My 5 Splashes of Brilliance from ISTE ’13

Just like trying to choose an eating venue from a multitude of amazing restaurants or deciding where to hang out with a group of creative colleagues while walking along the Riverwalk in San Antonio, ISTE 2013 was a free-flowing stream of difficult decisions among a plethora of exciting activities.
Thankfully enough, I learned from my two previous ISTE trips that I couldn’t do it all, that less is more. My first trip to ISTE in Philadelphia had me going to a session from sun-up to sun-down without taking time for a lunch break. I was trying to soak everything up, and I was afraid of missing valuable information that would help me transform my class. The result? Information overload.
So my second trip to ISTE, which was in San Diego last year, was supported by my learned motto, “Less is more.” I achieved a professional learning balance there and immediately implemented the information from the fewer sessions into my classes.
And as the old cliché goes, “The third time’s a charm,” ISTE in San Antonio allowed me to effortlessly float along the stream of knowledge and enjoy the five splashes of brilliance that have already begun to soak in.

Jane McGonigal

In a riveting presentation, Jane McGonigal solidified gamification as an excellent mode of learning. Not only did she present evidence that proved the effects of simple games and how the true essence of a learner is rooted in resilience and a hunger for improvement, but she also established the fact that any lesson can be gamified by injecting a little creativity and a sizeable challenge. By taking a leap forward and gamifying certain lessons throughout the school year, Jane McGonigal nearly promised students would experience these 10 emotions. Take a look here. These characteristics definitely describe an engaged learner.


One of the overlooked powers of any educational conference is the ability to meet the people who actually inspire you. Take for example, the many people in your professional learning network on Twitter or some other social media site. The ability to put a face with the inspiration is priceless.
I was fortunate to meet two giants in my professional learning network. My first tweet-up was with my virtual friend and colleague, Dave Guymon. Just being able to hang out with an influential educator who has helped me improve my profession is a blessing. Plus, it is extra-cool when the tweet-ups actually resemble the persona portrayed by one’s comments on social media sites. To meet Dave Guymon in person was seamless. A friendship that began on Twitter by sharing educational philosophies and ideas continued effortlessly over dinner with a group of colleagues.
The second giant I met was Kevin Honeycutt. I have always been a fan of this trailblazing educator because of his transparency, vulnerability, and honesty as an educator. Not only do his videos and thoughts from the road challenge my classroom practices and direction, but his creative ideas for real-world lessons inspire me to step outside of the box and offer my students all learning possibilities. To take a “facey” or “selfey” picture with him was a great way of showing my appreciation and respect for all of his help.

Ignite Sessions

A quick way to be inspired at ISTE is to attend the Ignite sessions. The format is simple but effective. Presenters share the original ideas and classroom practices while showing up to twenty images with each one viewable for a maximum of fifteen seconds. There is no way anyone can walk away from these fast-paced sessions without being rejuvenated and enlightened with creative potential. Take a look at the website for the original Ignite movement.

Generous Presenters

One reason I now avoid attending every single session possible is because many presenters are very generous and share valuable resources with all attendees. These overwhelming gifts sometimes require additional hours to peruse and realize the real value. I have learned when I attend a powerful session with a generous presenter the first thing I need to do is go sit down in a hallway somewhere and look through all of the information. Processing time is hugely important. That was something I was ignorant of my first trip to ISTE.
Here is just one example of information from a generous presenter. The potential of Google couldn’t be delivered in one hour by this presenter, which is why I spent the following hour sifting through the valuable links.

A Teacher Party

The quote above speaks volumes. One of my favorite times at ISTE 2013 was the #EdTech Karaoke at Sunset Station. Educators from all around came to hang out with colleagues and cut loose and have a little fun. Now, I’m not going to lie. There wasn’t very much talent exhibited on the karaoke microphones, but there was an abundance of teacher fun. Whether rocking it out in the ‘80s karaoke section or the outdoor venue, a lot of laughter and out-of-tune singing was witnessed. Who says teachers don’t know how to party?
Yeah, ISTE 13 was a splash of brilliance…now that I have learned to tread the rapid current of educational technology.

John Hardison

John Hardison is an interactive facilitator of learning and blended learning specialist at East Hall High School (Studio 113 & EPiCC).

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Sage advice, thanks! The BIG question though...Who are the folks in the picture? :)

Dave Guymon

John, you've got the gift of capturing ISTE in words. I was very honored to have met you at ISTE13 at last. It was one of the highlights of my time in San Antonio. Information overload must be a right of passage, because I experienced the same thing this year as I attended my first ISTE conference. One thing I intend to do next year, in Atlanta, is attend more ignite sessions. The one I went to in San Antonio was full-throttle. Very worthwhile and inspiring. Again, excellent post, John. You not only articulate eloquently, you connect eloquently as well.

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