Last year I came to ISTE and had no personally face to face connections. I didn't really use Twitter chats much, I didn't blog on a regular basis, I wasn't seeking my professional learning network for help often. I sat alone in a big room at the keynote and gleaned loads of really awesome information but I was a silo'd educator lonely in a crowd. I would see faces and names I knew from Twitter but I didn't "know" anyone.
What a difference a year makes! This year, due to regularly participating in Twitter chats like #ChattTechChat, #TnTechChat, #BYOTChat, #GwinChat, #SatChat, etc I have Twitter "friends" that I truly want to connect with face to face while at ISTE this year. By being a constant blogger in the EdTech community, there are people that want to connect with me as well. By being part of the planning committee for #EdCampGigCity in Chattanooga, Tennessee I have another source of connection to many attending ISTE as well.
Last year, I roamed from room to room gathering information and learning but this year I gather and learn with friends! This year, I'm able to backchannel things I've heard around a table at supper with likeminded individuals. This year, I am able to discern which sessions might be most beneficial to me based on the fact that I follow these individuals on Twitter and know what their passions and points of interest are as well. This year, being a more connected educator has made my ISTE experience more interactive and rewarding.
So when I tell you why you should join social media educational communities such as Twitter (or Voxer, or Facebook, or Pinterest, or a myriad of other options that might spark your interest more than one mentioned here) don't "p-shaw" me and cluck at me like I don't understand true learning and pedagogy, just stand back and watch and be awed like I am today. Striving not to be a silo'd teacher has magnified my ability to reach out to others at ISTE to get answers to take back to my school.
Being an ISTE newbie last year was a little overwhelming, http://techhelpful.blogspot.com/2014/07/what-i-learned-at-iste2014-i-am-little.html, yet extremely rewarding. I have no doubt what I will take away from ISTE this year will be even greater do to my desire to connect to more educators in this last year. As educators, we know that connections to our students matter, it shouldn't come as a surprise to us that the same rules apply to ourselves. I challenge you to go out there, meet people, ask questions, curate information, follow and lead so you can go back home ready to set your educational community on fire with enthusiasm and innovation!