult things about being an educator and trying to do innovative things is that not everyone is on board. Many people don't have trust in you and often work against progress. It is at events such as ISTE where I find my tribe. These are the people that give me the energy to fight for what I believe is best for the learners in my care. These are the people that inspire me to be a better me. These are the people who make me question the things I do and the practices I preach. They give meaning not only to my career, but also to my life. The five days I spent at ISTE each year help me through the tough times in the other 360.
This was my first year at ISTE as an Innovator and I was lucky to connect with a group of other Innovators, especially the ones from Canada.
This group of people were so inspiring to me and took me under their wing, making the week so much more special. I also had the opportunity to connect with some friends from NZ:
Representing @OrmPS and @OSC_Ormiston in Chicago #iste2018 @michaelteacher pic.twitter.com/Bsy55hKmHA— Subash Chandar K (@elsubash) June 26, 2018
To make a long story short, I felt at home amongst the people in Chicago and that is so important when you're trying to do great things.
The New(ish) Tools
I've put tools in the middle of my three takeaways as it's probably the least important, but it's also the most practical. The two main themes I noticed this year througout the week were Geo Tools and AR and what better way to show them, but talking about Tour Creator, which is a combination of the two. If you've ever wanted to create your own Google Expedition, this is how you do it. It's super simple and in the week I had to try this with children, almost all of them completed a short tour and every child was super engaged - especially when we pulled out the Google Cardboard to have a look at them. There are loads of other Geo Tools that can be used (and I've seen them around for a while and every conference or summit always has a steady diet of session on the topic), including Tour Builder (not the same thing, though easily confused), MyMaps, Expeditions (now with AR!) and others.
The other tool that I saw a lot was VR, and specifically I looked at CoSpaces (and Merge Cube) a bit. It's quite easy to fall down a rabbit hole when you start looking at VR creation, so be careful. I also learned a little bit about Unity, which, when I tried it with year 5 and 6 children was a bit tricky - though the accessibility of tools like this is promising and is definitely something to think about if you've got older children.
One of the small things that I saw was that there is now a chrome extension that will allow you to add audio to Google Slides! It's aptly called Audio Player for Slides. Definitely worth checking it out if you've ever wanted to add audio to a slide deck.
I have also developed quite a nice appreciation for sketchnoting, especially after taking a quick lesson from a couple of my new Canadian friends. I'm not really one for taking notes, either written or sketched, but I personally find the sketches much easier to follow and more fun. So I'm going to do my best to get more people doing them so that I can have access to more sketch notes. I don't think its too difficult though. I just want to get a device that can do it all (it's funny the things you don't know about).
This is what @sylviaduckworth & @VirtualGiff showed me how to do! #GoogleEI #ISTE18 #ISTE2018 pic.twitter.com/rIJbBzyy2G— Michael Davidson (@michaelteacher) June 23, 2018
Obviously there were more tools showcased (including a new Sphero, which I'm not sure if I'm even allowed to talk about here, but if you're going to get new Spheros, I'd wait a few months), but these were the biggest takeaways when it came to tools.
ISTE fundamentally changed me this year. A byproduct of hanging out with a group of people who have done amazing things is that doing amazing things becomes the norm. When you hear people talk of writing their books, it becomes the normal thing to do. What I realized - and I mean really realized - is that there is practically no difference between myself and those people other than the fact that they've already done something really big.
How did this happen? Well, the Innovator program (and to a slightly lesser extent, the Trainer Program) has opened up many doors for me. I've probably been trying to go through more of them than I possibly could go through, but there was a convergence of a lot of these things at ISTE that made me feel empowered to do practically anything. The first was that I was given the opportunity to work at several booths in the Expo Hall and join in on other presentations. Spending time doing these things only helped further connections to others and plant a lot of seeds of ideas in my head. The Innovator Energizer, too was amazing. Just being in a room with so many inspiring people (and feeling Imposter Syndrome) was an amazing start, but then learning about Project Culture Shift (and joining in on the fun) was something else.
It was also a chance to start some conversations with people about collaborations, and things I've wanted to do for a while. But now those thing are starting to become a reality.
To put it simply: I've got plans. Lots of plans. Whether they come to fruition depends on how much time and effort I have and am willing to spend on them, and on getting others on board. Big things don't just happen on their own or by one person.
So here's to looking forward. Here's to new connections that haven't even been made yet. And here's to changing the world for better.
ISTE is an amazing experience for anyone, though I'm not sure if everyone takes advantage of its opportunities the way I have and will continue to do so. This is the start of something big. Watch this space for updates in the near and far future. But for now, my advice to anyone reading this: go to ISTE 2019. I'll see you there!