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Thursday, July 17, 2014

ISTE2014 Takeaways

Newcomer, Novice, Tenderfoot, Greenhorn, Rookie - Yup, that’s me...I was an ISTE “First Timer” and quite excited about it!  I thought I'd share my three (3) ISTE Takeaways!
My FAB PLN: Jerry, Jenn, Billy, me, Paula
Background: This year I applied for and was fortunate enough to be awarded the Christa McAuliffe Living Memorial Fund  which financed my registration fee for the conference. This year the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference was held in Atlanta, Georgia on June 28-July 1st.  My wonderful opportunity was sponsored by the Alpha Upsilon Massachusetts Chapter of the Delta Kappa Gamma International Society for Women.

Takeaway 1 -  Arrive a Day Early: Arriving a day before the conference, my ‘friend’ from Indiana and I planned to meet at the airport since we were flying in around the same time.  You should know, my friend, Jenn, and I had never met in person before (though we have known each other through Twitter and Google Plus Hangouts for three years!)  Folks in the terminal didn’t quite know what to make of us as we screamed and hugged and hugged and giggled.  

The day continued much the same way as I met (for the first time) other members of my PLN.  There was Paula from New Orleans, Hugh from Canada, Jan from Kansas, JoAnn from Hawaii, Tracy from Arizona, Kitty from North Carolina, Brad from Michigan, Jerry from Florida, Billy from New Jersey and so many others.  While we were meeting face-to-face for the first time it was as though we never skipped a beat. We picked up on our on-line conversations without hesitation.  Throughout the day(s) I was to continually learn from the members of my Personal Learning Network. Equally as important I was able to meet new folks who are now a part of my PLN!

One small portion of the crowd on Opening Day
Arriving a day early also allowed me to get my bearings at the Georgia World Congress Center before the more than 13,000 people showed up. The venue is enormous!  Walking around with so many folks can be daunting so getting the lay of the land was important for this “newbie”.

Many other folks were there too participating in the “HackEd Unconference”.
So much learning going on before the “official” conference even started.  One of the sessions I attended was about a tool used to communicate on a smartphone, called Voxer. Voxer works like a walkie talkie and allows you to connect instantly. My friend, Bill from New Jersey, was the facilitator of that discussion and gave examples on how to apply this tool in education while other ideas were brainstormed.  Another session around the topic of Agency and Self Direction in Education was led by Steve Hargadon, creator of the Learning Revolution. The discourse was diverse and interesting.

Meeting my former principal, Mike Stanton
PLN Sidenote: Equally as exciting as meeting folks from my Online Personal Learning Network was meeting people I already knew! Literally, bumping into my former principal, Mike Stanton, in ISTE was certainly a highlight.  While Mike works for a neighboring district, I don't get to see him too often, so imagine my surprise when we spotted each other in the ISTE Welcome Center! And on the escalators, I spied Suzy Brooks, a gal who grew up in my town and is now a teacher on Cape Cod.  It was so GREAT seeing those familiar faces in the sea of people.  I felt like a little part of home was with me! 

GEMS: Girls Engaging in Math & Science
Takeaway 2 - Ask Questions and Engage with Presenters - One of my favorite parts of ISTE was visiting the “Poster Sessions”.  Poster sessions are displays from real folks, teachers, students, curriculum directors and more.  Each day presentations are set up for two hours at a time.  Initially, I went in and walked around and just looked.  If something peaked my interest I’d stop and talk.  Realizing I was missing out on a lot of great information, I stopped more frequently and started talking to the presenters. My favorites were the student presentations.  One group of young girls (5th & 6th graders) were involved in a STEM project where they made a xylodrum so students who were deaf would be able to play and “hear” it.  Another group of students created a stop motion animation storytelling project sharing the history of their city.  These students are English Language Learners.  All of the students waited for people to stop and ask them questions.  Thrilled that folks were interested in their projects, they spoke about them with enthusiasm.

Dont Judge a Book by its Cover:  This old adage comes to mind.  Had I not stopped to really look into these I would have missed out on many wonderful presentations.   I realized that I was passing by stations that did not necessarily draw my attention.  Quickly, I learned that I had to be proactive and ask questions and engage with the presenters.  My ISTE bag is filled with business cards, mementos and information that I can take back to my classroom to help me try out some of these wonderful ideas.

Brainstorming on how to Connect at Birds of a Feather
Asking questions and engaging presenters doesn’t just apply to the Poster Sessions.  It worked well in “workshops,” “Birds of a Feather session” and at the Bloggers’ Cafe.  There were so many people to connect with and learn from that makes ISTE an interactive experience.

Takeaway 3 - Choose 3 Practical Ideas to Bring Back: For a first time attendee there were so many aspects of ISTE that were overwhelming, awe-inspiring and down-right fun! My friend Jenn, heard that we should not worry about implementing all that we learned.  Someone stated that we put into effect just three (3) of the many wonderful ideas/resources that were shared.  So, in no particular order my practical ideas:
  1. Apps:  Here’s where it can get tricky - I learned about so many apps that it’s hard to pick just one to be a part of my “just 3” practical ideas.  So I’m not committing to choosing only ONE of these:
    1. Creator of Plickers: Nolan Amy
      Padlet (formerly known as Wallwisher): I have used this in the past but would like to renew my use (especially since I met the creator, Nitesh Geol!!!!) by having my students create Padlets (like post it notes online but beefed up) with Pre/Post assessment; Pre/During/Post reading strategies; explaining mathematical thinking; and using it during research.
    1. Plickers - They describe themselves (I met the creator Nolan Amy as well) as “Clickers made simple”.  Students hold a paper card with a multiple choice letter on it and you simply scan your audience and you can see who selected which answer.  Just a quick way to check in with your students to see if they are understanding a concept.
    1. Showbie -  This site allows the instructor to assign, distribute, collect and review assignments online or on the iPad.  Looking forward to trying these this year.

2. Genius Hour - Student Driven-Learning: At ISTE there was a panel discussion around this topic. Genius Hour allows students time to learn, create, research and choose their own topics.  It’s inquiry time based on the interest of the individual students.  Being more of a facilitator and guide would be my role.
While I have done this in the past on several occasions I would like to fine tune it and incorporate it into my year more.  It fits in so nicely with the common core. One suggestion was to try doing it in the mornings - what a great way to get kids energized for the rest of the learning day!  
Vicki Davis hosting Genius Hour. My easel was in the presentation Slides

Along with this idea of Genius Hour came the sub topic of CHOICE. Erin Klein, a 2nd grade teacher, spoke about giving students “Choice” in the classroom, especially in the area of Design while Karen Lirenman, a primary teacher from Canada, spoke about giving smaller choices throughout the school day. These ideas were infectious and have me doing more research.   

  1. Overlooking the Expo Hall

    Partnering Technology and Parents and Students: There were several discussions and ideas around this.  At an Ignite Session Monica Burns of ClassTechTips, asked “How are you using technology to reach families?” She suggested sending home an iPad with students so their families and they could create ‘something,’ a presentation, a photo collage or a story about their family, what they like to do, their  history or just something to help them connect with others in the classroom.  I am hoping to come up with some specifics so I can try this and make our classroom more about family!

In the giant world of ISTE I might still be considered a beginner, learner, fledgling and initiate.  However, the experiences gained, the ideas learned and the connections made have helped me become more skilled and more knowledgeable in my craft.  Looking forward to next year’s ISTE in Philadelphia!


  1. Hi Nancy. Not only does it sound like you picked up a ton of great ideas, it sounds as if you had a ton of fun doing it! Your post has inspired me to attend a trade convention in my field! Thanks!

    1. Definitely you should do it. This was a HUGE conference which made it so exciting. My advice would be to choose a conference that has many different presentations from people from all over. That way you may learn something that's being done in another part of the country (which may just work for you too!).

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  2. Nancy,
    Sounds like you had an awesome time and learned a ton! I am so jealous. It must have been fabulous to connect in person with your twitter PLN. What a great way to start your summer!

    1. Hi BJ,
      This post doesn't come close to describing how exciting it was to meet people I connect with online. I met so many wonderful people willing to talk and share ideas. I think we need to put a proposal together for the district so we can attend next year together!

  3. So glad you were able to attend...We always got flyers at school and they all looked like awesome conferences and topics!

    1. Karen - there is something for everyone at ISTE. If you didn't pick up something new, you weren't really trying to do so. I think you would have loved to walk around the vendor hall too - never seen anything like it - the displays were huge and eye-catching. Found some great furniture that I would LOVE in my classroom!!

  4. Where were you when I was a student! I love the way you embrace your job, your students, and life in general!!

    1. Thank you Diana! I'm hoping that's how my students and their parents feel as well!

  5. Now take those great ideas and start working on your application for Iditarod Teacher on the Trail! December 1 is the deadline.

    1. This could definitely be the year Diane - If so, I'm not waiting until the last minute to fill out the application! Thanks for your support!

  6. Hello Nancy,
    This post inspired me in several ways. First and most importantly to continue to develop my PLN as I am really just beginning. Next, to attend ISTE one day and finally to fine tune my Genius Hour and use Padlet (which I just signed up for) in my classroom this year.

    1. Anna,
      I'm so glad that my experience will be helpful to someone else. I hope one day you get to ISTE. It is amazing being in a place with so many like-minded, yet different-minded individuals. Can't wait to hear about the great things you will be doing - Way to go on signing up for Padlet!!! :)

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  7. Nancy:
    First, I just want to so how proud I am (and you should be, too) that you were awarded the Christa McAuliffe scholarship. Secondly, I am glad you had a great time. You are always such an inspiration, as you go above and beyond of what is expected. You are always willing to learn and share your knowledge with co-workers and non-educators as well. Additionally, you are always looking for new ways to enhance your students' learning. Your students, co-works and the teaching profession as a whole is, indeed, lucky to have you amongst them!

    1. Thank you Teresa for your kind words. I don't think I'm alone in always looking for ways to enhance my students' learning. This was just one fabulous way to go about it! I appreciate your support!


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