On the Floor at #ISTE2016

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Dear Denver and ISTE2016,

I arrived home on the red-eye around 6:30am.  Drove home, showered for the first time since the previous day, then spent the day with my family.  It felt like it had been a month, not 72 hours.

My first trip to the annual beacon of education and technology has left me needing a lot of time to unwind and process.  There were so many take aways, highlights, and a few funny stories that you can ask me about in person should we meet again.  There were some disappointments, some slightly scary moments, and a few road bumps.  Ultimately I can say that this trip was incredible and worth all that went into it (even surrendering my spare cape to a complete stranger.)

My trip to ISTE started by finding friends.  Within minutes of arriving I had found several of my favorite people who had previously only lived in tiny boxes on my phone.  I had also been introduced to new friends, great connections, that I hope to continue talking to in the future. I made it my goal to cram as much into my days as possible.  Running a session was fantastic.  Due to the sheer number of people at ISTE, I had more people talking to me about my project, my ideas, than I had had in any session I had given.  Each time with people telling me how valuable, interesting, helpful I had been.  By the time it had ended, I had made my first connection to the peripheral educational world, an Education Program Manage with Google Earth.  It was then that it hit me, this place was filled with opportunity.

By day two I had realized there were more great people around than I would ever hope to see. There were many good sessions, some scheduled, and many more right there on the floor of the convention center.  I had heard the best part of ISTE is the great learning that takes place outside of the sessions.  Within each micro session handfuls of people discussed with more honesty and openness than you would expect, topics ranging from equity and poverty, technology integration, mentoring, personalized learning, maker spaces, steam, and basically anything you can imagine.  I left with a head so full it will take days to unpack all of the ideas and opportunities that were involved.

The reality if ISTE is that the sessions, while good, are no more impressive than at a good EdCamp or regional tech conference.  What makes it special is the incredible collection of people that make the journey each year.  What makes ISTE so special that you can’t even sit on the floor by the nearest outlet without also plugging into a potentially great conversation.  You can’t hang around the airport waiting for your flight without brushing with amazing people or stumbling upon a great opportunity.  On the floors of ISTE, the greatest assets are the people.  It is a great gathering of leaders in and out of the classroom, so despite having to swim through the sea of  humanity of 18k people, despite traveling 3,500 miles in less than 4 days, I can only say thank you to everyone with whom I had the wonderful opportunity to interact.  From those I had known the longest, to those I only had a few moments to enjoy their brilliance, I am forever grateful for having had the opportunity to share the space with so many amazing people and I look forward to doing it again.

Whether we met at ISTE2016, we spent quality time together, or we somehow missed one another (there were a few of you!) please continue to reach out and know that I am always willing to discuss any topic.  We don’t need the floor of a giant convention hall, let’s keep the great discussions going, the real discussions, the one’s with passion and honesty.

See you all soon,

Me

 

Time to Man Up

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I would like to start by saying that while this is a post that is very important to me and on my mind often, I was inspired to write tonight for the first time in a while after reading the excellent post by Christina Torres ( @bilbio_phile ) which you can read here bit.ly/24xujfV

As a man, and more so as a white man, I have had the benefit of a great many things.  There is one thing however that I find as frustrating as any other about being a man, and that is simply the artificially generated pressure to “be a man.” Being a man is often described as dominant, aggressive, fierce, violent, sexual, provider, or care taker to name a few.  When human beings were battling to survive their environments and found it difficult to survive each other, some of those stereotypes may have made some sense as those traits may have meant safety or successful reproduction.  In our world today, those stereotypes are instead dangerous.

I teach small children.  As a man teaching young kids I often deal with the diverse reactions ranging from “oh that is so sweet” to  laughter because teaching small kids to read, write, explore, question, and experiment is somehow less manly than other jobs.  I have worked with many kids that do not have a strong father figure, and many that do.  I consistently battle with the male stereotype and the corresponding expectations that come with it.  I have to check my own perceptions when I see a boy crying, a boy getting hurt.  Am I treating these future men in a way that will further the stereotype? This TED talk by Terry Porter opened my eyes to the stereotypes I was promoting in my biases Tony Porter: A call to men | TED Talk | TED.com (warning there may be language inappropriate for work or young people but its worth a watch.)

The look of shock on the faces of my young future men when I tell them at 33 I have never thrown a punch (fighting with my brothers excluded) is always sad.  They are amazed that someone they look up to, that is such a prominent male figure in their life, is not a “fighter.” I read them books like The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss.  While the original story is about nuclear proliferation, there is a clear message about the problems of solving disputes through violence.  I talk to them about being strong.  We talk about how being strong is more than physical.  It is about understanding what is right, doing that thing, and sticking with it.  Being strong is about finding the best way to solve your problem, not the quickest.  It is about looking someone who hates you in the eye and offering them help.  Strength comes from confidence.  Not confidence in your abilities, but confidence in who you are as a person.  I am me.  I know what I am doing is the best I can do in this moment.

Ultimately being a good man is no different than being a good person.  The rest is simply pressure applied by others that lack security and confidence in themselves.  Being a good man transcends the stereotypes in that a good man does not need to prove themselves in regards to others, they are simply doing what they need to do.  In that, they have no need to tear others down, to take away from them, or to challenge them.  Like any other good person, their goal is to elevate those around them while improving themselves.

So, I say to young men, future men, teachers of future men, it is time we man up.  Stop promoting the nonsensical stereotypes developed out of our prehistoric ancestors and start teaching our boys to be good men, and in doing so, good human beings.