I Wasn’t There

In this post, Bill mentions that hanging out with people like me was one of the reasons he wishes he’d been at ISTE 2011. In an email, Carl asked me about my experience at ISTE. But here’s the funny thing, I wasn’t there.

Ok, I was in Philly the weekend before, but I wasn’t at ISTE. In an effort to save some money and to minimize weekday time away from my summer gig at Berkman, I headed down to Philly on Friday and came back on Sunday. I did sit in on a couple sessions at EduBloggerCon and attended TEDxPhilly, but I missed the main event.

So why did I fly Philly if I wasn’t going to attend ISTE and when I could have watched the live streams of the other events or caught the tweets? Because meeting face to face still matters to me. There’s no satisfying digital equivalent of a hug, conversation over coffee, or a meal, at least for me. Going to Philly was a chance to catch up with lots of people whose work I respect and whose friendship I value. I tweeted the following, only partially joking in response to a tweet claiming that Twitter is the number one professional development tool, because while the trip was about seeing friends, it was also about making & deepening professional connections.

Dean, among others, has written about how some of the most important and useful learning for him at conferences comes in the informal sessions or the conversations in the hall. What I appreciated about Dean’s post was he named what it was he learned from these conversations. I think, especially when we’re traveling on an institution’s dime it’s important to engage in that kind of reflection whether it’s about our informal learning or the sessions we attend. Otherwise, we risk the impression that while we’ve been sent to learn, we only socialized. Socialization is, of course, its own kind of learning and important, especially for teachers who often lack that opportunity during the course of their work.

The friendship and collegiality that many find online led to a really interesting discussion at EduBloggerCon about significant others and online colleagues/friends. (Beth described the impetus for the conversion on her blog.) It was like the adult version of a lot of conversations that we have about youth and digital media. At some level, the always on and permanent nature of online communications changes things, but for the most part, the old issues of trust, discipline, and communication seem at the heart of the matter.

Postscript

I used AirBnB to find a place to stay for the weekend. I ended up with a totally great 1 bedroom apartment in the Trader Joe’s building near Science Leadership Academy for $65 a night. If you use AirBnB, I’d encourage you to use good common sense in choosing a place to stay, but it worked out great for me.

View from the apartment
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One thought on “I Wasn’t There

  1. I agree the f2f meetings matter. I enjoyed our walk up the sidewalk leaving SLA last year:) Sitting in a session with Bill during that weekend makes me feel more connected to him as well. I wonder, though, (for me at least) how many of those connections can be maintained. And I still struggle with attending conferences like ISTE –just too many people for me.
    I’ve just heard about AirBnB. What a cool way to find a place to stay!

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