I didn’t know what to expect or how I was going to feel. As many of you know, attending DENSI (Discovery Educator Network Summer Institute) this year was different for me – I was back as a teacher, not “working” the event as a Discovery Education employee. Overall, there was a lot of excitement. I haven’t been around most of my former colleagues much in quite some time and I was really looking forward to seeing them. The smiles, hugs, and handshakes were so great. Working the Summer Institute in previous years didn’t allow me to enjoy the conference as much as attendees get to. I was really glad I could enjoy it again and not have to worry about setting something up or being “on.” I probably reminded Porter, Emily, Steve, Dean, and Kyle of this more than they would have liked. For the record, I know how much work goes into this event and the team did an amazing job despite their limitations this year. Well done!
There were many things I was looking forward to this week – most involved seeing people I don’t get to see enough. In Vermont, I got to know Brandon and Lindsay, and we’ve become pretty good friends over the years. We’ve communicated with each other almost every day for the past couple of years. This was going to be the first time we’d all be together in two years. As many of you know, the online relationships and friendships are so good, but seeing friends in person makes it even better. Time with these two was awesome. Having Brandon as a roommate was great, he’s become one of my very good friends. If we both apply and get accepted next year, I’m hoping we can room together again, we are on the same page so much (yes, that’s scary). We laughed a lot, and laughter is so good.
I was happy to present this year, sharing some of the things I’ve done with students last school year. I think the session went well and I picked up a few things from Amber, Cathy Jo, and others who also taught me a few things. I liked attending the sessions to, this time I had a purpose – to find things to bring back to my teachers and students. (Here’s a link to my presentation if you want it).
The thing I was most eager to share was my DEN Speaks talk. I’ve actually been thinking about my story for quite some time. This community is a huge part of my life and I wanted to share my experiences – both to thank those who are a part of it and to also let the newer people they are part of something special. I spent a lot of time on the slides, searching through tons of old event pics, and working on the script. My first run through came in around 8 minutes. It needed to be 5. After plenty of editing, I had it to about 6 and was going to go with that. When I connected my computer to the projector, I couldn’t see my speaker notes, which was a problem. While I had a lot of it memorized for the most part, I screwed up the ending because I couldn’t remember what I wrote. Sure, I could have easily solved this problem when I first connected my computer, but I was nervous and didn’t want to ask for help.I was also surprised how my emotions got to me a couple of times. I received nice feedback after the talk, but wasn’t really happy with how it turned out.
I made some new connections this year and got to spend some time with people I didn’t know as well prior to DENSI. It’s a tough balance spending time with so many great people. Many of us have friends we’ve known for years, and we want to spend time with them. On the other hand, there are so many great new people, finding time to get to know them is equally important. Despite the dry campus, many of the evening and late night activities were beyond expectations. I think we got robbed during the DENmazing Race, but still had a blast with my team. It was definitely a swing and miss! I wish I was a better lip syncer. Playing games, talking, and just hanging out with great people were just what I needed. Of course, as the saying goes, there were things that happened at DENSI, that are staying at DENSI.
So what happens next? I will stay connected with many of the people from DENSI. I’ll be taking some of their ideas and using them this year. I’ll communicate with them via social media. I’ll help spread the word about Discovery Ed in my district. It’s underutilized and that’s a shame. I’ll value the friendships and connections and look forward to seeing people when I can. I’ll think about DENSI 2016.
This summer, I attended my 7th ISTE/NECC Conference. I didn’t write up a conference reflection post when I got back, but was thinking recently about why I attend, despite several reasons why it may not be a great idea.
The timing of the conference isn’t that great. It falls right in the middle of Summerfest and I love attending this festival with family and friends. My kids also have games or tournaments and I usually miss some of their events. ISTE is also about a week before DENSI, which is another week long PD opportunity I love attending. ISTE is expensive. I pay for most, if not all of it, out of my own pocket. When I worked for Discovery Ed, I attended for work and didn’t have many of the out of pocket costs, but also had differently responsibilities. This year, like most years, I’m attending again on a personal level. Between airfare, lodging, and food, it’s not cheap.
Despite these reasons and a few other minor ones, I still go back. Why? It’s pretty simple. It’s fun, I learn stuff, and I get to see friends I don’t see very often. This year, I didn’t register for the full conference. The main reason for this was financial. In the past, I haven’t attended a ton of concurrent sessions and didn’t feel the $400+ registration was worth it if I didn’t attend many of these. I was able to get an Exhibit Hall Pass (thanks Kristy) and that worked out great. This year, I hung in the Bloggers’ Cafe, checked out the Poster Sessions, other common areas, and explored the exhibit hall. This was plenty for me and certainly met my needs.
For me, having a chance to sit in a small group setting to chat or learn about something new is much better than racing from session to session and sitting in a big room while someone talks for an hour. I don’t like how the Bloggers’ Cafe has turned into a mini vendor hall. If one person from a start up is there working and talking to people and not passing out a ton of t-shirts or something, I’m okay with it. However, when 5-8 people from a company take up an entire corner of the area, I don’t like it. The vibe of the area has changed quite a bit over the years. With that being said, I did have a great conversation with Craig Jones from Formative about his product and it’s something I definitely want to explore more.
I also love the evening social activities. I have made quite a few friends over the years at conferences and love catching up with them. I had a great dinner with a huge group of people on Sunday that provided a lot of laughs, caught up with other friends all week, and just enjoyed some time with good people I don’t see enough. So many of the conference reflections I read this year have focused on the people. It’s the connections, the conversations, and the networking that are critical. I cannot stress enough how a quality network can help you professionally and also personally.
ISTE is a great experience. It can be overwhelming and exhausting, but it’s worth it to me. I don’t know if I’ll be there next year or not, but if I’m not, I know I’ll miss it.
This post is simply here to keep myself accountable. I need to write more and share more. With that being said, blog posts will be coming about the following topics. If you don’t see them soon, let me know.
- ISTE Reflection
- DENSI Reflection
- Chad’s Choices
- The upcoming school year
Maybe this will help me, maybe not, but we’ll see.