The Direct Network

ISTE Wrap Up

Posted by Carrie Watkins on Jul 16, 2015 5:00:00 AM
Topics: K-12, ed tech
At the end of June, more than 15,000 teachers, administrators and education professionals descended on Philadelphia for the annual International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) conference. The ISTE conference is always a whirlwind of ideas, networking and the mad dash for an open power strip. Until cloning becomes a viable option, it is impossible to go all of the sessions and events in the four-day conference. But based on the sessions I went to, people I talked to and tweets I read, here are my takeaways:


We all need more stories.

From the informal conversation around social justice in education during HackEducation to the impassioned Ignite talks from Rafranz Davis ( and Bob Dillon (this Bob Dillon), now is the time to look at our students, look at each other, and recognize that there is so much we don’t know. Even during his keynote about teaching and learning from his autistic son, Jack Gallagher encouraged us to look past what we think about labels to get to who these people really are. There was a shout out for for resources, but the biggest idea was just to recognize the labels we give others and question where those come from. Don’t let the labels you have get in the way of a student’s success.

Kids are doing amazing things.

“For too long we have ignored the voices of our students, and now we are paying the price for it.”

Pernille Ripp (ISTE Ignite session)

It’s incredible what happens when you empower students to own their learning. When you ask them what they are interested in and help them follow that path. There were countless sessions on giving students the opportunity to be creative, through Maker Spaces, blogging, genius hour and game based learning. Scott McCloud’s Ignite session pointed out that there were hundreds, if not thousands of “Marthas”, kids using technology outside of the classroom to follow their passion. How do we bring that into the classroom?

There were also many schools showcasing their students through Tech Teams, including one poster session featuring students who created a Genius Bar and taught each other digital citizenship. I also spoke with one technology director who created a self-funded student tech team that did troubleshooting for local businesses as a part business, part computer science credit.

Professional development. And more professional development.

With teachers changing the way they manage their classrooms and doing new things with student learning, many sessions at ISTE asked why we are doing professional development the same way we’ve always done it. There were also several horror stories about schools moving to a 1:1 environment, but quickly finding out that providing teachers with iPads For Dummies did not set faculty up for a successful integration. Several schools experimented with the EdCamp model for PD, giving faculty choice on what they wanted to learn. There was a huge push for Twitter as a professional development tool, with many examples of how teachers and administrators learned from schools and classrooms around the world. One session, led by Jen Roberts and Diana Neebe provided a link to their PD model (based off their book) with examples of how to get teachers to think differently about teaching and learning in a 1:1 environment. You can access that guide here.

If you are new to Twitter and looking for people to follow, check out my list, Fab Educators on Twitter: . Susan Bearden (@s_bearden) and her TweechMe app (@TweechMeApp) is also a great resource.

It’s not about the tool. It’s about how you use it.

You didn’t need to go to a conference to learn this. But it came up over and over (and over) again in sessions, discussions and Tweets. It’s about the learning. It’s about how you prove what you’ve learned. It’s not about the Prezi. Or the video. Or the Minecraft landscape. It’s about presenting a coherent idea (and not making people motion sick). It’s about telling a story. It’s about changing your definition of “final project”. as Josh Stumpenhorst said in his closing keynote, “Technology is not the silver bullet that will change education. You are the silver bullet.”

About Carrie Watkins

Carrie is a former digital consultant for MBS Direct, who specialized in traveling around the country to learn about new products and services MBS Direct can provide to partner schools and bringing those ideas back into the office to work on with the digital solutions team.

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