Sunday, July 6, 2014

#4thChat Moderators Meet F2F at ISTE2014

I can't wait! I can't wait! Those were the words that swirled in my head in the months, weeks, days and hours leading up to heading to Atlanta for the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference.

Why was I so excited? After all this would be my eighth ISTE, so I should be an old pro at this. Right? Wrong! Each ISTE I've attended has had its share of thrilling firsts for me. (Read more here and here.)
As ISTE2014 approached my level of excitement built. Let me share with you the four main reasons why this was so.

Going Early to Sightsee and Be with Some Old Friends
I arrived in Atlanta early to spend time with some very good friends and do some sightseeing before ISTE began. I know many who wait until the conference is over to do so, but I know from past experience that once ISTE ends I just want to go home and sleep. The long days and longer nights really wear me out. You can read about my pre-ISTE adventures here.

Presenting a Workshop
Bill Krakower, Jerry Blumengarten, and I presented an hour and a half workshop at ISTE. Our topic was "Connecting Your Students to Collaborate with the World".

We taught our participants how to conduct Mystery Location Calls by dividing them into two groups. Each group represented a class from a state of the group's choosing and through a series of yes/no questions, had to figure out what state the other "class" was located in. Each group used maps to eliminate states, backchanneled in an Edmodo group, and took pictures of the whole thing. The workshop was a great success and we are so glad we had them do a "mock" Mystery Location call. By being assigned the various Mystery Location jobs and stepping through the entire process, we know they are well prepared to do these calls when they return to their classrooms.

Our resources for the workshop can be accessed here.
The Mappers
My co-presenters - Jerry Blumengarten and Bill Krakower
#4thchat Face-To-Face Meeting
I would finally get to meet the gals who co-moderate #4thchat with me every Monday night at 8ET/7CT. I have been doing so with Nancy Carroll since the very beginning of #4thchat back in March of 2011. When previous #4thchat creator and co-moderator Jeanne McQueen (teaches 5th grade now), and previous co-moderator Justin Stortz needed to step away, we added Jennifer Regruth to the team in 2012.

Nancy, Jenn, and I have also been collaborating most Sunday evenings via Google Hangouts with 5 other educators. We chat and plan projects our students can do collaboratively. Our GHO group had submitted a proposal to present at ISTE, but unfortunately it wasn't accepted. I was thrilled when they decided to attend their first ISTE anyway. Seeing their little avatars on Twitter and their smiling faces on my computer screen during the GHOs still didn't prepare me properly for meeting them is person.

The magical moment happended on Friday, June 27. I was eating lunch outside across the street from the convention center with Jan Wells and Kelly Kastner when someone said, "Here come Jenn and Nancy." I remember jumping out of my chair and then feeling like I was trying to run underwater as I hurried to get to them for our first "real" hugs. We laughed, we cried, we hugged a lot. Jenn is much taller than I thought she'd be, and Nancy is much more petite.

Paula, Nancy, and Jenn with Brad Wilson 
Our time together at ISTE wasn't enough. When it was time for them to leave, I couldn't bring myself to tell them goodbye. I was so sad and heartbroken that it had all come and gone so quickly. Luckily, I have memories of our time together that will last a lifetime and sustain me until the next time we meet face-to-face. Now our online exchanges have even stronger ties and bring back the great memories we made while at ISTE.
Part of our GHO gang- Jerry, Jenn, Bill, Nancy, nnd Paula
Nancy and Jenn, I love you both and miss you so much.

Reuniting with PLN Members and Meeting New Ones
Some of you might know, I'm divorced, never had children, and don't have any surviving family members, so my friends, both in real life and online, are my family. My PLN (personal learning network) is near and dear to me.

For quite a few years now, I have paid my own way to ISTE and consider it my summer vacation. After all I'm going to what I consider a family reunion in whatever city ISTE happens to be visiting for the summer.

Those educators who have not experienced the thrill of meeting their online tweeps face-to-face just don't quite get it. Why would a person what to room with someone for a week that s/he has never met? Why would one what to spend lots of money sightseeing and traveling with people s/he barely know? Why would educators spend hours setting up Google documents to organize and arrange their "down time" while attending a huge conference like ISTE? The answer is simple. The people we are connected with online are more than just online aquaintances, they are more like family members. And we are thrilled to see them each summer at ISTE.

I know this to be true because as the last words of the closing ISTE keynote fade away, you can hear the buzz of plans being formulated to see each other at next year's ISTE. It warms my heart to see "newbies" like Jenn and Nancy excited to be a part of it all again next year.

I hope to see you in Philadelphia for #ISTE2015.