ISTE18 Voice and Choice

Chicago–the home of gangsters, Chicago-style pizza, and world-famous Bean aka the Cloud Gate–had the honor of hosting ISTE 2018. More than 20,000 people descended upon the McCormick Place West Convention Center to experience the “Epicenter of EdTech.”

The BYOD workshops and hour-long sessions had the usual high draw, with attendees waiting in lines and excited to hear about how edtech is transforming student engagement, collaboration, and creativity. However, what I noticed at this conference the most was the focus on student, teacher, and education leaders’ voice and choice.

The first events that focused on voice and choice were the 14 Playgrounds that took place over the four-day event. Presentations ranged from makerspaces to digital storytelling to edtech coaches.

Everywhere you looked in the Skyline ballroom, hands-on presentations reflected the trends going on in classrooms across the world. The Ready, Player 101 playground focused on how AR, VR, and MR create connections for students and teachers around these trending technologies in classroom. The Google for Education Playground held seven sessions on Tuesday during which presenters focused on creating, exploring, discovering, and designing applications that can empower our students and teachers.

While the student 3D poster presentations are going the way of the VCR, they are not going away as opportunities for coaches, library media specialists, and classroom teachers to showcase what is going on in their schools and classrooms. The 400 poster sessions that lined the walls on Skyline Ballroom were extremely popular.

Conference attendees lined up to have one-to-one conversations with the presenters around coding, accessibility, digital citizenship, and personalized learning.

If we ever needed a reminder as to why we are all in the education business, all you had to do was look around the McCormick Place Conference Center and see the amount of student presenters at this conference. The Global Student Voice Festival’s main goal of student voice, agency, and empathy characterized the mindset of our students from ages 5-18 that they can make a difference now! The other student-focused event took place on the vendor floor throughout the week. The ISTE Hackathon brought students from all over the world together for two days to “identify, research and solve real- world problems.” I had the opportunity to check out this inspirational event and left knowing that if I can empower my teachers and students in the same way, we will be building a better world for future generations.

5 educators share their #ISTE18 experiences

The last voice I want to highlight took place at the Startup Pavilion. This pavilion provided opportunities for startup companies to showcase what they believe are new trends in edtech.

  • LiftEd supports special education teachers through an online platform that monitors, tracks, and provides live support for students on IEP and 504 plans.
  • Circkled In, a free student portfolio platform that supports students in their pursuit of college admission, believes in putting kids at the center of the circle.
  • While many coding programs use the block method, Bitbots is a text-based product that uses programming language such as java and python and allows students to be creative and challenged.

I left this conference with renewed energy, strategies, resources, and connections that will excite my teachers and students in the upcoming school year. See you in Philadelphia 2019!

Eileen Belastock

About the Author:

Eileen Belastock is director of technology for Mount Greylock Regional School District in Williamstown, Mass., and a board member of MassCUE, an ISTE Affiliate.

Dr. Cathy Collins has worked as a library media specialist for 15+ years. Currently, she is a library media specialist and China exchange coordinator for Sharon (MA) Public Schools. She has served on MassCUE’s Board as PD Chair since 2015. She received a “Teachers for Global Classrooms” fellowship from the U.S. State Dept. in 2014 and is the recipient of AASL’s Intellectual Freedom Award (2014). She was named an MSLA “Super Librarian” in 2015, and also received the HNA/Primary Source “Teacher of the Year” award in 2015. She joined ISTE’s PLN STEM Leadership Team in 2017.

Rayna Freedman is a fifth-grade teacher at the Jordan/Jackson Elementary School in Mansfield, Mass. She has taught grades 3-5 and is an ITS. She is a member of the MassCUE Board of Directors and has been presenting at the annual conference since 2010. She is a BrainPOP certified educator, Flipgrid Ambassador, Fablevision Ambassador, and advocate for teaching digital citizenship in the classroom. She serves on the DESE Digital Literacy and Computer Science Standards Panel.

Kelly Healey is an education consultant assisting in the process of modernizing education, increasing student achievement, and moving schools forward. Throughout her career, she served as a K-12 classroom teacher, dean of students, district ESL specialist, and operated in multiple capacities as an education consultant.

Kimberly Zajac is a speech/language pathologist in Norton (MA) Public Schools. She is a board member of MassCUE and serves as co-leader of the MassCUE SLP and Special Educator Special Interest Group.