#ISTE13: It's not about Technology, it's about People

A good friend of mine, Dan Fried, shared with me this incredible blog post describing the recent ISTE conference: At #ISTE13 I Found the One Tool That Will Change Education! I was smiling ear to ear just reading it and it got me thinking...

If technology could replace people then why bother going to an EdTech conference like ISTE at all. We could just all get together on Twitter, Facebook, Today's Meet or some other Web 2.0 platform, save on the travel, the hotel room, the cheap soap in the shower and missing the kids at home. But it's not about technology. It's about people.

I found interacting with so many amazing people at ISTE to be exhilarating. I met two retired teachers from California who explained to me why Explain Everything is such a superior screencasting app to Showme or Educreations. I had a half hour conversation with a sixth grade English teacher at a Catholic school, who happens to have a Jewish granddaughter so she says, who showed me how she uses Edmodo to create groups, paperlessly hand in homework assignment, and give real time self-graded quizzes to her students. And I met the Grease Monkeys, the FIRST robotics team that I read about in the book The New Cool by Neal Bascomb, and saw first hand their awesome robot which combines engineering, mechanics, and coding to compete in a sports like competition. Here is a picture:



All of these people often shared with me stuff that I might have read about in the past but interacting with them face to face made it real. Their excitement became my excitement.

This is why I do what I do as an EdTech teacher trainer. I could just have my teachers watch webinars, YouTube videos, or read articles from The Journal or all of the latest posts in the EdTech blogosphere. But while all of these resources are important for teacher development nothing beats working with a teacher face to face. Showing her how to add blog posts to her Feedly account so she can keep up with the latest trends in teaching math or how to select a word on the iPad with a flick of a finger and then instantaneously look up that word in a dictionary, or Google it, or just copy and paste it into an email. I could go on and on (and maybe I will in a future blog post).

This is one of my fears about blended learning. Blended learning and all technology can be an incredibly effective teacher enhancer. But once you are using technology to replace teachers rather than enhance them that's a different story. It is that connection between teacher and student that makes learning happen. Maybe that's why my older kids love Frisch, where they are students and I teach, so much. The teachers really care and the students just want to please them.

As the great master teacher Nehama Leibowitz, who I had the privilege to have as my teacher during the last year of her life, always said, students remember nothing. Ultimately, they might not remember the Gemara or the Rashi you taught them, the Math problem you demonstrated on the Smart Board, or the essay they had to complete. But they will remember the relationships. They will remember the people who influenced them and the high they experienced learning in their classroom. This is why I go to conferences. It's the people.