I recently reflected on some of my ISTE2011 experiences, but I still have something rattling around that I feel I need to further explore. One of the things that I often hear from newbies to ISTE is the overwhelming volume of opportunities to learn and connect. One of the things that I love about ISTE is that there are so many ways to learn with and from so many other passionate educators from around the world.
As we connected and shared with one another, this year I noticed that a majority of what we were sharing were the tools and how they supported learning. I was thrilled that much more of the conversation was about the learning as this is what I passionately believe in.
However, this is often not reflected in the Exhibit Hall. Amanda Dykes did a great blog post about the misguided selling seen in so many of the vendors in this year's Exhibit Hall: It's easy and cool. Now, I realize that the exhibitors are the ones that sponsor the conference, but don't they need to hear from those of us who are in the classroom? My students would walk away from a booth and say, "That was fun, but I don't see how it's going to help me learn better." Now if 11 year olds get it, shouldn't exhibitors get it?
It's easy to get caught up in the newest, hardware or software. It's new and shiny and the salespeople are good at convincing you that your classroom is incomplete without their newest tool. We all enjoy new toys. But it's our job to really look at the tool and see if it really will improve the way our students learn or if it is just a fun new tool to amass in our classrooms.
If you look at the ISTE NETS, you will see that technology plays a supporting role. It supports collaboration, innovation, creativity, and critical thinking. Technology doesn't do it for them. The focus is on the learner and how they use technology to support their learning across content areas and grade levels. We don't always need more "stuff." So many of the tools we use in the classroom that supports real, rigorous learning are free tools that are available online.
So the next conference that you go to, really listen to what someone is saying. Are they sharing something that will really positively impact your students' learning or are they trying to sell you on a new toy? Sometimes you already have enough in your classroom. Enough can really be enough.