ISTE 2016

Denver is a beautiful city – spacious, artsy, and low-maintenance with spotless city parks scattered every few blocks. Pop-up chess games, street music, good restaurants, and amazing views of the Rocky Mountains from every vantage point. Having never been to the city before, I was very impressive.

The Conference and the Denver Convention Center were equally as impressive as the city of Denver. Dr. Michio Kaku’s (@michiokaku) Keynote, as expected, was funny and informative. His prediction of the “4th Wave of Wealth Creation” and its importance to what and how we teach students today shouldn’t be a surprise to many. To summarize for those who couldn’t attend, schools need to prepare students for their future, not ourpast. The three previous “revolutions” of steam power, electricity, and high technology have come and gone. The future, or “4th Wave,” revolves around biotechnology, artificial intelligence, and Nanotechnology, and our schools need to prioritize these skills and courses to prepare student for their future.

During opening remarks, the 2016 ISTE Student Standards were unveiled. These new student standards are rigorous and student-centered as more than 2,700 educators from 52 countries, including 300 students participated in their creation. Most importantly, these new student standards are not focused on devices or integrating technology, the emphasis is on giving students a voice in their learning, and ensuring each classroom is student-centered and focused on collaboration, creativity, innovation, and global connections.

The conference had many themes, a few that stood out to me were creating student-centered classrooms, differentiating professional development for teachers, and the focus on extending the definition of literacy. Expanding our understanding of literacy from the traditional definition of reading and writing to becoming literate in using technology, digital resources, and digital information productively.

Google made a several announcements at the conference that will bring a smile to the faces of teachers and administrators. Google Cast allows students to share their screen with teachers wirelessly. For districts like ours that have struggled with mirroring over wifi, this could be a game-changer. Google Expeditions and Expedition Kits (from Best Buy) was released to all school districts to allow students to take virtual field trips to over 200 locations. Explain EverythingWeVideo, and Sountrap have released chromebook apps to foster creativity and offer discounts to districts who purchase the set. Google Forms was updated as well to offer teachers the ability to easily create and grade quizzes using Forms. To read more of these releases, see here.

Having been to many large conferences similar to ISTE, I must say, most have miss the mark in terms of professional development for one reason or another. In addition to endless PD sessions, ISTE provides every participant with thousands of experts ready to share and collaborate. At ISTE, it seems that once you begin to feel like you know it all, you meet someone smarter. Once you feel that you are working as hard as possible, you meet someone who works harder and longer. And once you think you are doing something cutting-edge that no one else is doing, you meet someone(s) that have been doing that cutting-edge work for years and are now perfecting it. But what makes a conference like ISTE beneficial to everyone who attends, is the fact that all of the 18,000+ participants are happy to share their work or offer a piece of advice. People like Kerry Gallagher (@kerryhawk02) who shared her work with Open Education Resources (OER) and Rebecca Henderson (@rebeccaspider) who was quick to tell Joseph South (@southjoseph), Director of the Office of Educational Technology, about the great work being done in the Garnet Valley School District with OER. And our good friends at Alma (@GetAlma) who not only announced their full integration (now with gradebook sync) with Google Classroom, but facilitated interviews with eSchool News and Education Dive so they could hear first-hand about Garnet Valley’s transformation into digital age learning and the amazing work our teachers and students are doing in the classroom.

A productive week to say the least.