Tammy Van Wyhe
ASTE South Central Region Board Rep
Has it really been a week? According to the calendar, it has: One week ago today, we wrapped up ASTE 2014. Whew! Last night I took time to go back through some notes from the conference, and, as usual, I am overwhelmed by how much I gained during those four short days. Amazing keynotes, fantastic sessions, an entertaining iDidaContest event, gracious vendors showing off their cutting-edge wares, over-the-top networking, and (or course), fabulous food! Each year, I reluctantly leave ASTE wishing I could have a couple of days just to digest it all, to continue conversations with colleagues, to re-visit all the websites and tech tools I frantically bookmarked and added to my “don’t forget!” list before jumping headfirst back into the daily duties of my role in the Copper River School District. The cliché works when it comes to what I believe is Alaska’s best education-related conference: Attending ASTE is a bit like drinking from a fire hose.
For educators in rural districts, professional development opportunities can be few and far between. Periodic in-service workshops are too often delivered in “drive-by” fashion, and opportunities to travel out of the district for high quality trainings may come very rarely, if ever. ASTE is an annual mega-dose of professional development on which I can always rely to provide me with so much…of so much! Several sessions I attended this year focused on blended learning, as well as teaching and learning online – topics that are certainly front-burner in Alaska and across the country. Even our most remote districts are finding ways to connect students and teachers to provide new opportunities for learning. The technology exists for us to bring learners together in ways we could only dream of a decade ago, and ASTE members across Alaska have proven to me, once again, that we are utilizing technology to make education meaningful, exciting, and engaging, regardless of a student’s location on the map…which makes me wonder: Why aren’t we using technology to connect ourselves as ASTE members in the same way?
For me, the conversations begin at ASTE…and then quickly fade into the pleasant memory of the conference once I’m back home. I long for an opportunity to continue talking, to extend the learning, and to make the professional development I experience at the conference part of my year-round professional life. I hope that the ASTE blog and grassroots efforts to develop an ongoing dialogue with membership across the state will take hold in the months to come so that all of us who are inspired and motivated to continue the conversation might do so, even as the energy of the conference itself wanes. So, here’s to making it happen! Let’s keep the ASTE fires burning by being in touch, connecting throughout the year, and ensuring that the enthusiasm and professional networking we enjoy at our conference becomes part of Alaska’s professional development landscape.