Sunday, July 1, 2018

Reflections of ISTE 2018: Chicago

In many ways, when you leave a conference such as ISTE, it is hard to tie it up into a nice neat package. It is an incredible experience and packed full of stimulating moments. I have looked over my notes/pictures and have been trying to pull together my thoughts. There are some big ideas that float up from among the many moments. 

Literacy Has Changed

If you step back for a moment and just observe our students you will see a big change. How are they spending their time? How do they communicate? What are they interpreting and analyzing (even if they don't realize it)?

I have been in education for 20 years, and I have been at the same school. I have watched administrators and educators come and go. Programs come in, and before long replaced by another. I have moved classrooms and grade levels. All those may seem important...but probably more important is that I look at the world outside the classroom. I need to see how the world has changed, I need to see the world our students will grow up in and I need to prepare them for it. 

As I listened to the many speakers and presentations, it was pointed out that there is a big change in literacy. Technology brings a new idea in literacy, digital literacy. It is two-sided. It gives us this incredible tool box for students to create, share their voice and have a world wide audience. However, it gives us a responsibility to instruct and prepare them for this "new world". Students are continuing to view, listen and speak...but they do it with a "new" media. We need to teach them how to think critically about this media, recognize point of view, identify the roles of social media and help them to create media with responsibility. If you think about the use of social media in our world, we now often communicate in images, videos and emojis. It is now a part of our literacy. I love this quote from @TaraMartinedu:

" We can shy away from social media because of what students "might" do, or we can be intentional about teaching them the positive influences of social media. I'll choose the latter."

I must agree with her. I also believe we need to begin early. As I plan for instruction, I know I will need to instruct students for these skills. They need to know how to comprehend images, and think about the messages coming from the videos they spend countless hours watching. As the world continues to change, so should my classroom and my instruction. 

Why's and Purpose

This is certainly not a new idea, but it is one that accompanied every thing I heard. Each presentation was tied to ISTE standards, and allowed you to connect to the purpose of using tools. We should always have a why. It just is that reminder, as we jump off and try new things, before you jump, think about the purpose and the why behind your jump. At a conference as large as this you're inundated with new tools, new ideas and new "toys". I find myself being a little more reflective, limiting the tools, but not wanting to limit choices for my students. 

A question that was continually answered at ISTE is: why should we have students create? Why have all these tools for creation? The Opening Keynote with David Eagleman, Ph.D., truly captured me as he shared about the miraculous brain. He explained the importance of creating to engage learners, and the importance of creating opportunities to build and allow curiosity. 

If students are reading, researching and comprehending that is a good thing. But, if after doing that they then recreate that comprehension or learning, now they have used both sides of the brain. That is engagement! I can't think of a better WHY. A purpose for all tools in my classroom: engagement for my learners. 


In chatting with someone in my PLN at ISTE she said how surprised she is at how "timid and shy" I am in person. She feels I have such a presence on Twitter. I have thought about that a lot. As I sat at the social events, I do kind of sit back, listen and contribute little to conversation. Twitter has given me a place to use my voice. It has connected me to incredible people who lead me, inspire me and instruct me.  
What is wonderful, I see that same thing happen for students in my classroom. I know what it is like to be given a "voice" and an "audience". It does level the field some. It exposes them to so many more ideas, cultures, people, knowledge and opinions. It empowers them as learners.
As Pernille Ripp said, "The true power in technology is the power to break down walls." 
Those walls don't only mean the walls of the classroom, but also the walls of communication. I think we can all find a place or a tool, that we can comfortably share our voice and our ideas. 
Technology can be a place where we share empathy, kindness and acceptance. We must be careful not to leave "humanity" out of tech. We have an incredible opportunity as educators, let's embrace it and use it well. 

I am sure my reflection of ISTE 2018 will continue for a long time. I still have resources sitting in my digital tote, blogs to read, ideas to flush out. It may even continue until I make my way to ISTE 2019 in Philadelphia (fingers crossed). It is an enriching and wonderful experience and I am so grateful to Donors Choose and the donors who made it possible this year!

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