Disconnecting to Connect at #ISTE2014

Ready for an interesting fact:  I’ve been at ISTE — the largest instructional technology conference in the world — since Friday and this is one of the first times that I’ve pulled out my computer.  Better yet, my phone has stayed in my pocket a good 90% of the time.  In a building where people proudly Tweet out pictures of the seventeen gadgets they’ve got stuffed in their backpacks in order to prove that they belong, that’s an impressive act of personal willpower.

The choice to live a largely tech-free ISTE experience has been intentional.

While it means that I’m unable to capture every comment made by every presenter in every session that I’ve attended, it also means that I’m able to strengthen relationships with people — which is hard to do when you are constantly staring at screens or scrambling to be the first to Tweet out a clever quote during a keynote.

And while I’m certain to pick up fewer followers and walk away with fewer resources than I would have had I used my devices to amplify and record the ideas that I’ve stumbled across in the last 48 hours, I’m also certain to pick up more friends because I’ve worked to remember that learning alongside the people in the room is AT LEAST as important as learning alongside the people behind my screens.

Essentially, I’ve disconnected in order to make connections.

Whaddya’ think?

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Related Radical Reads:

Leave a Conference with People to Learn With

The Importance of a PLN

So Much More than a Personal Learning Network

7 thoughts on “Disconnecting to Connect at #ISTE2014

  1. agarry22

    Bill-
    I am glad that you posted this because I essentially did the same thing, but it wasn’t intentional. I walked away feeling like I had a much better experience and learned a lot more. I was very focused on the student perspective about learning and spent time talking to students at the conference and was very excited about the potential for a new story to be told about students and technology.

  2. Carol Schwartz

    Love your idea of connecting P2P. In the end, that’s what it’s all anyway and technology is a tool to do that when other options aren’t available.

    Wise move on your part.

  3. sean tm (@seantm)

    Hi Bill, -since you asked – I think it’s an optimal use of face to face time. 🙂 I’ve tried conferencing a few different ways and concluded that actually Being There requires Focus and some Mono-Tasking and perhaps forgoing a simultaneous connection to the rest of the virtual world… While I’m all for sharing, unless you’re committed to back-channeling sessions, you can share a bit after the fact. If you wanted provide a virtual, vicarious experience with the rest of the world at large you could have just attend online via the stream… Keep up the good -F2F- work and we’ll hope to meet you there or elsewhere in person someday! 😉

  4. Mary Davis

    Clever idea, Bill. The people connection; it’s what we do as educators. Did you pick up anything new on digital storytelling? I am interested in digital story telling as a tool to help struggling readers. Thanks.

  5. John Wink (@JohnWink90)

    Disconnecting means that you allow yourself to connect. I don’t know that being behind the screen really means that you are connected. I am starting to disconnect more from tech and I find myself more connected. Glad you had a great conference.

    Does this make sense?

  6. Deidra Gammill

    How refreshing! I spent last week disconnected because I was on a cruise and didn’t want to spend $0.75 a minute to use the ship’s WiFi. While I hated not being able to check on my boys (who say they are too old at 15/17 to be checked on anyway), it was cool how much time I spent talking to REAL people. Except for teens, I saw very few people on board using their phones to do anything but take pictures. You’ve made such a valid point – “I’ve worked to remember that learning alongside the people in the room is AT LEAST as important as learning alongside the people behind my screens” – and it’s to our detriment as a society that we’ve replaced real relationships with digital ones. I was especially struck by this idea while eating at a cafe in Cozumel with my husband and parents. We were talking, people-watching, and interacting with the mariachi band and waiters. The young couple at the table next to us were engrossed in their phones. They didn’t talk to each other or even look out over the beautiful water the whole time we were next to them. And it made me sad. You said you were deliberate and intentional in staying “disconnected” during the conference so you could be “connected” to the real people around you. That’s a lesson we all should learn AND deliberately teach to our students. Awesome post, as always!

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