Why I am #NotatISTE16

  • Because my session proposal was declined

That’s the big reason. I submitted a proposal regarding digital portfolios for students with someone else, and it didn’t get accepted. The rest of this post contains secondary rationale for why I am not attending the International Society for Technology in Education convention in Denver this weekend. Let’s not forget this as I rant a bit later on.

  • Because I am in-between positions

I recently accepted a new job as elementary principal in Mineral Point, WI. This involves not only a change in position but also a change in location. In hindsight, I am grateful that the session proposal did not get accepted. I could not imagine being away right now.

  • Because I can learn from a distance

By following the #NotatISTE16 hashtag on Twitter and related social media, you can learn vicariously through attendees who are posting their takeaways from the convention. In addition, there are online spaces, such as Live Binders, set up by attendees to share their learning. It cannot be the same as being there, but it is better than the alternative.

  • Because I would miss my family

Even though it is summer and most schools have been out for at least a week, it is hard to be away from home. This evening, we cooked out and had s’mores together. Nothing at the ISTE convention can match these rich, personal experiences. Our breaks as administrators in between school years are always too short. I am thankful for today.

  • Because…

I have been meandering to this point, because I am not sure how to phrase it. I was looking at the line up of sessions and workshops on the ISTE website: Digital forms, badge systems, tablets for primary students, writing technology grants. I had to remind myself that I was willing to make my way halfway across the country for this. I would be blogging from Denver if the convention committee thought my proposal was worthy.

Why the concerns? I think my reservations have much to do with the worthiness of educational conferences that focus on technology, instead of with technology. It seems like these types of events tend to put the cart before the horse. The best conference I ever attended had a sole focus on two things: Literacy and Leadership. Technology had a minor role, but it was certainly not in the lead. The influence this institute had on our team and subsequently the school as a learning organization is still visible today. Can a team that attends an ISTE convention or related experience make the same claim?

Even when schools attempt to integrate technology within instruction, it too rarely moves the needle when it comes to the instructional impact on student learning. I know, because we assessed ourselves as a school last year on digital citizenship and the 4Cs. We were emerging in these areas, across the board. This is after multiple years of embedding digital tools into our teaching and learning with thoughtfulness and intention.

For sake of transparency, I have never attended an ISTE convention. My point of view is from afar. I would be curious about other people’s opinions about this topic. Please share your thoughts in the comments.


Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District (http://mineralpointschools.org/). Matt also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD (www.ascd.org) and Lead Literacy (www.leadliteracy.com).

8 thoughts on “Why I am #NotatISTE16”

  1. Hi Matt,
    What you write makes a lot of sense to me. I’m #atISTE16 and even though the waterfall of stimulation has yet to really get started, my sense of caution and reserve is heightened. I’m here as a sort of educational tourist. I love eduTwitter and it has been my personal connections which have brought me here and already made my trip worth the expense (significant) and effort. I’m here for the people, not the tools and gadgets. Knowing this allows me to set my priorities accordingly. Being here as an observer-participant is a very rich experience indeed and I recognize this as both privilege and luxury. Although, you are not here on site I feel like I’ve just met someone I would want to chat with for longer. And guess what: we can do just that because “we have the technology.”


  2. Your commentary rings true with my educational journey. I taught in two buildings with limited technology, was an associate principal in a BYOD building and am currently “principaling” in a one to one building. What I find fascinating is that of all of the buildings, the two with limited technology actually connected learning to the students lives in a way that translated to successful “state report cards.” The buildings who brought technology in before making sure that the universal curriculum was sound, have not seen the same results. Very much a cart before the horse feel. Thank you for sharing! We are on a journey that I call “back to the basics” that I am very much looking forward too!


    1. Laura, your comment reminds me of the aphorism: “Creativity loves constraints.” Allowing the instructional needs to drive the technological needs makes a whole lot of sense. Thanks for commenting.


  3. Thanks for the ideas on how to stay tuned in when one cannot attend. I share your concern that technology is not the end all and must serve a purpose that enhances best practices. A conference that addresses how certain technologies enhance the learning experience or perhaps which technologies best match with certain learning styles would be very helpful for me. Are you aware of any resources or upcoming conferences that would target in on these ideas? Thanks!


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