Monday, July 1, 2013

ISTE 2013: Reflections

Taking Sixth Graders to the Movies
Student Showcase
Last week I was in San Antonio, TX, for ISTE 2013. It’s always great to spend a few days hanging out with the technology crowd and teachers from all over the country. My fellow teacher, Kelly Rafferty, and myself were there to share a Project Based Learning experience through a student showcase.

The theme for this year was Gaming, with Jane McGonigal kicking off the conference as a keynote speaker. She has developed several game experiences for students that tackle real world problems. Awesome concept and I would have been excited to see more sessions that explored the design of creative game concepts and less about the best game apps for the iPad. There were some fun game activities sprinkled throughout the conference, but I feel as though gamification of curriculum is a new frontier and waiting for more creative pioneers such as Jane to do some more trailblazing.

A recurring phrase heard throughout the conference was “technology should be transformative and transparent,” yet it felt as if attendees were still looking for the magic tool, app, or game that would revolutionize their classroom. Perhaps if they had a better smart board or more apps, students would be more engaged and learning would skyrocket. While there is value in cool gadgets, I certainly have my share of them, it still comes down to how we use them in our classrooms. The best sessions that I attended were the ones that shared how to blend the technology so it was not the focus, but a means to a bigger end. Andrew Miller did an excellent job showing how to embed social media into the PBL process with a focus on intention, asking teachers to be intentional in their choice of tool and being clear in their purpose for choosing that tool. My favorite quote from ISTE is from George Couros, "Learning is meaningful creation, not consumption." Easier to remember outside of the vendor hall.

The best parts of the conference of course are the conversations and connections that are made while hanging out in the Blogger’s Cafe or attending the different “playground” areas and student showcases. Here is where you hear and gain the most creative ideas and innovative strategies. A lot of tables sharing their STEM experiences which may be an indication of where next year’s ISTE may focus.
ISTE New logo

As Kelly and I shared our student’s PBL experience with creating a district film festival, our most often asked question was, “What tool did your students use to create their movies?”  We still have some work to do, moving mind sets from looking at technology as a quick fix, to seeing the possibilities of where it can take you.

By: Kami Thordarson, Innovative Strategies Coach

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