05 July 2011

ISTE '11 Conference: Philadelphia

I'm going to try and get caught up on all that has been going on lately, and in doing so, explain why my blogging has sucked so much lately.
First off, I went to Philadelphia for a conference for work.  I was invited along by the technology leader at one of my elementary schools and I was thrilled to be going.  The International Society for Technology in Education is the top professional society for tech ed professional development.  This was their annual conference and was being held in a city I'd never been to before (other than a horrible lay-over on a trip to Ireland). 
So we flew in on Sunday, connecting threw Newark and made our way to our hotel.  We were staying at the Holiday Day Inn Stadium.  It is right beside all three of Philly's major sports arenas. And not really close to the conference and we had to call everywhere to ever get that accommodation!  But the rooms were nice and the cabs were easy to get.  After settling in we headed down to the conference center to get a lay of the land and get registered.  A quick sidenote: the Philadelphia Convention Center is HUGE.  Like 3 city blocks long, 3 stories high.  And it is connected to Reading Terminal Market, which I was going to find out, is totally fantastic.  It is this huge indoor market with dozens of different little food counters (tiny restaurants) for every type of food. 
The conference was completely great.  There were so many fantastic sessions that I often had 2 or 3 that I was interested in and had to choose.  They would run an hour long and then you'd have 45 minutes off until the next session, but they had things set up so that during those 45 minutes you could be checking out one of three other great attractions.  An area with booths set up by educators, science fair style, that sharing something tech related they had been doing in their classrooms.  An area set up in that same style, except this time showcasing student work, projects, etc. with the students there to talk to.  And finally there was the Expo, which was a gargantuan gathering of vendors that were there to market their services and pass out free stuff. The Expo was fantastic; it was incredible to see how many different companies are out there to provide new solutions.  I got some good information and contacts there.  I skipped a couple sessions to spend more time at the Expo and I still didn't make it all the way through the thing!  It is also where I got worked over by the New York Times sales guy and I am now a subscriber!  :)
Here are the sessions that I made it to:
Teaching a HS Emerging Technologies Course
Google to the Max: The Power User's Guide (this is the only one I was disappointed in)
Infograpics in the Classroom as Creative Assessment
Electronic portfolios
The Tech Commandments: Ten Ways to Revitalize Education with Technology
The Best Educational Ideas in the World: High-Tech Learning Adventures
"We Need More PD!": And Other Myths About Tech Integration
I learned some great stuff in these sessions, took lots of notes, met some cool people and got excited for the coming year.  I am in a perfect role to help people with a lot of what was discussed, but, selfishly, there were a couple sessions that had me longing for my own classroom so I could implement what I was learning. 
I am going to see if there is any way I can get to next year's conference: San Diego!!!
A few general thoughts from the conference:  Twitter is very powerful professional development.  The iPad is here to stay in education.  Free and cloud-based is where it is at now.  There is still a long ways to go to come up with how we should be integrating technology instruction into other courses.
Ask me about any of this stuff and I will chat your ear off!
As a vacation, it wasn't great since I got to see absolutely zero of the city and sites, but I did get to eat some good food while I was there.  After the conference each day we would walk down toward the Old City district and get a good meal and some drinks while sharing all that we had absorbed that day.  Sadly we started the week off at touristy Hard Rock Cafe, but I'm chalking that up to first day in the city panic.  After that we did much better.  Banana Leaf in Chinatown for good, if unremarkable, sushi. Q's for BBQ, where I had lime chili margarita and it was INTENSE!  It was unlike any drink I've had before.  I got a fantastic corned beef reuben at Hershel's in Reading Terminal Market for lunch on Tuesday.  The line was 15 minutes long and it was a treat to watch these 5 guys behind the counter sawing through mountains of corned beef, pastrami and turkey.  We checked out Lulu's for a drink and to watch some Women's World Cup action.  And the last night we spent a good bit of time at Mad River, watching the Philly's game, chatting with the bartenders and then later when up to the second floor where they have a small skate ramp and we watched the skaters for a while.  We got the real Philadelphia scoop on where to go for a good late night cheesesteak from the bartender girl and so we walked to Jim's Steaks, had a fantastic sandwich and then, on her insistence, stopped at a wawa (their local chain of convenience stores) and got some Tastykakes (a local company like Dolly Madison, but much much better). 
I did an awful job of taking pictures.  I had 10 from the whole trip. :( But you can check them out here.
Oh, and fun ending to the trip, on our layover in Chicago (which was already 3.5 hours long) our flight was delayed and overbooked and they asked for volunteers to give up their seats for $400 in vouchers, so I did! I didn't have anything to get back for and thought, why not!  So now I've got a good start toward a free ticket and it has to be used within a year, so my imagination is going!


  1. Sounds like you packed a lot into those days. Great job on snagging a ticket to Philly.

  2. Your should have asked Con, Abba, or me about Reading Terminal Market: it's the Bomb. All kinds of goodies. Con discovered a great Italian bakery. I've done Philly thrice, and I like it. Con's scheduled there next spring for her big annual convention. Also, did you not do a Philly Cheese steak sandwich?