Sunday, January 21, 2018

When an Educator Steps Out Of Her Edubox


I always thought of myself as an openminded, growth mindset kinda educator. In the last year I've even challenged myself to look for ways to get out of my educational technology silo. Then entered this strange opportunity for me...the Alexa Conference. Just when I was patting myself on the back for being chosen to present at ASCD Empower18 (which I deemed way out of my comfort zone) in comes an opportunity outside of education all together- an opportunity to give an educator's perspective regarding the Voice First world. Think Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, etc- any voice user interface...Now think programmers, thought leaders, and even a representative from the Federal Trade Commission. Yep, that was my audience. I didn't feel so open minded. I felt out of my league.

As a rule, being a public speaker is no big deal to me because I am passionate about education and the impact instructional technology that is well integrated can have on the learning process. But, Thursday was different. I would not have even known about the Alexa Conference if it had not been in my own wonderful city, Chattanooga, Tennessee. I saw the Alexa Conference was coming to Chattanooga and reached out to it's promoter- Bradley Metrock. Not only did he invite me but he asked me to speak! And what a crazy awesome opportunity it was.

I walked into the event not knowing a soul but was welcomed warmly. The first speaker, Kevin Old, of Lifeway Tech started off and I'll be honest, my palms started to sweat and I kept hearing in my head "I'm in over my head, I'm in over my head." Because Kevin was speaking Greek to me. I'm not a programmer or even really a novice coder. Fortunately for me, the conversations went back and forth from technical to practical all day and I gleaned so much out of an industry I knew so little about.

And then it was my turn to speak. It's been YEARS since I've heard that nervous voice come out of my mouth during a presentation but boy I felt it! This wasn't my tribe, they were from all over the world and I didn't speak their language but they listened. And they questioned. And they were kind. And I realized at the end of the session that I had actual giving them food for thought. ME? A mere instructional technologist with big ideas for education. I knew I brought value to the conference when Brian Roemmele, a voice first expert tweeted about what I was sharing.

I'm still blown away by the thought leaders in that room and the discussions that were had. I'm blown away by the fact that they acknowledge that Voice First is just beginning to be impactful on our world but they see the future because some of them are already creating it in their garages.

What this conference did for me was to show me bigger pictures and potential. It also empowered me to reach outside of my educational technology world even more to be a part of the innovation that is to come. I can't wait to see what the future holds and I have a few ideas myself that I'm going to work through to see if they could lead to anything feasible.

Thank you to Bradley Metlock and the presenters and attendees of #AlexaConf for exposing me to "different" and allowing me to expose you to the wonderful world of educational needs. It was a great time and I can't wait to try some of the things I learned! And educators, if you ever have a chance to speak outside of your comfort zone...do it!

My presentation can be found here: