Saturday, June 28, 2014

Hello #ISTE2014

A little more than 24 hours in Atlanta and I have already drank more Coke than my body should allowed, put my hair straightener to the test and completely broken one pair of shoes. Must mean that ISTE is in Atlanta this year! With the first official day of the conference before us, I first want to welcome all the first timers. If you have never attended ISTE, welcome. Proudly shout from the rooftops that you are a first timer and watch the networking begin. So very many in the ISTE community are happy to welcome you and guide you through this overwhelming couple of days that we call a conference. 

You may want to start at the Welcome Lounge. Once you pick up your badge, turn around. The Welcome Lounge is right behind you. There you are sure to find a smiling face and someone wanting to welcome you and get you settled in for an amazing professional experience. 

If at any time during the conference, you start to feel overwhelmed or that you aren't sure really where to go next, look for someone in a red ISTE volunteer shirt. The people in red are your volunteer champions and have dedicated at least one full day to volunteer for your benefit. Put them to the test. If you can't find a red shirt champion, the ISTE volunteers in teal abound and they too are more than willing to help. 

Officially, the hashtag is #ISTE2014. Use to tag photos, posts, and more on social media. Aren't really sure what the whole fuss about social media is all about? Ask almost anyone walking and using their device at the same time. Chances are good they are checking in, posting, tweeting, favoriting, or more. Ask them to help! You will find the entire ISTE Community ready to help at a moment's notice. 

While you are almost guaranteed to be challenged and filled with new ideas every moment for the next few days, take time to reflect too. There is even a refresh and recharge station set up for that very purpose. Write, blog, think, meditate, or just sit still for five minutes. It will do your mind and body good. 

Mostly, just learn and then do. Find at least one thing everyday to bring back to your school and students that you can immediately implement. Make at least one new colleague. Enjoy yourself. 

Welcome to ISTE!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

"What is this, high school? #EdTech

Like many others in the edtech community I have been following the story told by a young lady attending ISTE last year. My initial reaction was shock and sadness. Sadness for the girl. Sadness for the men who had been implicated. Sadness for the entire community that I call my own.

I read it again and my oldest daughter walked by. The thought did occur to me that my very own daughter could one day be the victim of a sexual assault. The stats say about 1 in 6 women are. Rereading it as a mother, I thought about the help and healing I would make sure my daughter would receive. And then I thought about the very long conversation we would have about being a strong, intelligent woman and about not making repetitive, destructive decisions.

When she walked by her younger brother and called him a brat, my attention turned to the males in this story. Am I raising my son in a way to have complete respect for women? He's not old enough for us to have "that conversation" yet, but when we do will he understand that until he has been given a vocal yes, the answer is no? How will I help him to enter a world that says different? And then I thought about the men in the story and their families, their significant others, yes even their careers. And I shuddered. I shuddered because I know my community and some of the members in it that would immediately start a witch hunt. I wondered if these men would give their side of the story. I wondered would we as a community hear from the men that were about to be tried in the court of Social Media Opinion.

Why is that important? Because there are two sides to every story. Because you are innocent until proven guilty. Because demanding to be "off with their heads" is premature at best. Few things are black and white. And when you are going to call attention to an issue that exists in all of society (really, edtech just isn't that special) then we need to know as much about it as possible. The perceptions could be vastly different from another perspective. It's not "supporting rape culture"; it's being fully aware of the whole circumstance. It's not saying that this woman may or may not have been a victim; it's asking for all the facts.

Life has taught me that. Holding a 17 year old woman (yes you read that right) as she detailed the savage and repeated rape and abuse she had experienced for more than 7 years from her own biological father, taught me that laws are written to protect all until proven guilty. Watching her sob as he was given three years of prison time was painful. Standing by and protecting a teenage friend of mine while she detailed the sexual act she had with a man wasn't easy. He was divorced, ostracized, and enduring supervised visitation with his children when she came forward that it wasn't exactly like she originally said. That hurt. BAD. Forcibly demanding a woman more than twice my age leave my office after she not only made a pass at me, but felt the need to detail her weekend exploits with her lover, was one of the most difficult things I ever did. Listening to my boss and HR department tell me that they would do what they could to keep her away but she was an important asset..... that left me feeling downright dirty. I get it. I get #YesAllWomen down to the very core. I've lived it. And the result? I share my story. I tell people what is and isn't ok with me and my boundaries. I'm not passively standing by when someone could potentially need help or intervention; I'm aggressively present. Daily, I strive to protect those around me including myself.

As an educator, as a grown woman who has taught high school students, I understand the liabilities of taking students on an overnight field trip. Making sure girls are on one hall or floor of the hotel and boys on another. Being responsible for what they eat or drink, where they are, who they are with, and what they are doing every second of the day. At night, some teachers tape their doors to know if it was opened after curfew. Every precaution is taken to protect the young, the minors, when they are taken to overnight conferences. That is not the expectation for adults. It isn't welcome and it isn't wanted.

I am a grown woman capable of making my own choices, good and bad.  I decide to sleep in late or leave the conference early. It is my decision which sessions to attend, who to sit next to, and what I will order for lunch. In the evening, should I choose to go out, that is my decision too. I don't want and will not tolerate an organization forming a police state to "protect" me from myself and any one with who I choose to associate. That power of choice is mine and I will not give it up.

See how that works? By demanding an organization to "protect" me I am loudly proclaiming that I don't have the ability to do it myself. I'm quite capable thank you very little. I am an

  • Adult
  • Intelligent
  • Decision making
  • Female
and for that I will not apologize. I will not allow others to belittle it by saying that those qualities make me weak and expect society to rush in and keep me safe.

Do I ever walk down the street and fear that a man may overpower me and assault me? Yes. Regularly. In response, I walk with a group. Often that group includes at least one male. Have I ever been hit on by a man more than ten years my senior. Yes I have. Guess what? I've also been hit on by a man ten years younger than me. Did I ever feel like it was "creepy" in either direction. No. Age is just a number.

I don't know about you, but I'm feeling a lot older than 22.