Love and Hospitality at #ISTE2016

Today is my last day at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference. Home beckons. My 8 year old is finishing up his school year and our family’s summer plans can officially get underway. My stay here in Denver has been outstanding in so many ways. I will be leaving with a lot of gratitude in my heart for the wonderful friendships I have had affirmed and broadened.

I’ve never been a fan of the selfie and of the broadcast culture that it implies. And now after ISTE I will wonder if I have changed my stance because throughout my days here I have become a willing participant and in some cases instigator of a group or partner selfie. What shifted?

The numerous pictures that I have gladly shared in my Twitter timeline are expressions of joy in friendship, community, and presence. To be able to see myself in person alongside people who have welcomed me into this space with such encouragement and warmth means much more than I ever imagined. In those pictures I can identify love and that’s clearly the source of the shift.

I woke up thinking about hospitality because a great deal of my well being over these last few days has been dependent upon the quality of hospitality that I have experienced. I used AirBnB and my host has been over-the-top generous and kind. He even loaned me a bike and helmet to travel between home and the convention center. (His name is Bob and I’ll gladly share his info if you contact me!) This has given me a great opportunity to get to know a small part of the city, to get in a little exercise, to feel autonomous in my arrival and departure decision making and generally look pretty cool for toting around a helmet all day (like I might be a local! ;-))

Then there’s this other layer of hospitality going on. Think about it: I am at this ginormous convention essentially on my own. But I only felt that way for a hot minute which I uncharacteristically shared on Twitter.

And guess what happened! My Twitter pals in the UK and South Africa chimed in and sent me virtual hugs! Then, as if they had been summoned, (which I suppose they had been) two members of my tribe community appeared directly in my path and we touched base. It was really just a moment of clarifying directions and intentions for the next couple of hours but it was exactly what I needed: confirmation that I belong, that I have buddies, allies, friends in this sea of individuals. Think, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

After that I was able to carry on with confidence and seek out learning opportunities which nourished my need to feel connected to others. My afternoon choices turned out to be perfect: a demoslam put on by a group of Colorado educators followed by the life- and work-affirming session on digital equity.

When I walk through the convention center alone and find myself wondering if or how I will ever find my tribe community members again, I notice how many people, although sitting in close proximity to each other, are engaged with their devices and not with the people around them. I observe this and wonder: What is isolation? What is alienation? What is Fear of Missing Out? What is relaxation? What is regeneration? Who are we with our devices and who are we without?

I have no answers. I do realize, however, in my own case, that my overall conference experience has everything to do with the very real, more-than-a-series-of-clever-emojis-can-express love and hospitality. Love and hospitality. Love and hospitality.

So as I take in my final day onsite, I want to think about how I invite those two abstractions into being for others. How do I show hospitality in a conference setting of over 16000 people? How do I enact love in the midst of strangers?

This is the conference for the International Society for Technology in Education where we’re big on tools and leverage and achievement. Sure, those terms ring the necessary bells. Yet we know that in our classrooms and communities, positive transformation derives from other sources. We cannot build community without love. We cannot move from stranger to friend without extending some hospitality. Love and hospitality. We can make these happen: here at the ISTE conference, in the corridors, into our online spaces, all the way back home.

Getting My ISTE Groove On

First of all, friends, I never thought I’d be writing a real ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) post, let alone about planning to attend and participate. In many ways this feels a bit surreal. Now almost 4 years into my EduTwitter engagement, I’m going to that annual edtech gathering to try out a very new challenge: public speaking.


On the Saturday before the actual conference begins there is an all day meeting of ISTE affiliate organizers and part of their day is dedicated to previewing potential speakers through a “Keynote Smackdown.” I am one of 8 speakers who will be offering a 4-minute trailer of what I’d be like in front of a larger audience. I owe this opportunity to Shelly Sanchez (@ShellTerrell) and @EdSpeakersCo, who recommended that I apply to take part. While I casually completed the google form and checked the box stating that I could be onsite for the event, I never dreamed that I’d make the cut, not even knowing what the scope of the cut might be.

In late May, I got a message informing me that I had indeed been selected to present. Of course, I immediately confirmed I would come, once I recovered from the shock. So now I’m on my way to ISTE2016. With a purpose. With a huge opportunity. With the benefit of an enormously supportive community.

When I step on the stage and begin walking the audience through my special take on the world, although I will be physically in the singular, the world I represent is plural and includes all of you.

You are:

  • all the kind people who have interacted with me on Twitter and helped me sharpen, broaden and rethink my thinking.
  • all the generous people who have taken time to comment on this blog or on Medium to share your perspectives and nudge my own.
  • all the men and women who specifically have encouraged me to build tables of my own rather than looking for space at the tables of others and have joined me and celebrated with me at said tables.

I would not be going to ISTE or thinking about public speaking if you were not here providing purpose, opportunity and community day after day, year after year. So when I report back on how it was, what I saw, how it felt – expect to hear about real people: People I finally got to meet in person, people whom I admire, appreciate and value for how they have already contributed to my growth and understanding. I probably won’t be talking so much about tools or strategies, but I look forward to sharing insights gleaned from being around people who navigate the tech and social media spheres in healthy and inclusive ways.

It’s time to go pack my bags, review my talk, check the weather forecast, and above all, to say thanks to friends, family and colleagues for making this happen.