We are no less sponge-like than an infant learning to speak. As we get older it’s not that we lose that sponge like capability for learning, it's that we develop a habit of not putting ourselves into an environment that allows us to “sponge” constructively. We become content with status quo.
The topics and workshops of big conferences such as ISTE are only the prompts for the real work at these types of events. The real work is exposing ourselves to the ideas in the hallways, overhearing the conversations of strangers, and reading the comments and reflections related to those "prompts." I am a big believer that whether you like it or not, whether you seek to be sponge like, or you are just letting it happen to yourself, you are a sponge for life. Everything you hear, see, touch, feel has an effect on you. It shapes your ideas, your feelings, and your daydreams. Whether you're filling your car up at the gas station, listening to a colleague in a staff meeting, or attending a global education conference, you are being affected by your environment.
We can not always control our environment, and thus the components of that environment that affect us. However, for a good amount of our conscious moments we can. Being able to control our environment provides us with a way to channel our experiences and thus the components of the environment that affect us.
This is why I value experiences such as ISTE, and SocialEdCon. Go out and suck it all up this week!
(CC photograph courtesy of Rev Stan on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/revstan/4372883678/)