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. 

ISTE Unplugged 2014

I always plan to arrive the day before ISTE officially starts so that I can attend ISTE Unplugged. This great unconference is organized by Steve Hargadon, Audrey Watters, and Lucy Gray.
Steve Hargadon

On Friday, June 27, I attended Hack Education (formally EduBloggerCon) with about 300 other educators from 8-4. I was amazed that over half of the people in attendence were doing so for the first time. This event celebrated its 8th birthday this year. There was quite a buzz in the air as people connected or reconnected with members of their online PLN.
Some of the participants gathered for Hack Education 

My Mentor from Classroom 2.0 Live Peggy George

Reconnecting this year with +Anibal Pacheco  Photo Credit - @MyClassFlow

The participants determine how the day will be structured by suggesting a discussion they would like to see facilitated. The sessions are then voted on and the schedule is made. I attended sessions on Leadership in a Digital Age, Digital Citizenship, Building Teacher/Student PLNs Using Social Media, and helped facilitate Twitter Tips for Newbies.
Digital Citizenship Discussion Photo Credit - Kristy Vincent

The conversations are rich and thought-provoking and I always learn new things to take back to my classroom. My Big 3 Takeaways from this year are: 
  1. Digital Citizenship should become just Citizenship (thank you @TanyaAvrith) and needs to be taught daily. 
  2. Get parents more involved in all that I do with my students especially when using social media.
  3. Help my students build their learning networks through global collaborations and projects. 
Here are some more pictures I took during this event. 
Wearing Wanda Terral's Google Glass

Paula Boston and Heather Temske
Nick Provenzano, Scott Floyd, Beth Still, Anibal Pacheco
Richard Byrne and Steve Dembo
Billy Krakower and Susan Bearden

Check out all of the tweets from #HackEd14 in this Storify thanks to Craig Yen. Craig did a fabulous job of curating links for those #notatISTE. 

Did you attend #HackEd2014? What are your Big 3 Takeaways? 

Friday, July 4, 2014

So Glad I Went to #ISTE2014 Early

Last year at ISTE in San Antonio, my dear friend from Hawaii, JoAnn Jacobs, and I made a pact to arrive in Atlanta early so that we could spend some quality time with each other before the craziness that is ISTE begins. And am I glad we did!

JoAnn, and I met up at the airport in Atlanta on the Wednesday before ISTE along with Jan Wells, my buddy from Kansas. (Read about my first F2F meeting with Jan here.)

We shared a shuttle ride to drop off JoAnn off at her hotel, and Jan and I checked into our condo at the Peachtree Towers Condos that we were sharing with Beth Still and Kristina Peters. After getting settled in, we met JoAnn for dinner at Alma Cocina, an upscale Mexican restaurant and enjoyed a relaxing time catching up. After returning to the condo, Kristina graciously helped me update my iPhone so I could download the Voxer app. She set up a Voxer group for Beth, Jan, me, and herself and dubbed us the "Peachtree Peaches". 

On Thursday we had a full day of sightseeing and meeting other friends who also decided to arrive early. JoAnn, Jan, Beth, and I started our day at 9:00 at the Georgia Aquarium. I love our aquarium in New Orleans, but was awed by this one. 

We had tickets for the 11:30 showing of Dolphin Tales and it was fabulous. So glad we booked this show and that Beth talked me into seating in the third row. I was worried about getting wet but that didn't happen. What did happen was we had a terrific view of the show. I LOVE dolphins. 

Next we had a nice lunch at BajaFresh with friends from all over the US. In the picture are Margie Rogers (MO), Jan (KS), Carrie Ross (TX), Kristy Vincent (TX), Beth Still (NE), me (LA), Adam Bellow (NY), JoAnn (HI), and Michelle Baldwin (CO). 

Then we headed to the World of Coca-Cola. Besides tasting different Coke flavors from around the world, we enjoyed the 4D show complete with 3D glasses. It gave us lots of laughs. 

Jerry Blumengarten and Bill Krakower met us right after we finished the Coke tour. I love Jerry's sign. 

Our day ended with a gathering for dinner at Sweet Georgia's Juke Joint. What a great place! We had a table right up front for the jazz band that played that night. The Mar-tans play a mixture of New Orleans funk and R&B, but I like to think they were playing in honor of those of us from the NOLA area. Great times with great friends, great food and music, and even a little moonshine. I even lead a second line around the place when the Mar-tans played Mardi Gras Mambo. 

Susie Toso (@SusieToso),  Jan Wells (@JanWells),  Marcie Hebert (@mrsmhebert), Amanda, Martin (@mandymartin1021),  me,  Jerry Blumengarten (@Cybraryman1),  Bill Krakower (@wkrakower),  JoAnn Jacobs (@JoAnnJacobs68),  and Margie Rogers (@mawrogers). 

We had an awesome day in Atlanta and were definitely ready for some shut-eye. If you are going to attend #ISTE2015 in Philadelphia and plan to do some sightseeing while there, I would strongly suggest going early to do so.  I am always so tired when ISTE ends that all I want to do is go home and sleep for a couple of days. 

JoAnn and I started making plans for next year even before we left Atlanta. So start making your plans and arrive early in Philly. I hope to see you there.