ISTE 2016 in Denver promised innovative speakers, new ed tech, and ways for educators to connect with one another like never before. How well did it deliver, and what were the main takeaways for the 20,000 attendees at this year’s conference?
Heavy Hitters Enter Ed Tech Game
With new technologies emerging regularly, it is expected that there will be new companies entering the market as well. At ISTE 2016, several large-scale corporations introduced their strategies and products to the ed tech sphere. For example, Google unveiled a new app for class participants to live-cast content, featured a tweak to Google Forms to add quiz functionality, and announced a broader deployment of its popular Expeditions VR application.
Microsoft partnered with ISTE in an exciting partnership that looks to create blueprints for school system conversion to digital environments and to deploy ISTE’s ed tech standards in Microsoft’s showcase schools. Microsoft will also deploy a new suite of professional training content.
Another big name at this year’s conference was Amazon’s Inspire. This new platform helps teachers access open content such as lessons, games, and curriculum modules.
A new Fordham study presented with some surprise that only about one in 14 school district contracts with content providers actively restricts the subsequent sale of student information by those vendors. With technology changing and personal information privacy becoming more of a concern, Common Sense Media announced a new guide to privacy at the conference for educators, ranking the offerings vendor by vendor to jump-start a movement to protect students’ personal data.
Big Thinkers, Bright Future
ISTE 2016’s keynote speaker, physicist and futurist Michio Kaku, talked about a time in the future when information will be pervasive and accessible via our devices, wearables, vehicles, and appliances. Along with this accessibility comes enhanced predictive functionality for increased personalization. Kaku also discussed future career markets, which will look nothing like past job markets, and suggested educators focus on instilling concepts and agility in students rather than teaching rote facts. He firmly proclaimed that the role of a strong mentoring function by teachers will never become obsolete.
Michelle Cordy, an innovative Ontario, Canada, elementary school teacher and STEAM education thinker, spoke at length about future ed tech planning. “It’s not about how many Twitter followers you have,” Cordy said. “It’s about whether or not you feel seen and whether or not you truly see other people.” Describing schools and districts as “ecosystems,” she pointedly noted that while districts and schools will not fail outright, they do need to be nurtured in the way one might nurture a biosphere.
The maker movement was certainly shaking at this year’s conference, with several workshops and a booth that took center stage at ISTE. As a common theme of the panel discussions, experts and educators alike explained that maker-based education doesn’t have to mean major expense, and they showed how that can be done.
Companies and districts were eager to join the conversation. A group from the Pittsburgh-area South Fayette Township School District explained how the district has baked maker culture right into its curriculum and facilities. Microsoft presented an impressive hands-on Makerspace Experience featuring computational thinking to take attendees from visualization to actualization where makerspaces are concerned.
Impact of New Legislation
New federal guidelines and funding will impact ed tech everywhere, and ISTE attendees learned how. Jon Bernstein, president of the Bernstein Strategy Group and a member of the ISTE Legislative Counsel, discussed the ramifications of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which is to replace the controversial No Child Left Behind legislation. Under ESSA, $1.65 billion in funds will be allocated to tech, STEAM, and counseling. However, 1:1 device programs won’t be funded here, and there will be a cap on equipment and device purchasing.
For districts, monetary funds will not arrive until the 2017-2018 school year, and even then some districts will receive as little as $6,000 from the pot, depending on their size and other factors. Check locally to learn more.
Shiny New Tools
A plethora of new tools to facilitate teacher development and classroom content appeared at ISTE. Microsoft announced a major new partnership with content platform edX on five courses for principals, superintendents, and other leadership. A new ClassLink-Mackin content partnership will provide users with secure, OneClick access to MackinVIA, an e-resource management system.
The wildly popular learning game site ABCmouse unveiled ABCmouse for Schools, a product equipped with essential add-ons for K-12 for curriculum and professional progress. Hapara showcased its cloud-based instructional management system as well. Originally available on Google Apps, the system is now fully integrated with Office 365 and OneNote.
CTOs Look Ahead
Led by Jeremy Shorr, technology director for Mentor Public Schools in Ohio, CTOs and experts noted the role is rapidly evolving with technology, learning styles, and new curricula. Takeaways from their talks provide insights for employees in all areas of education, not just technological planning and integration.
Per their expertise, flexibility is paramount in blended environments, so it should be designed in from the outset. Schools should strive for open content and licenses and platforms that can be modified on the fly, shared, and evolved, instead of simply purchased, to augment that flexibility.
Makerspaces, 3-D printing, and virtual reality are a force and must be honored when outfitting and designing classrooms. CTOs need to remember that new tools will continue to rapidly emerge, however, and pivoting may be necessary in the near future.
Proof in the Numbers
The 2016 Vision K-20 Professional Learning Survey Report unveiled during the conference showed that nearly 60 percent of education leaders surveyed participated in online professional development during the past year. Other notable findings revealed that K-12 educators most desire training in online software, digital resources, and classroom management.
Takeaway: ISTE 2016 covered an incredible range of ground, and it’s clear that this sector is skyrocketing, as evidenced by the entry and doubling down of major players like Google, Amazon and Microsoft.
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5. “ISTE 2016: Edtech Companies Pitching a Mile High” EdSurge. June 29, 2016.
6. “ISTE and Microsoft Collaborate to Provide New School Planning and Professional Learning Resources” Microsoft. June 26, 2016.
7. “ ‘The Internet Will Be Everywhere and Nowhere’—Dr. Michio Kaku’s ISTE 2016 Keynote” EdSurge. June 27, 2016.
8. “Teachers Gain Better Visibility of Student Learning as Hapara Launches on Microsoft Office” Microsoft. June 23, 2016.