It’ a Matter of Perspective
I mentioned in my last post that things would get a little nerdy. With that in mind I will make a concerted effort not to disappoint…
It’s funny how people have different opinions about the concept of celebrity. I guess in our culture there are certain individuals that most people would agree have obtained celebrity status. Michael Jordan comes to mind, along with Elvis Presley, Oprah Winfrey, and Albert Einstein. These are individuals who have transcended what originally put them in the spotlight. They have become recognizable by almost everyone – they have become celebrity. Other people manage to scrape the lower altitudes of the celebrity stratosphere when they become recognizable to subgroups within the larger society. If I mentioned the name Ian MacKaye to my 5th grade students they would undoubtedly give me the same blank stare I get sometimes during math instruction. But for me, and others who had similar teen angst, Ian represented something pretty profound. Of course, if my 5th graders pointed out Iggy Azalea to me I wouldn’t have any idea why she was of any significance (I had to ask my son for the name of this currently popular singer).
In that same line of thought we all have different reasons for choosing certain people that we would consider ourselves to be “fans” of. For me, fan status has fluctuated somewhat over the years. Having the chance to meet an NFL player would have been the greatest thing to ever happen to me as a boy, but today I tend to view professional athletes as grotesquely overpaid entertainers who are seldom worthy of praise. Nowadays I am deeply moved by the bravery of people like Bradley D. Conner and Malala Yousafzai, while I am turned off by people like Gucci Mane or Miley Cyrus.
Prior to ISTE I was involved in developing an online course for my school system. As part of our research on blended learning we were introduced to Dr. Ruben R. Puentedura’s SAMR model. This model describes technology integration through four phases: substitution, augmentation, modification, and redefinition. I found this video of Dr. Puentedura describing his model: video. I must confess I really enjoyed watching this video. I appreciated his description of the model, and I also enjoyed listening to Dr. Peuntedura’s accent and the meter of his speech.
When I was selecting events to attend at the conference I saw one was being offered on the SAMR model. Since this was something I had just studied I thought it would be a good session to attend. To my surprise and delight Dr. Puentedura was the session’s presenter. I won’t go so far as to say I was star struck, but I must confess I was thrilled to have the chance to see and hear him in person. After a very informative and well-presented session I thought it might be nice to speak with him and possibly get a picture (how’s that for being a fan?). To my surprise and amusement however, it turned out that I was not the only one with that idea. A line quickly formed of attendees who wished to speak to and have their picture taken with the good doctor. I waited for a minute or two trying to decide if I would get in line. I couldn’t help laughing to myself about the situation I was finding myself in. Here I was, a guy who used to be the lead singer in a rock band that performed with groups such as Crowbar, Nuclear Assault, Soilent Green, and even 2 Live Crew, and now I was debating whether or not to wait in line to meet the brilliant professor who developed the SAMR model. Like I said, my fan status has fluctuated over the years. I wonder if Dr. Ruben will be selling T-shirts at the next convention?
Since the next couple of posts from my experience at ISTE will be on the nerdy side, I thought I would include this short post just for fun.
I should say that I am an observer of people. I minored in anthropology as an undergrad and I have never shaken my fascination with human behavior. I knew before arriving in Atlanta people would have various motives for attending the conference. For some there would be a genuine interest to learn more about innovations in educational technology. For others it would be a chance to get out of town and spend time with friends and colleagues. For some it would be a professional obligation, and still for others it would be a quest to acquire as many freebies as humanly possible from the vendors. I also discovered, as I rode on the shuttle bus that first day, that the goal of some was to single out and photograph individuals that met their pre selected criteria for that day. On this first day for example, their challenge was to find people that were overdressed for the conference. Although probably not the best use of their time and technology, the game sounded interesting, if not a little disturbing. I’m still not sure if they took my picture as I got off the bus…
The Opening Keynote
The opening keynote address was given by Ashley Judd. At the beginning of her talk she spoke of her intimidation in addressing us, and she questioned her relevance to our conference. I must confess I was right there with her on the latter. Aside from the fact she was a well-known celebrity, I was hard pressed to find a relevant connection. As she began to speak, however, my curiosity increased. Shortly into her talk she recited the Serenity Prayer. As someone who is familiar with twelve-step programs I knew the prayer and was impressed that she put herself out there like that. As she began to share her story I realized she was someone who represented our students. She was someone who had experienced a disturbing childhood and had clung to the encouragement and kind words of her teachers. I found her honesty and openness about her experiences to be both impressive and humbling. Although her message may not have been my first pick for kicking off a technology conference, she reminded everyone in the room that the reason for all of these innovations is ultimately for the ones who matter the most – our students.
Before I went to Atlanta for the 2014 ISTE conference, a friend of mine gave me a fairly detailed description of what I could expect. Although most of it sounded great, I found her description of the vendor showcase area to be a bit disconcerting. For the extrovert, I am sure it would have sounded like a paradise, but for an introvert like myself, who visits the local mall once every two years (maybe), it sounded more like purgatory. She offered up the usual tip of not making eye contact with the vendors in order to avoid the sales pitch. Her story reminded me of my experiences with the open markets in Mexico and the souk in Qatar. I have two things working against me in those situations. The first is that I am not good at haggling over prices, or anything else of that matter. The second is that I was born and reared in the South which means being rude goes against my yes ma’am, sweet tea, Bible Belt upbringing. But after some thought it occurred to me that this would be a different kind of experience in one key way. These vendors would be showcasing technologies that were relevant to my field and, more than likely, I would find the majority of these technologies interesting. So, although I knew I would still squirm a little for stepping out of my introverted hole (as my wife loves to call it), I was looking forward to a positive experience.
I thought it might be interesting (if for no one but myself) to post my writings from my experience at this year’s ISTE convention. My intention is to post these writings in several posts. So, without further delay, here goes nothing…