How #NotatISTE Reminds Me What Learning Could Be

How #NotatISTE Reminds Me What Learning Could Be

Where are you right now? Whether it’s #ISTE17, #ModelSchools, hard at work in an office, or sitting on your couch enjoying summer, how, when, and where you learn has changed. I’m become more and more fascinated at how your location has less power on your learning.

Once again, I’m #NotatISTE. Once again, sitting home, with major FOMO (fear of missing out), watching the learning, connecting, and fun pass me by. Full disclosure: I’ve never been to #ISTE. I’ve been fortunate to learn and present at so many conferences in my region, but rarely branched out beyond that. It’s something I’m eager to change, but until then, I’m stuck following along on Twitter.

And what I’m seeing makes me excited not just for teachers, but for students. Maybe I’m blinded by the hype--I don’t even know if my ideas about these conferences are accurate--but there looks to be a positivity and excitement that’s powerful. What if our schools were as exciting as #ISTE? What if our students learned in schools like I do even when #notatISTE?

From the other side of the country, as I watch #ISTE’s Ignites on Periscope, read announcements on Twitter, and see pictures of poster sessions, friends, and events all across social media, here is what I see:

  • A world where educators are excited about learning together.
  • A conference where the learning is passion-based and fun. Participants have to think critically and make good choices about what to learn, when, and with whom.
  • A place for learning presenters can choose how to show what they know through keynotes, ignites, presentations, conversations, poster sessions, and more.
  • A week where connecting with other learners is half the fun, filled with #CoffeeEDUs and meetup events, connecting like-minded educators.
  • And most importantly, everyone is sharing it all.

I’m not even following any #ISTE-related hashtags. I’m just opening up Facebook, Twitter, or education news, and it’s there. The education community is documenting every step of the learning, connecting, and fun. And it’s shared for everyone, so that anyone, anywhere can follow along, too.

For me, this means that I can learn asynchronously and grow. I can reply to Tweets and comment on posts so that I can connect with the real-time learners, too. I can read press releases, sure, but more importantly, I can talk with the people that are there--both face-to-face friends and members of a growing PLN.

Whether what I see about #ISTE is right or wrong almost doesn’t matter, especially from a far. What matters most is the take away from these ideas: we can learn anywhere and anyhow--and so can our students. While I sit at home on my couch, I realize that my fear of missing out has likely skyrocketed with the growth of social media. But I also realize that maybe I’m not missing out after all. The personal connections and face-to-face learning can’t be replaced--and for that, I’m jealous for sure, but what about the learning?

I can’t help but wonder if conferences like #ISTE and the conference-culture of education aren’t just about the adult learners, but are more telling towards the future of our students and schools. For all of our talk about 21st Century Learning, maybe these events are already showing us the way? And they should be. Maybe we’re a lot closer to that world that we think.

What are your takeaways from #ISTE and education conference culture? How can it teach us about our students, schools, and learning? And does social media help or hurt our FOMO and learning? Please share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter @MrSchoenbart.

cross posted at

Adam Schoenbart is a high school English teacher, Google Education Trainer, and EdD candidate in Educational Leadership. He teaches grades 10-12 in a 1:1 Chromebook classroom at Ossining High School in Westchester County, NY and received the 2014 LHRIC Teacher Pioneer Award for innovative uses of technology that change teaching and learning. Read more at The SchoenBlog and connect on Twitter @MrSchoenbart.