Preparing for #ISTE2015, Why Technology is so AWESOME

These past few weeks counting down to ISTE 2015 have given me a new-found appreciation for why technology is so AWESOME.

Let me explain...

Those of you who follow this blog know that this year I am presenting at ISTE for the first time. My topic is Crowdsourcing ISTE: A Dynamic Model for Collaboration Inside and Outside the Classroom. This presentation was inspired by my collaboration last year with Sue Waters of Edublogs on crowdsourced notes for the conference. After ISTE was over, I reached out to Sue with the idea for a designing a workshop together describing our experience crowdsourcing and using it as a model for crowdsourcing in the classroom.

One caveat. We always tell our kids not to talk to strangers. Although I felt I knew Sue so well from our work together and viewed her as a colleague, albeit a virtual one, I had never actually met with Sue or even spoken to her. It was our experience using tools like Twitter, Google Docs, and Flipboard that forged our relationship so Sue was very much not a stranger to me and I was confident that we could continue our strong working relationship.

A few weeks ago, I finally had my first Google Hangout with Sue. (We still cannot physically meet in person because she is "down under" in Perth, Australia, presenting at ISTE virtually, while I am in the US in New Jersey and will be attending ISTE in person in nearby Philadalphia.) Our Hangout confirmed my intuition. Sue was engaging, full of ideas, reflective, and she had a really cool accent as well. It was such a pleasure to plan together, share tidbits contrasting the weather and seasons in Australia and the US, and differences in how people drive in each country.

**Spoiler Alert** In Australia people really don't use their smartphones in the car. Sue did not even know what Waze was. Maybe we Americans could learn a thing or two about driver safety from our Aussie friends.

We had our second Hangout a week later. I was home and school was out and camp had not yet started so Sue got to know some of my kids who were amazed to peer over my shoulder and watch her on my computer. My five year old started trying to mimic her accent and my eight year old daughter was sitting there trying to figure out if Sue was actually speaking to us from "tomorrow" since Australia is on the other side of the international date line.

So why I am sharing all of these personal tidbits?

These interactions both with Sue and the entire #NOTATISTE community have confirmed everything that I love about technology. At its core, technology has become the most profound communication and collaboration tool in human history. Every time I Google Hangout or Skype, I still feel like it is something out of the Jetsons.

But its much more. 

Because using technology tools we can not only see and talk to people across the globe, we can collaborate together. We can crowdsource encyclopedias more accurate than those written, edited, and published in the traditional manner, navigate using real-time traffic data from thousands of smartphones communicating their driving conditions, and create shared documents that hundreds can contribute to. This is why our students are so connected to their mobile devices that they find it hard to stop texting even during class. Their device is not just a hi-tech tool, it is an extension of themselves.

I know there is a danger to all of this and perhaps that should be a subject of a different posting but my experience preparing for #ISTE2015 has confirmed the tremendous potential of this modern medium. The challenge is how we can harness this to collaborate together as educators and create worthwhile collaborations to open new vistas for our students.

As a start you can join the crowd as well. Here are three ideas.

Below, I have embedded the current version of our crowdsourcing presentation so you can gain ideas for your students from the contributions of so many others.