Just like everything else, ISTE looked a little different this year. Instead of taking place in an expo hall/convention center, ISTE moved virtual for 2020 and stretched a few extra days.
Unfortunately for a virtual experience there were also virtual hic-ups. Many times throughout the week I had error messages when clicking on session links. It seems that while they knew how many people registered for the conference, they hadn't taken into account the strain on their servers to handle the traffic. There was also an issue of sessions being "full" but I know that web conferencing software has limits and even the in-person ISTE sometimes has to close off sessions for safety when they are full.
I think the hardest thing was that ISTE was based on Pacific Time Zone which meant things started later in the afternoon and went into the evening here on the East Coast. Even so, I was able to attend a bunch of sessions and meet some awesome people. Even more interesting, after talking in the chat box of one session, I got a DM from someone I had worked with six years ago asking if I was that same Cori. It was nice to reconnect and we're now connected on Linkedin so we can stay in touch moving forward.
On the first day of ISTE, I had the privilege of presenting a condensed panel The Best of Both Worlds: O365 and G Suite Can Co-Exist
with some of my fellow Microsoft Innovative Education Experts and Google for Education Certified Innovators. One of the biggest takeaways I had from my own presentation was that when organizing such an endeavor, communication becomes more important than ever. Also, proof-read online forms before hitting submit or you too will end up with a condensed timeslot instead of a full hour (oops). The panel went well and we've already discussed perhaps hosting an encore on social media using StreamYard.
I attended many sessions during the week on coaching/mentoring, esports, future-ready learning, and more. I think the biggest takeaway I had was from a session on the science of audiology. The session talked about proper mic placement, speaker volume, and in class sound amplification vs web conferencing audio issues. I thought it was really interesting because as a naturally loud person I always say "can you hear me in the back without a microphone" but I learned that hearing and understanding are not always the same thing. The audio setup is not to amplify a voice but to evenly distribute it because when you naturally raise your voice, you're also changing the tone which can make it harder to understand even for people without hearing difficulties. Using your teacher voice
is no longer an excuse for poor classroom audio.
The virtual expo hall was truly lacking from the experience of walking up and down rows of vendors. While I did stop to "chat" with a few vendors, it was much harder to explore products when watching YouTube videos or reading PDFs compared to physically holding something. Yes, I also missed the swag, but most of the time I only keep a few key items anyway.
Overall, I missed the in-person experience and I truly hope that 2021 in Texas takes place. However, I understand that the entire world has shifted right now and ISTE did the best they could given the circumstances.
Disclaimer: As a Microsoft Innovative Education Expert (MIEE), I was fortunate to have my registration covered by Microsoft as a presenter using Microsoft tools.