Norwegian school leader, blogger and edu-tech evangelist Ann Michaelsen (center) shares an ISTE 2011 photo op with PLP co-founders Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Will Richardson.

Dear American Friends,

This year was my second visit to the annual ISTE conference in the U.S. I was fortunate to be able to attend the Denver event in 2010 and left with a strong desire to come back. I wanted more of this!

Not only was I impressed by the content and size of the event (this year in Philly: 18,000 participants & 700 sessions), I was amazed by the enthusiasm and engagement shown by fellow educators. That’s what I love most — meeting other educators who are passionate about the use of technology in education and who, just like me, are continuously working on changing education to meet the needs of our students and the requirements of a constantly changing world.

Europe has two similar conferences as far as I know. BETT in London, England, and Educa in Berlin, Germany. I have attended BETT several times and although it is somewhat comparable in size with ISTE it is in no way equivalent. In fact I felt compelled to inform my fellow colleagues in Norway and Sweden about ISTE and try to convince more to join me for some globe-hopping.

There is in my opinion one great difference between Norwegian/Swedish educators and those in North America: the willingness to commit time to personal development outside the normal business/school hours. I had many collaborators who were willing to sponsor teachers to come over to Philadelphia this summer, but we ended up with a group of only nine. In Scandinavia, the last day of school for teachers is the 22nd of June and by the 23rd, they’ve vanished!

Enough said. I admire you guys, and since I follow a lot of conferences in the USA via Twitter I know how you dedicate evenings, weekends and summer holidays to learn and connect. Way to go!

My ISTE 2011 Takeaways

The web helps us share our experiences with teachers who are not able to attend conferences abroad, and on my own blog I have written about my takeaways from ISTE this year. I would like to share some of my favorites here, not listed in any particular order.

Since I already was familiar with the idea of flipped teaching before coming to the conference, I arranged to meet up with Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, two science teachers from Woodland Park, South Dakota who are leading a revolution in instruction called “The Flipped Class.” I hope to see them both in Norway for my conference in October.

David Warlick’s session — “A Gardener’s Approach to Learning” — offered many ideas about cultivating your personal learning network and growing connections with people and organizations that help you do your job. From my notes, here are some of the ways you can cultivate your PLN:

– By reading blogs and wikis, by joining networks (Classroom 2.0) and using Twitter.

– Find what people are blogging about at BlogPulse,

– Search blogs to see who is writing about ISTE at Google,

– Use Technorati for real time search.

– Find who is tweeting about learning networks on Twitter search.

– Use Diigo to not only curate your important discoveries — but to find others who share your interests.

I loved the session “Yeah…but” with Will Richardson and Rob Mancabelli (authors of new new Solution Tree book Professional Learning Networks). They talked about how to react to that oft-heard phrase with rational and emotional answers — and how to have a conversation to get to the root of what underlies resistance to change and identify concerns and needs.

– Identify a person of authority who can share his or her change process, why it’s been beneficial, and missteps and how to recover.

– Set long-term goals with incremental checkpoints and smaller goals along the way.

– Create a support group for people to tap into when they run into roadblocks.

Keynote speaker John Medina, author of the New York Times bestseller Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School started the conference with an inspiring keynote. Medina is generous with his ideas and content. Check YouTube and his own website for multiple videos of his big concepts and samples of his entertaining presentation style.

Kevin Honeycutt was the keynote speaker at the international leadership symposium on Sunday. I also had the chance to talk to him and see him present on the 29th. Check out his website he has a lot of cool places to visit!

I was looking forward to the closing keynote by Chris Lehmann, an amazing high school principal in Philadelphia. I wasn’t disappointed! I also had the chance to talk to several of his students from Science Leadership Academy who participated in the keynote. Wonderful young people.

A Cool Time to be a Passionate Learner

That closing keynote (you can see it here) wraps up my impressions from this year’s conference. It was the perfect end to a great week for me. Unlocking Potential was the theme of the conference this year and I love it. We should never forget that it is all about the kids. In Norway we were painfully reminded about that this last month and even though it makes me sad to think about what happened in my country this summer, at the same time it makes me proud to be an educator working with young people every day.

To quote Will Richardson, this is the coolest moment to be a learner right now, and that applies equally to students, teachers and mentors! To be able to help prepare our next generation of Norwegian and American citizens to be lifelong learners is a great privilege.

There are so many opportunities for educators who are courageous — who are willing, in Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach’s words, to help students “understand how to synthesize and analyze and to create — to think deeply and become passionate learners.”

I for one can’t wait to start with my new students this fall!

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Ann Michaelsen

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