ISTE ’17: A Reflection

The ISTE game runs strong. Whether you’re learning and absorbing, or caring through sharing, ISTE is an awesome opportunity to connect and grow with colleagues from around the world.

I just concluded my second-ever ISTE conference and I was no less overwhelmed by it all than I was as a rookie last year. The only difference was that instead of being a wide-eyed learner exclusively, I jumped head-first into the sharing abyss and was honored be a “Presenter of ISTE.”

My early arrival afforded me time to meet up and retreat with my Common Sense Education team where we planned for the upcoming year. I never cease to be amazed by the warmth, talent, and energy of this group.


Fast-forward to day one of the conference and I got to see one of my podcast heroes, Jad Abumrad, in the flesh. What a better experience than to be front and center (well, stage-left, really) with my work soul-sister, Melissa Cleaver to see this powerful talk. Jad’s talk spoke to our hearts about creativity and the art of storytelling – after all, “Sound is touch as a distance.”


Monday, Rob and I got to tell the story of the App Approval Tool to an international audience. They were intrigued by our work and a captive audience. I was humbled by the questions regarding our process and later connected with a new friend who does similar work in Texas at Lewisville ISD. My heart was filled knowing not only that there are others trying to tackle the student-data privacy problem in schools, but knowing that I now have someone on my level to connect with regarding this work and the sometimes pains and joys that it can bring. I have a new friend in Brandie and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to meet with her over coffee later in the week.

Tuesday brought my biggest day of learning and cheering on my team.

Jennie Magiera killed it (as per usual) during her keynote session (look for another blog on this one soon!) where she reminded us of the power in telling our untold stories and those of our students. She always leaves me in tears.

Melissa Cleaver and Rebecca Chambers rocked the house in their Ed Tech Coaches Playground Session: Which Hats Do You Wear?


Kelly Means and I sported our Microsoft EDU, purple volunteer shirts and rocked a couple of hours in the Microsoft booth in the Expo hall, talking to people from across the world about the awesome Microsoft products available at our disposal.


On my way to cheer on Kristi Tolliver and Megan Thompson from Buffett Magnet Middle School, I noticed that the fabulous Tom Murray was presenting a Future Ready session right next door. I’d have been disappointed in myself had I not stopped in to soak in his infinite wisdom for at least a little while. Man, am I glad I did. Tom says that “The foundation of creating Future Ready schools is leadership and school culture” and he reminds me that we’re well on our way to creating Future Ready Schools here in Nebraska. I’m proud to be a part of Nebraska’s Future Ready Council.

I snuck out of this session a few minutes early just in time to see Kristi and Megan bring the excitement in their session on gamifiying professional development with their staff. Not only did Buffett get WILD participation in their gamified PD this year, but they also got their entire staff on Twitter, building on one of the most powerful PLNs available. Mad props to Buffett and their staff. They rule.

My personal goal for ISTE was to get as much information as I could regarding advocating for equity and access. I was disappointed to discover that the Not Related Bernsteins were presenting at the same time I was on Monday, but stoked to hear that the lovely Ally Bernstein had one more session on Tuesday afternoon. She and Jon are a wealth of information and I’m grateful to be connected to them. I will do whatever it takes to make sure that our voices are heard loud and clear in the state of Nebraska regarding the importance of Educational Technology.

One of the coolest things I got to witness was a handful of my team participating in a major, live-streamed, online event: Microsoft’s Hack the Classroom. Rob Dickson helped to open up the event and Kelly Means and Eileen Heller served on the panel representing OPS well. I didn’t make it into the main space, but watched with snacks from the overflow room.

Wednesday brought the close of ISTE but don’t think for a minute that it was a mellow wrap up. The morning started with a great conversational session lead by ISTE Digital Citizenship PLN leaders Julie Paddock and Nancy Watson. It was awesome to talk with fellow educators who so passionately care about the topic that drives my work. I look forward to working alongside Julie and Nancy to continue conversations within this PLN.

The grand finale for me came with one of my greatest speaking accomplishments to date. I was so lucky to be selected to perform an Ignite Talk as part of the ISTE Young Educator Network. An Ignite talk is a branded presentation (think Ted talks, but shorter) where the presenters have 5 minutes to share their ideas, using 20 slides which auto-advance every 15 seconds. Yeah. Intense. In my talk, I speak about the courage of the Adler family to tell the story of Reid and the message to #EraseHate. I discuss of the dangers of presenting a one-sided social media story with teens and children. I explain that as adults, we’ve done a really good job of warning kids that they have the power to destroy their lives using social media, that they’re hearing the message loudly and clearly. When they do make digital mistakes, they often don’t know where to turn next. Instead of shaming kids regarding their digital mistakes, we must educate them on resources available to them and ways that they can turn their online images around.

While I could have used some more time to rehearse, I was proud of myself for jumping in and giving the talk. I hope to continue sharing this story far and wide and look forward to future opportunities to do so.

Leaving San Antonio Wednesday evening, I was certain that I’d never been more exhausted in my life, but the things I learned, the connections I made, and the stories I shared hold far more value than sleep. I was so happy to get home to my husband, but the trip won’t soon leave my mind and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it. Until next year, farewell, fellow wizards!


4 comments on “ISTE ’17: A ReflectionAdd yours →

  1. I’m honored to get to work with such an amazing and passionate educator. Keegan you are an agent transformation! Thanks for the props.

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