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.”

5 educators share their #ISTE18 experiences

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.

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.