Guest Post: What would I tell myself on the eve of ISTE? A first time attendee’s reflections (via @jyhawkfan45)

Mandy Lybeck
Mandy Lybeck

Mandy Lybeck is an K-12 Instructional Technology Specialist for the Neosho School District in Neosho, Missouri. Her prior education experience includes years spent in the elementary classroom, as well as, an elementary technology teacher. She is a #edtech lover and works diligently to assist others in bridging the gap of effective pedagogy enhanced by technology. An avid St. Louis Cardinal and Kansas Jayhawk fan, she spends any extra time enjoying sporting events and outdoor activities with her husband and their fur babies…if she’s not cooking or crafting.

You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @jyhawkfan45

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Call it an ISTE hangover or ISTE overload or ISTE over-stimulation, whatever your term may be, I can safely say I’m suffering from it. I can count on one hand the number of times my sentences have NOT began with “while I was at ISTE.” It is reminiscent of my hard, educrush love affair a few years ago when I found Pinterest.  (All my sentences began with “sooo, I saw this thing on Pinterest.”) Truth be told, that love affair still kindles deeply; however, my recent experience attending International Society of Technology Education (ISTE), the mega-technology conferences of all conferences, is pushing a strong second and may even surpass my love of Pinterest.

Here’s the thing about Pinterest. I pin a bajillion pins (some may say hoard) and only get around to crafting, baking, making, a select few. Instead, the ideas sit in an idle state on a continuous Merry-Go-Round of thoughts thru my brain.

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Limited action and follow-thru occurs and this is from person on who dearly loves to cook, craft, and create. Instead, I sit back and pin away as a spectator watching the circus of pin-worthy creations develop on my boards. When I actually follow thru with a Pinterest project, it’s as though I want to do a celebratory dance.  One down…a bajillion more to go.

This is where ISTE is set apart from the rest. I, along with 19,999 other ed-techians have been summons to action, a call to duty if you will. Closing keynote speaker Josh Stumpenhorst, @stumpteacher, implored us to not let the enthusiasm, the excitement, the wonderment dissolve on the plane ride back to our “normal” life. (Shout out to some attendees who posted the closing keynote via @periscope and @youtube, since we had to board our plane and head home.)

So, here I sit, taking a leap of faith and overcoming the fear I have by taking that first plunge into unknown waters, the blogging waters.  A fear of blogging MY thoughts for others to read. I have the greatest of intention with the one I’ve created for my district and made a few posts over the past year. But time soon gets away and the blog sits stale. Enter the self-destructive thoughts. No one wants to read what you have to say. Everyone else has such better things to write about.

HOWEVER, after an inspirational Connected Ed panel session featuring a few of my #eduheroes, @web20classroom, @tomwhitby, @s_bearden, @pernilleipp, and @RafranzDavis to name a few, I began to silence that destructive mantra and an inner voice began to rise above the doubts.  Two days later, I was randomly scrolling thru my “while you were away” feed, and I read a tweet out by @sarahdateechur for guest bloggers. Before I knew it, her call for guest bloggers was the nudge I needed to put my money where my mouth is. Stop talking about it and start doing something about it.

The ex-college athlete and prior high school assistant basketball coach surfaced with a go big or go home, no pain – no gain attitude. So, here is my first guest blog post.  What what would tell myself a week ago, as I landed in Philadelphia on the eve of ISTE? Whether one person reads or many, I can safely say I took the first step to knock down that barrier maintained by the box. Here goes nothing.

What would I tell myself a week ago on the eve of ISTE…

1) Book early. Make sure and book early enough to coordinate hotel through ISTE. Our group had the bonding experience of navigating thru the subway or other forms of transportation. While a viable alternative, the subway especially could be somewhat unnerving especially when you’re from a smaller town in SWMO. So, just because the hotels all say sold out, if you book through ISTE, you have a good chance at being close to the convention center and/or using a shuttle. Although I will say, it was a good excuse to figure out how to Uber-it, which I think our group would highly recommend.  #RookieMove

2) One device. Only lug one device around. Loading down your backpack with my iPad, Yoga Chromebook, snacks, umbrella, notepad, surge protector, vendor goodies and then walking a bajillion steps….after three days, you will feel like a pack mule. Pick one device and commit. After all, your phone will be an option as well. Everything will be okay, and most importantly, your back and feet will thank you later. (I’m sure my chiropractor will be excited come Monday. BTW, my Fitbit hasn’t been this proud since the PLC conference in Vegas.) #SayNoToBeingAPackMule

3) Network more. While attending the conference with people from district is an awesome thing for lots of reasons and would highly recommend, stepping outside and introducing yourself to more people. That is something you’re going to wish you had done.

I was more reserved than I wish I would have been. Partly didn’t want to seem stalker-ish and partly felt shy (which isn’t a normal characteristic that people would typically use to describe me), but we are all in this education world together – for better or worse, so why not introduce myself more? I did meet and capture some pics with some #eduheroes @stumpteacher @cybraryman1 @justintarte.

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But, you could have met more. Call it Twitter-star struck or shyness, stepping outside comfort zone is…(say it with me) where growth begins #CarpeDiem

4) Exhibit Hall Plan. Take the time to plan out exhibit hall time by selecting the must see’s because you use them/work with them now or because you want to. The first 30 min. I was so overwhelmed, I left. The other trips in I was more focused, but still missed coordinating with some. Minutes flew by and I felt like I was meeting myself coming and going from over there to over here to back over there. You should make a plan and follow it. The rest will be icing on the cake. #MissedOpportunity

5) Make memories. I’d like to tell myself that you will have a blast making memories on the Rocky Steps 5K, even if you don’t jog fast, or are only on week 3 of couch to 5k. Enjoy the moment and don’t sweat it so much. Being a part of the experience is what it’s all about. Already looking forward to what next year’s “event” will be. #RockySteps

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6) “Try this” List. Create an on-going list of “try this…” I created a crowdsource gdoc for our group to drop presentations into which has been great to share our resources. I did find that I’d pick up on little things from poster session or during session and now am scouring back through notes, scanned QR codes, and shortened links to find those tiny tidbits you pick up on the way. With the try this list, those are readily accessible. #MakeItEasy

7) Focus. Forget the how and what, and focus on the why…why should i invest my time in ____ ? Yet another valid reminder by @stumpteacher. If the answer isn’t the kids, you’ve been derailed and time to get back on track because the train is leaving. The kids are on board and they need a conductor. Someone to guide them on their path while letting them take risks and learn through authentic experiences. We’ve all been de-railed through our schedules, funding, limited resources, lack of the dreaded “T” word (time). Believe me, if this describes you, you’re in good company, I’d venture to say we’ve all been there. It’s okay as long as you recognize and regroup at the next station. With all the wonderfully, shining things in the expo hall and ideas from stellar colleagues, your brain can turn to mush so keep your focus and remember, it’s about the kids. #FocusedIntent

8) Be the silver bullet. As @stumpteacher challenged us to quit searching for the next best thing, we are the silver bullet. We are the silver lining in our often cloudy education system. We have the power to create the change. We have the power to mold our teaching into a masterful plan of goodness for the students we inherit. Sadly, at times, they may not be the students we would have chosen, but those are the ones who need us the most. Every child deserves our best. So, embrace the challenge and identify those key things you will do as a result of your attendance at this conference. Without that conscious effort, our attendance was at the sake of our students and their progress. So, get off that Merry-Go-Round and take a turn at the Scrambler or Tilt-a Whirl. Make a change so that your sentences begin with “I learned about this at ISTE and this is how I made it work for my students, teachers, district.” #BeTheSilverBullet

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Mandy Lybeck
Neosho School District
@jyhawkfan45

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