ISTE 2012 in San Diego was wonderful! I have been talking and writing about the transformative experiences I had while there, the fantastic people I met, and the overall excitement I felt participating in such a wonderful conference ever since I got there. I would recommend the experience to anyone in education. However there are some things I HATED! Ok, hate is a strong word. Perhaps mild irritation would be more accurate, but it doesn’t make for much of a title. “Five things that mildly irritated me…” does not sound interesting, though it may be a stretch to think that anyone give a slosh about my rantings, but here goes: Things I hated about ISTE12:
- The opening keynote. Ok, Sir Ken Robinson is an entertaining speaker, and I was chuckling and nodding along through most of his opening. You get what you get with him, he’s witty, and profound, and makes great commentary about the general state of education. It is the perfect opening keynote, and I would have loved another 45 minutes from him. Instead, we were treated to a panel containing Marc Prensky, who was excellent, dynamic, and inspiring. He was also the only member of the panel that understood public education. The other two, Shawn Covell of Qualcomm, and Dr Mayim (Blossom) Bialik from Texas Instruments, were mere commercial shills with very little to add to the conversation. I appreciated Bialik’s comments on drawing more girls into STEM, but most of what she said boiled down to how important it was to have a good calculator. Covell seemed outmatched by the situation from the start. Her opening statement was nothing more than a canned PR speech from Qualcomm, and when speaking on the panel, is was soon clear that she did not have much to contribute unless it was written on her cue cards. I understand that the goal was to look at the importance of technology in education from multiple perspectives, but the result ended up being a dry waste of two great speakers in Sir Ken and Marc Prensky.
- The Expo. The expo at a big conference is like a big bag of Doritos. You know you shouldn’t, you know it will make you feel yucky, you know it’s not really good for you, but you dive in anyway. I spent a few hours touring the expo, in the hopes of getting free stuff, finding out about a few things that were new and flashy, and maybe connecting with others who like similar stuff. But, you get what you get. Half of what was in that expo represented the commercialization of tools that have been available free online for years, clones of products that have already been in the market for years, and techno-junk that is unecessary and expensive. The rest was the usual educational companies strutting their stuff, trying to convince the educators in attendance (and of course the administrators who spend the money) that the product they produce is the only name in education. SMART, Promethean, Google, Dell, CDW, Microsoft, Pearson, and many more hosted huge booths that seemed much flash, and little substance. On the whole, the commercialization of education turns my stomach, so it was hard to appreciate the magnitude of the expo, when all the time I was wondering just how much of what was in the room would actually transform learning.
- The attendees. I am on record all over the internet saying how much I enjoyed the attendees at the conference, and I stand by that. The people at the conference we among the best people I have ever met. Consummate professionals. The part I hate is that the people who attended this conference (myself included) were largely connected, progressive, open-minded people who already use technology in education, and who do the things that progressive educators do to improve their practice. Trouble is, the people who SHOULD be attending the conference, those who need to see, hear, touch the transformative technology, were at home. I know many districts sent a large contingent of people to the conference, and I salute that. But if most districts were like mine, the only one who really even cares what ISTE is, was the one at the conference. I think ISTE needs to make a greater effort to draw in the unconnected, uninspired, and non-progressive educators to the conference. I can bring back ideas and tools, but not the vibe.
- The wireless. Despite seeing wireless routers on trees in just about every space in the conference center, the internet wifi was really poor. It seems that at this sort of conference, this would be a primary consideration, and I felt that it failed in that effort. When presentations about online tools cannot be done online, it sort of defeats the purpose.
- The website. I may be alone on this one, but I felt the website for the conference was very difficult to navigate. The conference planner was neat, but the overall ease in browsing sessions was lacking. I can see what they were trying to do, but the site design just didn’t work for me.