Now that I've had a week or so to process my first ISTE conference all I can say is wow.  Wow because I think I learned more in my four days at ISTE11 than in all my nine years of professional development opportunities/conferences combined! I’m not exaggerating, it really was that good. 

I started my ISTE journey by hanging out in the Lounge Areas set up throughout the conference center.  The Newbie Lounge was a great spot to park, hop on the Wi-Fi and meet other ISTE newbies.  It was nice to have some experienced conference goers drop by and offer tidbits of advice, like directions and what sessions to attend.  I met a large number of newbies and even ended up hanging out with them throughout the conference.  Another great location for networking was the Blogger’s Café.  I met some people I follow on Twitter Face to Face including EduTecher’s Adam Bellow (awesome site by the way) and Tom Whitby (gave me a cool trading/business card).  A piece of advice for ISTE newbies, you have to just go up to people and introduce yourself.  Being shy at ISTE will result in few networking opportunities and cause you to miss out on the whole social networking experience. 

As far as sessions go I really enjoyed Leslie Fisher’s Gadgets for everyone session and the 60 tools in 60 minutes session by Brandon Lutz.  These were powerful sessions because they covered so many tools in such a short amount of time.  The fast-pace meant I came away with tons of tools to take back and share with others in my school and community. 

Another great session was the Tech-Savvy Principal panel led by Scot McLeod.  I had the opportunity to listen to influential administrators and came away with a new sense of direction as I start my career in school administration.  In the week since ISTE I have launched a new website (techsavvyprincipal.com) as a both a personal site to blog and a place to house resources for other educators along the way.  Needless to say, this session kicked me in gear and got me motivated to do more than just be a traditional school principal.

Something else I learned from my first ISTE conference is to register early and to take advantage of all the pre-conferences and ticketed sessions.  I registered late but still managed to get into a Wikispaces session led by one of the founders of Wikispaces Adam Frey.  The BYOL session turned out to be very helpful and opened my eyes to all the awesome tools available through wikispaces.com  At one point during the session I noticed the lady in front of me was shopping for purses on her MacBook.  Really?  The founder of Wikispaces is teaching us and you’re using a coupon to get 30% off on a purse!  This brings up another important Newbie lesson, if you don’t like a session (or it doesn’t fit your needs) leave.  I walked out of several sessions and found others that worked better for my knowledge level and situation.  Usually this is taboo but at ISTE the presenters even encourage you to find the session that works best for you. 

Another new experience was getting in to the EdTech Karaoke Tweetup (#ETK11).  I heard about this event on Twitter months before the conference and managed to get signed up on hopes of meeting people I follow on Twitter who were planning on attending.  This event was the capstone of my ISTE experience.  A number of sponsors (Callaborize, Symbaloo, Edutopia, and many others) reserved the Philadelphia Public House for a Tweetup and spared no expense.  They had karaoke, a photo booth, free drinks and food, and basically created an environment where educators could let their hair down and have a great time. The flat Screen TV’s throughout the place had live Twitter Feeds of the event.  I got to hear some great songs (Welcome to the Jungle) and I enjoyed meeting people like @ShellTerrell and @Caryf who I previously only met on Twitter or Skype.  

I could write another 10 pages about everything I learned and recorded on EverNote at ISTE11 but I’ll save that for another day.  The conference was awesome and I am already making plans to attend and try to present at ISTE12 in San Diego.  So special thanks go out to ISTE for a great conference and to all the people that were willing to stop and chat with this ISTE Newbie. 

 
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    William King

    9th Grade Principal at BGHS, Co-Founder of TeachMeetKY, Co-Organizer of TMNashville, husband to Liz, father to Gavin, Follower of Jesus and avid outdoorsman.

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