Over the weekend I tried really, really hard to come up with some new ideas that I had been exposed to while at the ICE conference. I remember coming back last year (which was also my first year of attendance) thinking, “Holy Cow!!! There’s so many cool things I didn’t even know about that are FREE! Is there any way I can work all this into my teaching?”
This year I can’t think of any one new idea that really hit me as earth shattering. Why is that I wonder? Well first of all I’ve really started to work diligently to create a PLN using tools like this blog and Plurk. By connecting myself this way I essentially get all those new and fantastic ideas as they become available in real time. I don’t really need to go to a conference each year to find out those new ideas and products. I already know about Wordles and Podcasting and Voicethreads. I did occasionally find a new way of using these tools but I did not come back home feeling overwhelmed with new ideas.
This leads me to wonder further then if I can do all this learning online is going to a conference like ICE really all that important? The answer for me is a resounding YES! This was only the second year I have attended ICE and because of my PLN I traveled 2 hours north knowing that people from all over the US were looking forward to meeting me at the conference. I felt like someone who had been coming to this conference for years – all due to my contributions in my PLN during the year. It was a fantastic feeling.
I remember going to IMEA music conference my first year of teaching and feeling a little depressed that perhaps I would get there and I wouldn’t have anyone to eat supper with at night, no one to talk to after the conference sessions were over. And yep, that is exactly what happened. I didn’t have any connections at that conference yet. It took me about 7 years of going before I really felt like I had comrades there. So it is even more amazing to me then that in only my 2nd year of ICE attendance I have “peeps”. Wouldn’t it be the most fantastic thing if this same experience could be replicated for other new attendees each year? This year I was looking forward to hearing exactly how Jen’s move was going, how Kymberli’s kid was feeling, and how Jennifer enjoyed her trip to her favorite state of IL. I was excited to see them in person for the first time to put a 3D face with their 2D avatar in my brain. I was looking forward to hearing more about their struggles with tech and in life in general.
These connections are what the conference is becoming about for me. I know that these people love kids and can be trusted to answer my questions with out judgement. I know that no matter what topic I need to address one or more of them will have experience with it. I know those strange things like hosting my own blog or starting up Google Apps for Education that scare me just a little can be best addressed at a face to face meeting during a conference. So I find myself coming to these events with a list of things that I want to get one on one help with. I also find these face to face meetings are a great place to discuss those high and lofty ideas. At a face to face meeting I get to hear the vocal inflections and see the facial expressions that let me know where the areas which each of my PLN colleges are truly invested. And amazingly in discussing these big ideas I can begin to have a better understanding of where I am truly invested.
During this conference I came to a firm realization that I am concerned that no one appears to be teaching our students how to produce a POSITIVE digital foot print. I realized this in the middle of a conversation with Kevin H. Where are the teachers in my area that are showing students how to create and post things that they can be proud of later on? Where is the person who is saying not just, “Don’t put pictures of yourself drinking on your MySpace page!” but also “Have you thought about how your MySpace page could be something that is more than clean? It COULD be a huge bulletin board of what makes you the coolest thing since sliced bread!” Where is that teacher? Why aren’t there more of them? THIS is the kind of teachers our students need to have to succeed in a digital world, our world, today, now! Scare tactics don’t work. Most kids (and adults) don’t really ever think that a silly thing like a picture of you could have horrible repercussions. We need to be giving students alternative information to post, because they are going to post something. They need guidance and ideas and a positive role model who is already using their digital footprint responsibly.
I am ready to be that teacher and ICE has reminded me of this.