The 2017 International Society for Technology in Education conference was held June 25-28 in San Antonio, Texas. The event brought together over 20,000 people from around the globe to advance the cause of technology’s role in education.
I was privileged to be part of the team from my employer, Forward Edge, to attend ISTE. Here is my “Mount Rushmore” of takeaways from the event.
- Listen to Stories – From the keynotes by Jad Abumrad, Jenny Magiera, and Reshma Saujani, to the hundreds of presentations, playgrounds, and poster sessions, one message kept coming back – Tell Your Story. Human interaction as a learning experience in itself, and not just a vehicle for conveying information, is a foundational ideal in the world ISTE is pointing toward. Technology makes it easier than ever to tell our stories. While encouraging others (and ourselves) to tell our stories is important, a corollary to this postulate is needed to make it work – we must be willing to listen. Many of the Ed Tech Coaching sessions I attended gave attention to this detail – we must be willing to listen more than we speak. If everyone is constantly telling their story, nobody is listening. [More about the importance of telling one’s story at StoryCorps, “New Yorkers Share Their Story for $1”, and the ISTE-featured table session “Humans of Education”]
- Include Everyone – One lingering question I had from my experience at ISTE 2016 was “All this stuff is great, but how in the world can you do some of these things in something other than large, suburban districts with multi-million dollar budgets?” #ISTE17 fostered more of a global perspective, featuring far more approaches, mindsets, and even technologies that not only permit, but encourage, the “non-typical” participant. The newly redesigned ISTE Standards for Educators do not just include “accessibility” as a standard. Access for all, regardless of socio-economic status, disability, gender, race, or any other personally-identifying factor, is a sine qua non of the new standards, and of any equitable educational effort.
- Leverage Passions – “We want to learn. Make it fun!” was a pervasive theme of the student presentations at ISTE17. In the midst of mounting frustration over a culture of hypertesting, educators are finding the resolve to flip the script. Rather than starting with standards and herding students toward them (compliance-based), educators are finding joy and effectiveness in starting with student passions and exploring ways to make progress on standards within those passions. There is zero evidence that standardized, boring instruction improves scores on standardized, boring tests. So, whether it’s implementing coding, “making”, virtual reality, augmented reality, project-based learning, flipped classrooms, or any of a number of technological supports and instructional frameworks, it all feeds off the premise of connecting with what already resonates with our students. And that requires taking the time to learn about them before asking them to learn anything from us.
- Build Efficacy – Expertise is a wonderful thing. I know people who can do things better than I can. As a matter of fact, there is absolutely nothing I can do that I am the best at. The wrong thing to do with that realization is to stop doing them. A much better response would be for me to learn from them in order to get better. I will never be as good as they are, but I can be better than I am now. And then, if I see my role as a Technology Integration Specialist in that same light, I can be a much more effective support for the teachers I have the privilege of working with. I will learn from them. And, with practice, they will learn from me.