Learning, bonding, collaborating and growing at #ISTE17

For months I anticipated attending my first ISTE Conference. Several days of learning at the annual massive educational tech conference were around the corner and I was so excited. Having attended and presented at ISTE-affliated NCties Conference several times I had an idea about ISTE but also knew NCties was a fraction of the size of ISTE.

In the weeks ahead of ISTE my colleagues and I that would be attending the conference together met with magnet office representatives to plan out our days at the conference in San Antonio and go through a Google Plus community set up to share and learn from one another as a would “divide and conquer” as best as possible in an effort to maximize our session learning.

As the day of our travels began excitement mounted as we boarded the plane heading to Texas for 5 powerful days in San Antonio and soaking up #ISTE17 knowledge. The #WeAreCarroll team was ready, eager and excited to travel together to Texas!

We arrived in San Antonio a day ahead of the conference which allowed ample time for unwinding, relaxing and most of colleague bonding through exploration of San Antonio. This proved to be one of the most powerful aspects of our time in Texas as we dined together daily and truly got to know one another much better personally and professionally.

IMG_3558There is no basement in the Alamo. 

IMG_3601Taking an evening stroll along the riverwalk.

After a day of collaborating, final plans for session attendance, vendor exploration, poster sessions, etc. were made and we prepared to take on ISTE the next morning. Our first day at ISTE was going to be huge! I was finally going to meet and collaborate some with Angela Maiers. Angela and I ended up connecting after she read my blog post late last summer on kicking off a “You Matter” movement at my previous school. Add into the mix a session with Kids Deserve It! co-author Todd Nesloney along with the great Alan November later on I was so excited about this day.


As the team headed in to register, get our bearings and head to our initial sessions my first thoughts were “oh my goodness – this is the biggest conference I’ve ever been to!” People everywhere – this was NCties times 10. Navigating was a challenge – eager to learn educators at every single turn. Unreal. So powerful.


As the hours and days wore on we all became more comfortable within the massive conference and were able to break off during the morning – debrief over lunch and then again at dinner daily.

IMG_3568.jpgAlan November was incredible. The Who Owns the Learning? author gave an on-the-fly presentation on how to push students to go outside their comfort zones, own their own learning and become global thinkers.

IMG_3573.jpgFor me the highlight of #ISTE17 was attending Lord Jim Knight and Angela Maiers’ session on the power of mattering. We’ve been well connected for about a year now and it was great to have a rich conversation after her presentation. She’s an amazing asset to my PLN and I cherish her positivity greatly. She’s added so much value to my career. 

IMG_3575.jpgVery cool to chat with Todd Nesloney prior to his session. His work and vision is incredible. I was so appreciative of his kind words regarding my blog post last month. His TedX is one of my all-time favorites. So genuine.

All sessions on day one and with the next few days being spent in a few sessions, poster sessions, Expo hall sessions leading up to our way back to Raleigh on the final day of #ISTE17.

IMG_3580.jpgLoved the informality of the poster sessions. Great inside information directly from the source — the educators themselves about the why, who, what, when and how! 

IMG_3588So cool hearing about the transformation and evolution of makerspaces from the guru herself, Laura Fleming

IMG_3589.jpgLearning about Future Ready initiatives from Tom Murray. Great to briefly chat with someone I’ve followed on Twitter and admired his work from afar for years. 

Many takeaways from #ISTE17. My brain is full. My heart is full. The bonding we made as a team was as significant as the days of intense learning and growing were without question. As I’ve had many days to digest all that we soaked in – one thing is certain. We are all much stronger educators today than we were before our visit to San Antonio. 2017-18 is going to be an amazing year at CMMS as we spread our experience and build capacity within our peers. Get ready, buckle up — big things coming!

Spending many days in Texas and being a life-long George Strait fan, I’d be remiss not to remind everyone that their truly is a song by the King of Country for every life situation. Even this unreleased San Antonio-themed track from the 90s.

My ISTE experience only deepens my love for education, growing as learner and leader while always doing right by kids in every decision and situation. I look forward to returning once again in the near future.

The power of exploring “the road less traveled” through taking risks guided by reflection, positivity and inspiration from others.

As many of you know I’m a self-proclaimed “George Strait junkie” and have been ever since my father took me to my first concert as a kid at the 1988 Ohio State Fair. I’ve been all over the nation seeing the “King of Country” live over the years and am a fan in every sense of the word. Strait is a true legend. Well over 60 number 1 songs in his 30 plus year career with MCA Nashville Records. Impressive to say the least. While “Ocean Front Property” is my all-time favorite song by the King of Country another that nears the top the list, wasn’t even released to radio, much less one of his popular songs.

“The Road Less Traveled” is a phrase I’ll utilize sometimes within my PLN, career, life, etc. and to me personally this phrase along with the song of the same name is powerful. The title track from Strait’s 2001 The Road Less Traveled album aligns with how I strive to go about my daily life and also strive to build positivity with others and create cultures of positivity within the above mentioned PLN, career, life, etc. Risk. Leap of faith. When surrounded with the right people who truly believe in you – what better way to become better?


The Road Less Traveled

Performed by George Strait

Written by Buddy Brock and Dean Dillon

There’s a road a winding road that never ends
Full of curves lessons learned at every bend
Goin’s rough unlike the straight and narrow
It’s for those who go against the grain
Have no fear dare to dream of a change
live to march to the beat of a different drummer
And it all might come together
And it all might unraveled
On the road less traveled

For the road less traveled ain’t for the faint of heart
For those who choose to play it safe and never stray too far
Me I want to live my life and one day leave my mark
And it all might come together
And it all come unraveled
On the road less traveled

I’ve chosen a pathway I may not endure
One thing’s for certain nothing’s for sure
And it all might come together
And it all might come unraveled
On the road less traveled

For the road less traveled ain’t for the faint of heart
For those who choose to play it safe and never stray too far
Me I want to live my life and one day leave my mark
And it all might come together
And it all come unraveled
On the road less traveled

There’s a road winding road that never ends

The lyrics in this song whether read or listened to (see the YouTube link above) are powerful. All about taking risk. Staying in your own path, your lane. Those that know me well know that I strive to do these daily.

Within the past year, I’ve really started embracing daily positives through my PLN through Social Media platforms most notably Twitter but also Facebook and also Instagram on occasion. My pal Sean Gaillard (@smgaillard) from Winston-Salem, NC and creator of #CelebrateMonday is somewhat responsible for this idea of mine along with my friend, fellow Wake County Public School System employee and co-presentation partner Renee White (@RaRaPenguin) – creator of #TootlingTuesday. I have created graphics to celebrate these weekly events which I routinely tag members of my PLN in first thing in the morning before as our day is just beginning and always make an effort during the day to myself tweet out at least one positive thing happening in our school and/or district and utilize the corresponding hashtag.



#WednesdayWisdom, #ThoughtfulThursday and #SundayInspiration all give opportunity for some “wisdom” of mine or a thoughtful and/or inspirational quote will be shared within the PLN through Twitter often reflecting the basic framework of the lyrics above. A sampling of recent inspiration shared:




On Fridays I utilize a #FF graphic and try to have different a theme each week for educational leaders of some capacity in an ongoing effort for all of us to grow our PLN effectively.


While these are all builders in the positivity movement there are so many that motivate me in this arena and truly help me #BecomeBetter. Just to name a few others beyond Renee and Sean mentioned above. Mr. Phil Echols (@PhilEchols and check out becomebetter.tv), Mrs. Bethany Guillion (@Lead_thru_Love), Mrs. Leslie Kinard (@lmkinard) and Ms. NaShonda Cooke (@nasleia368hunni) just to name a handful of other “positive praisers” within my PLN.

Grateful for you all as my PLN helps me grow as a learner, in career and life daily while helping me truly #BecomeBetter even while heading down “the road less traveled.”