Event-organizers, Let’s Go on a Brain Date at ISTE 2017

Want to go on a Brain Date, skip to the bottom.

One of the reasons I love going to ISTE is to connect with other educators, advocates, and innovators. In a nutshell, networking and connecting with the edtech community is the reason this conference brings me back year after year. I enjoy meeting new people, learning about them, the contexts in which they teach and learn, and the obstacles they face. Before I leave for ISTE, I always try to set up a few meet-ups in advance. At the moment, I use Twitter to accomplish this.



As much as I enjoy networking, I know that for some conference goers, there is nothing more stressful than the idea of trying to chat up someone new. It’s a lot easier to pull out a device and check Twitter than it is to take the risk of approaching a stranger or of getting stuck in the wrong conversation. After all, our time at ISTE is precious. Each of us is on a mission to learn something that can solve a local problem and to bring that newfound knowledge home to share with colleagues and collaborators. This is important work.

Now, what if this process of connecting and learning could be more deliberate and less scary? What if there were something that could guarantee that you connect to the right people at ISTE? That is what a Brain Date does. Two years ago, I had my first brain date at C2 Montreal, an interdisciplinary conference that the Harvard Business Review called “a conference like no other”. E-180 is the social business that makes these Brain Dates possible and they refer to their work as “engineering serendipity”– a tagline my sentimental heart eats right up. Basically, it’s a matchmaking tool for people who want to teach and learn. Participants can set up their profiles and list their offers and requests for knowledge before the conference. Once onsite, E-180’s matchmakers make sure you connect to the person you’ve come to meet. This guided process takes all guesswork out of who you are meeting with and why. Christine Renaud, the founder of E-180, says that “Brain Dates remove the barriers to networking and help people get to the meaningful conversations right away.”

In preparation for my Brain Date, I wrote in my profile that I wanted to learn about informal online learning strategies and that I could share knowledge about how to validate your edtech business idea. This resulted in my meeting a number of people who could share their knowledge and stories with me about how they learn online, what tools they use, and how they keep track when they are down a deep click-hole. I was also able to share my knowledge and experiences in building an edtech startup with entrepreneurs who had great ideas, but wanted some direction.

Brain Dates are compelling to me, as a member of the education community because they are such an interesting use of technology. Today, different stakeholders in education think differently about the role technology might play in teaching and learning and the limitations we should place on this role. Similar conversations are being had regarding regulating developments in AI, for example. These are exciting times that require very careful consideration. In a world where innovation is focused on finding new ways to communicate online, E-180’s Brain Dates have innovated something so essential to our humanity–IRL connections. Here is an innovation that is helping us make advancements in the way that we satiate our intellectual and creative hungers. I love online communication as much as the next millennial, but there is nothing that compares to sharing time and space with someone engaged in a thrilling conversation. Being able to will these rare moments into existence through Brain Dates will take my learner curve to the next level.

I hope that ISTE will consider adding an activity like Brain Dates to their program in the future. So, I’m thinking I should test it out this year. I don’t have a fancy matchmaking application myself, but I would very much like to connect with you. If you’re into game thinking, laboratory schools, or rethinking how we can improve learning events–like workshops, edcamps, and conferences, let’s meet-up at ISTE. Let’s test this out together.

I’m Roxanne by the way!
Click on your preferred meet-up time below and we’ll give this a shot.

Monday, June 26th 1:00PM–1:30PM — Booked

Monday, June 26th 2:00PM–2:30PM

Tuesday, June 27th 1:00PM-1:30PM

Tuesday, June 27th 2:00PM-2:30PM–Booked

Wednesday, June 28th 1:00PM-1:30PM–Booked

Wednesday, June 28th 2:00PM-2:30PM

Roxanne Desforges