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ISTE First Thoughts

This is not any kind of reflective thinking about the conference that ended today. Only a first dump of thoughts and reactions during the ride home.

Conferences like ISTE generate far more work than the whirlwind of activities surrounding the trip itself. I always return with stacks of notes (thank goodness for Evernote) with books and articles to read, ideas and concepts to explore, the reflections of others to consider, and new streams to follow.

Increasingly over the past meetings I’ve attended, most of that stuff comes from other than formal sessions. Ever changing posters and playgrounds, the Blogger Cafe and other gathering points, chance meetings in halls and at meals. Maybe I should skip paying the registration fee and just come to hangout.

It’s probably just be me but the vendor hall seems louder, more congested, and more worthless than ever. Most claim to be selling “solutions” but to what never seems clear. Data – generating, managing, and analyzing it – is certainly big, and everyone talks Common Core but very little about actual teaching and learning. Maybe that’s because actual teachers make up a small percentage of attendees, something like 20% if I remember a slide in one session correctly.

Saw a lot of Microsoft Surface tablets being used, far more than I’ve ever seen in the real world. Not surprising since the company was giving away 10,000 units at ISTE. I’d love to know how many of them are still in use one year from now. That’s not a slam at Microsoft (although I will admit to some over the years), just experience with what happens with devices that are given, not chosen.

Of course, there were plenty of iPads as well, especially in the program. Improving reading, doing science, making movies, just about any variation on the theme of tablet as classroom miracle. Plus the usual dump truck sessions where the speaker throws out as many examples of apps/websites/gadgets as the connection will allow in one hour, with the audience furiously recording the suggestions and, for most part, feeling they’ve learned something. I suppose every community needs its fast food joints.

I didn’t really care for the Sunday keynote by Jane McGonigal. She talked about games as learning tools but her examples seemed more like structured projects with social aspects built in. She also advocated heavily for kids working on the worlds problems when I believe in starting at the neighborhood level. But her ideas are ones I need to spend more time on.

I did like Steven Johnson’s Tuesday keynote. Loved the theory he presented of The Enlightenment, with all it’s advances in human invention, springing from the collaborative environment of the coffee houses. For me it reinforces the idea of learning as a social activity, one in which subject areas overlap and intermingle. At least outside of the typical high school.

And his ideas of the “commonplace book” and the “slow hunch”, saving ideas and allowing them to develop over time, are ones that needs to be folded into our design for school. Again, Johnson is someone whose writing I need to dive deeper into.

Ok, so there’s a whole lot more about the past five days but I need some process time. And it’s not going to happen in a cramped airline seat bouncing through bad weather.

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3 Comments

  1. Thanks for calling out the ’87 apps for [insert something here]!’ sessions, keynotes, etc., Tim. I appreciate learning about new tools, but I’d rather learn about 5 being used well than simply receive a laundry list (which could be given in 5 seconds with a bit.ly URL, couldn’t it?).

  2. Julie Graber

    I appreciate hearing about apps & Web 2.0 tools when I have a context associated with them. 8 think the best example of this that I experienced at ISTE was an elementary teacher that showed how her students were using these tools to support STEM education. It was very powerful because she showed us via video how her students were using technology effectively and the learning goals were very evident (purposeful). I was very impressed!

  3. Neva Apsche

    Let me know if you want to borrow Steven Johnson’s book “The Invention of Air”; I have a copy. I read his book “The Ghost Map” about how the cholera outbreak and was just spreading the gospel about how great it is in my GIS course. He’s not the world’s best writer but I like the connections he makes. :)

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