I just finished up five days at ISTE 2012 – the International Society for Technology in Education conference. ISTE has been a must-attend function for me for the past six years, and I imagine it will stay that way for years to come. ISTE isn’t perfect – nothing is – but it is an important event for me every year.

Last year, I was the closing keynote at the conference, so the conference was on my mind a lot in the days ramping up to it. But this year, we had a crazy ramp up to the end of the year, where graduation was followed the next day by meeting the President of the United States, followed by some wonderful end of year work by the SLA faculty, followed immediately by district meetings where we discussed how much of the work of the spring – figuring out how to help schools become more autonomous – was brought one step closer to fruition, and as a result, I was wholly unprepared when the "ISTE is almost here!" tweets came across my twitter stream.

I think, on some level, this would have been an easy year for me to hang out in the Blogger Cafe, chat with a lot of old friends, meet a bunch of new ones, and take only a passing interest in going to sessions. I’m tired, and there’s never enough time to see everyone I want to see, and, indeed, some of the best learning I have is still in the conversations over meals. But I decided on Monday that I wanted to be fully invested in sessions this year, that while on one level, I needed a break from the craziness of the year, on another level, I needed space to re-immerse myself in the ideas that I really love. I needed to focus on being a learner.

So I went to sessions about student journalism, sessions about thoughtfully engaging in conversations about change, sessions about data visualization and sessions about designing curriculum that spurs students to innovate. I had conversations about working with teachers to help them change their practice, and I had conversations about the policy environment.

But also, my takeaway from ISTE is how important this community is to me. Some of the friendship I’ve made from the world of ed-tech are more than ten years old. (For example, I’m writing this post sitting next to Kathy Schrock who I first started emailing with back in the mid-90s and who I first met when she interviewed me for the Today Show about the cyber-mentoring project at Beacon back in ’97 or so.) With many folks here, we’ve known each other through marriages and births and deaths, and the use of social media like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Instagram (and good old fashioned phone calls) has allowed those face to face friendships to stay vibrant even if we are scattered across the globe.

In the end, I count myself incredibly lucky to be part of a community of educator / learners who share their ideas, their passions and their lives, both on-line and off, and I am thankful for the moments like ISTE where we get to learn and laugh together. And I am thankful that this is a community that is very good at doing both of those things at the same time.

See you online… and see you next year.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad