ISTE is big. If you’ve never been, it can be overwhelming. In 2017, I attended ISTE for the first time and I was OVERwhelmed to say the least. Maybe it was because I had just started as Technology Integration Coach, had a presentation accepted for ISTE, and attending fall at the same time! Crazy, I know, right? In 2018, I didn’t have all those crazy firsts all at the same time, and I felt like I was able to tackle ISTE more efficiently and maximize my professional learning. I listened to the advice of my PLN: (1) be patient and wait in line if it’s a session you really don’t want to miss, (2) follow the backchannel on social media (learn informally - which can happen while you are waiting in line), (3) while you are waiting in line build your PLN - get to know the others who probably share some of the same passions as you, and (4) meet your PLN educator rockstars you’ve been following on social media forever. I may have been star-struck at times (well, at least 4 times specifically), but I felt like I could really connect with educators who were just as all-in with technology as I am. I met many of the edu-rockstars I’ve followed on Twitter for a long time, but most importantly I met other educators who were passionate and willing to help me get outside of my comfort zone. One of the biggest takeaways that came from building my PLN at ISTE is that I am not the only tech coach that feels overwhelmed sometimes! I’ve said before, being a system technology coach can feel like you are being pulled in every direction (one direction for each of the schools you serve) but I met others who are in similar circumstances as I am. I had the opportunity to learn from them, pick their brains, and further connect with them on Twitter to sharpen the saw continually. One thing I really learned is that we are #bettertogether!
Conferences help introduce new ideas and instructional technology tools, but at ISTE one of the main focuses for the conference and moving forward is strengthening digital citizenship principles and how we look at fostering good digital citizens among our students. Digital citizenship is a passion of mine, I do not believe we should ever feel like we have mastered teaching digital citizenship. New apps, new challenges, and new situations evolve all the time. How we approach digital citizenship as instructional leaders is key. Traditionally, as a former library media specialist, I believed it was my (fortunate) burden to teach digital citizenship, but I realized it had to be embedded and infused into all daily interactions and learning just like traditional character education to be effective. Now, as a technology integration coach and someone who works with library media specialists still, I try to focus on how we can teach digital citizenship more effectively by embedding the learning instead of teaching stand-alone lessons. I encourage you to read Digital Citizenship in Action by Kristen Mattson, Social Leadia by Jennifer Casa-Todd, or take one of the new ISTE U courses on Digital Citizenship that will be coming out (these are CEUs/graduate level course credit hours). The question is how am I going to foster a generation of good digital citizens?
Everyone wants to know about the edtech tools I heard about, learned about, or what I think would be awesome. I am going to sum it up, and not all of it will be new technology:
Augmented and Virtual Reality have a place in education, but I feel like we have just scratched the surface. The Merge Cube is really big right now, and can possibly still be found for super cheap clearance prices at Walmart. But this AV/VR cube can unlock learning potential for students in many ways.
Wipebook: Simple product concept but great collaborative potential. Most educators have whiteboards whether these be in the classroom, in collaboration spaces, or even for planning purposes. Wipebook has quite a few products that allow you to use dry erase products but ultimately send your whiteboard content to the cloud service of your choice. It works similar to Rocketbook (which I have loved for many years since it’s Kickstarter campaign). What I like most about Wipebook is that it works with any brand of dry erase markers, it great for the humid temps of the Southeast but let’s face it - nothing sticks to the walls - not even the HUGE chart paper with the sticky backs we all use to plan, collaborate, and chart with during meetings. Wipebook can easily be used, sent to Google Drive (or another cloud service of your choice) and it’s easily shared with others on the faculty and stored there until deleted. Boom, simple but awesome concept and product. Love it!
STEM kits, robotics, and coding are still really big right now. One of the goals for our school system is to develop STEM skits that can be used for a STEM/Robotics/Coding club at the upper elementary grades to provide enrichment opportunities and introduce students to computer science. There were tons of products at ISTE for STEM, robotics, and coding. It would be another post into itself. But once I start to dive in more to the CS enrichment kits we will build, I will make that post. But to share a few I really liked:
ISTE can be hard to budget, but it is worth it. Especially if you can catch it were less expensive travel is required since it does rotate locations. My suggestions for lobbying support:
I hope to see you at ISTE in the future!