5 educators share their ISTE experiences

Missed ISTE? These first-hand accounts will help you feel like you were there

ISTE18 STEM PLN presents the future: powered by STEAM

The STEM PLN Playground offers an opportunity for educators to participate in hands-on play with classic and new forms of research-based tools, to share ideas and experiences in an informal setting, to see examples of student work, and to leave inspired to try new things—all related to STEAM. The Playground also provides an outlet for STEM educators and sponsors to share their lessons and materials with like-minded enthusiasts.

By the end of the multi-hour session, participants walked away with multiple lesson ideas to easily and immediately implement into their own setting.

Participants also benefitted by being able to contact presenters and access resources through the Playground “Digital Tote.”

As one of the newer members of ISTE’s STEM PLN Leadership Team and one of the Playground’s organizers, I had an inkling of what to expect but found myself pleasantly surprised by the genuine, untamed enthusiasm of all of our presenters which translated into amazing, hands-on learning opportunities for our participants.

From “Catch the Hyperdoc Fever” by MassCUE’s Rayna Freedman, “The Cross Age Student Dream Team for Computer Coding” by Amanda Hough, “Steminizing the World” by Rachel Sheffield,” “Track a Satellite” by Bonnie Thurber, “Books Come Alive: Augmented Reality Book Trailers” by Jolandra White and Choleia Smith Ray, to “Novel Engineering: Bringing Literature to Life with STEM” by Tina Lauer, there truly was something for everyone to inspire cross disciplinary, STEM/STEAM innovation and creativity in classrooms, schools, districts, and communities nationwide.

Here are some of the thoughts I’ve been percolating that summarize my experience at the STEM Playground at ISTE this year.

Somewhere between meeting Johannes Strobel, professor in the School of Information Science & Learning Technologies, University of Missouri, who was honored with this year’s ISTE STEM Excellence Award, being offered coffee and a Steminist t-shirt by Rachel Sheffield, and shooting the breeze with brilliant minds from NASA, I was reminded why I chose this business of education: My playful, childlike, endlessly curious self needs to be continuously surrounded by new ideas and new people. It seems to me that all ISTE conference attendees, presenters, and organizers fall under the category of “lifelong learners.”

Lifelong learning is defined as the ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons. I found it all by being involved with ISTE’s STEM Playground and STEM leadership team.

Beyond the new learning concepts, new professional connections, and sheer buzz of conference adrenaline that one experiences at an event such as ISTE’s STEM Playground, the hands-on aspect grounds the experience into tangible, practical strategies for applying what is learned in one’s own educational setting.
Most importantly, what you learn in a Playground setting is not just practical, replicable, and interesting; this form of learning is, to put it in plain and simple terminology, just pure fun!

Cathy Collins, Ed.D.

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