I spent the better part of the beginning of this week at ISTE11 in Philadelphia. While there is so much to digest, I want to share an initial reflection.
To do that I need to return to January and Educon 2.3. When I left Educon 2.3 this winter, I felt like something was different than Educon 2.2. It wasn’t the speakers, discussions, SLAstudents, or organization. In fact, the conference itself is world class and I love the fact that it is run by the students of SLA. What was different for me was a feeling as though the Educon community was splintering into several smaller, cliquey-like communities. That, while there was a general openness to having really interesting and difficult conversations, there was also a sort of “who’s in” “who’s out” feeling at times. I want to be careful here to not suggest the people who attended Educon are not terrific people. They are. But, I think with increased connectivity, the organized meetups prior to the weekend, and the natural evolution of communities, certain groupings will and did emerge. Truthfully, I never really felt in or out of any crowd, instead I sort drifted from one space to another.
After having several conversations with trusted colleagues and spending time reflecting upon the Educon weekend, I realized that regardless of how groups from, unform and reform in these communities, the responsibility to ensure a quality conference experience is mine, not the Educon community or any subgroups that may emerge.
As a result, my goal for ISTE11 was to make it my own and do to so in a more independent way, one that allowed me to take control of my time. To do this, I made the incredibly difficult decision to distance myself from very good friends. Not because I didn’t want to see them, but because I wanted to experience ISTE fairly independent of the influence of others. That doesn’t mean that I was rude, disrespectful, or resentful of the actions of others. Nor was I curled up in a ball in some corner of the hall. Instead, I just chose to not go to the places where I knew others were – again, not because I don’t like people, but because I wanted ISTE to be uncomplicated by the very distractions that effected my Educon experience. To all of my valued friends and colleagues, please take my choice to do so as nothing more than a personal social experiment, from which I made the following two observations:
1. I missed my friends. Other than meeting up with folks on the first night and spending time telling my story at the PLP booth in the exhibit hall, I chose to stay away from some of the more social activities of the conference. Karaoke night, the blogger cafe, #engchat, and the Google party all s0unded great. I could see my friends checking in together on Foursquare, and I followed the tweets that not only described but showed through images just how fun people were having. But, I felt as though I needed to remain true to choice to pull back – and that was harder than I ever expected.
2. I enjoyed not only my solitude, but my anonymity as well. In saying that I don’t mean to suggest that I am popular, but everyone knows everyone at Educon. For an introvert like me, that can be exhausting. But, ISTE, with its 22,000 participants in the immense Pennsylvania Convention Center provided ample space, both virtually and physically for me to be alone. And, being alone was good for me. It was quiet. It was soothing. It was healing. It gave me the opportunity to makes sense of the vastness of the conference and my ability to control the quality of my experience.
All of this leads me to my big takeaway via a tweet by Will Richardson:
What I learned at ISTE11 is that while I missed the face to face interactions with my friends (and I look forward to having more of those), the time I was able to spend alone provided immense value to me. It gave me the chance to reflect, to prioritize, and to think hard about what I was seeing and learning.
But, there’s more than that. For me, what I noticed at ISTE While I was alone was that I was keeping tabs on my colleagues through Twitter and Foursquare. I was reading their notes, visiting their links, enjoying their pictures, and offering retweets and replies when appropriate. Even in my solitude, I was still wrapped in the valued conversations of my colleagues. That was something that I missed at Educon. In believing that I needed to be physically present, I completely missed the fact that my network never leaves me, so I can find my space and still be a social learner.
I learned a lot about how social learning is for me now. As I suggested in Steve Hargadon’ssessions on social networks, I’m finding it increasingly more difficult to distinguish between my PLN and my social networks. The two are intricately interwoven now as my networks becomes my friends, and my friends become part of my networks.
Looking forward to Educon2.4 and ISTE12!
image credit: by Clearly Ambiguous