I attended the ISTE conference at the beginning of July in Atlanta Georgia. 14,000 people attended this conference. Over 3000 technology vendors set up shop to showcase their latest and greatest gadgets, all pontificating the benefits to education and learning. I must say I was overwhelmed by the scope of the conference and the numerous sessions to choose from. I wanted to learn about technology that would engage students and help me connect with them. I attended so many amazing sessions, but a few that peaked my interest as a learner were a Minecraft session(MarianneMalmstrom) that did not disappoint, a Green Screen moving making session (Debra Atchison), Storytelling for the YouTube Generation (Steve Dembo) and Ashley Judd’s opening keynote.
The connections you make at this conference are significant and provide an enriched extended professional learning community. I got to meet Bill Ferreter, Dean Shareski and Steve Dembo, all amazing educators. Most importantly, I got to connect and learn with Surrey School District colleagues, Karen Lirenman, Kevin Amboe, Hugh McDonald, Tia Henriksen, Robyn Theissen, Dee Reiter, Diana Willliams, Lisa Domeier, and my admin, team partner, Iram Khan.
My greatest learning, that I really already knew, is there is nothing more powerful than human relationships that are based on a genuine ethic of care. All the gadgets and gizmos are truly awe inspiring, but if they do not connect us to each other as student and teacher, if they do not enhance our relationship as learners, mentors and care givers then they are not the appropriate tool.
As I listened to Ashley Judd speak she described a tormented childhood. She had a very successful mother and sister, but was basically abandoned by them. She tearfully relayed, how it was her relationships with her teachers that stopped her from putting a bullet through her head. I was very moved by her keynote. She spoke from the heart and her message was genuine: teachers matter! Her teachers made her believe she mattered. She now has an accomplished film career. She is a human rights activist and works for several global humanitarian organizations. It was the relationships that she developed with her teachers and professors that helped her believe in herself and in time, helped her make positive contributions to the lives of others.
As I left Ashley’s keynote, there was much discussion about the appropriateness of her message at a technology conference. Some even said it was “real downer”. I could not disagree more. Her message was the most important affirmation I got from this conference. As Educators we have the greatest opportunity and responsibility to make all of our students feel they matter! And if it takes me learning how to use and play Minecraft to develop relationships with students in my school so I can relate to them in their preferred interest, then I am going to do it, because they matter to me.