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Pete Hansen - HSTE to ISTE Reflection

After years of hearing stories and drooling over posts from friends who were at the ultimate edtech conference, I had the opportunity to attend the ISTE conference this past June in San Antonio thanks to the generosity of the Hawaii Society for Technology in Education.  My grant application was accepted and I was on my way.  

Before I headed to San Antonio, I attended the HSTE pre-ISTE meet-up in Honolulu and learned some helpful hints from the gang.  Everyone spoke to the idea that it was so overwhelming and it would be impossible to take it all in but I should choose a focus and tailor my experience to the workshops and sessions that supported that focus.  Other essential advice I obtained were to wear comfortable shoes, bring an extra bag to take back all the swag and to sign up in advance for the happy hours and various meet-ups through the week.  

When I arrived In San Antonio on Sunday after 14 hours of travel overnight from Kahului, I was stoked.  It seemed like everyone at the airport was in town for the conference.  I checked in quickly to my hotel and (after several wrong turns and eventually resorting to Google Maps) I found my way to the convention center.  

To say that the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center is impressive is an understatement.  This recently remodeled facility is a modern marvel situated in downtown San Antonio on the Riverwalk.  Despite its massive size the lobby was packed and the auditorium for opening keynote speaker (Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad) was standing room only.  

That keynote was a treat as Abumrad inspired the audience to think differently about “failure” and the importance of perseverance.  He described the idea of “gut churn” and explained how this unsettled feeling of angst and excitement can be channeled toward a positive outcome.   Many of the 21,000 educators in the audience (including myself) left feeling inspired and committed to embracing whatever challenges lay ahead in the new school year.

After some delicious Texas BBQ (and much needed sleep) I was ready for the first full day of the conference.  I explored the gargantuan exhibit hall, filling my extra bag with swag and checking out new technologies and services from some interesting vendors.  The highlights for me were the Pai robots, several virtual reality headset vendors, the Tapistry interactive whiteboards and the “Escape Bus.”  Although it is unlikely they will be able to bring the bus to Hawaii, this “mobile escape room” presented an interesting opportunity for myself and a group of teachers to work together to solve the problems and (almost) escape from the bus.  I was also excited to win a raffle from the “Escape Bus” folks and take home my own BreakoutEDU kit.  

After the exhibit hall I explored the Playground, learning more about the “Be Internet Awesome” digital safety initiative from Google and getting to meet M.I.T. legend and father of Scratch Mitch Resnick.  Some of my favorite booths in the Playground and Poster sessions were those staffed by high school and college students excited to show off how their school was embracing edtech.  

The next day I attended breakout sessions from educators and administrators from Virginia,  Louisiana, Oregon and Georgia.  I also spent some time in the virtual reality Playground and was particularly impressed with the “Designing in VR” program from Datui Labs where participants could create 3D models easily using the HTC Vive set.  I could have spent all day inside that program, it was an impressive and intuitive interface that made designing a fully-immersive experience.  

Tuesday started with a Keynote from Jennie Margera and then included more inspiring sessions and some more quality time in the exhibit hall.  There was a brief scare when a fire across the street from the convention center forced the evacuation of one of the hotels were several attendees were staying but fortunately there were no injuries.  That afternoon was the HSTE meet-up at the Acenar “CoolMex” restaurant.  Approximately 50 HSTE members from several islands showed up and about five Alaskan chapter members came along as well.  Squirrels (the company not the mammals) graciously provided pupus and prizes for attendees and this was a great opportunity to connect and debrief.  Several of us headed over to catch the “History of San Antonio” show which depicted 400 years of the town’s history in a half hour musical and light experience.

After checking out of hotel the next day, I was able to spend a few hours at the convention before I had to head to the airport.  Although I was unable to attend the closing Keynote (Girls Who Code’s Reshma Saujani) I left this conference full of knowledge and inspiration.  I would highly recommend the ISTE conference to anyone who teaches and owe the HSTE a huge debt of gratitude for this opportunity.  Hope to see you all in Chicago 2018!

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