How Many Connections Can 18,000 Educators Make?
18,000 educators and 500 vendors converged on the Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta--despite the sweltering heat--to connect, learn, share, and explore resources, strategies and tools at the annual ISTE conference. The traditional conference attendee experience is shifting for connected educators: what happens outside of traditional sessions is just as (if not more) important than the presentations and BYOD sessions. Educators connected online connect in person to deepen relationships and share their challenges and successes. The number of connections they made? You would probably have to measure them in the 100,000s.
Hack Education unconference goers
Read the Fine Print
The annual pre-ISTE “unconference,” Hack Education, organized by Steve Hargadon and Audrey Watters, continues to grow: close to 350 educators arrived in Atlanta a day early to drive their own agenda. The educator-chosen topics were a preview of the most popular ISTE sessions: digital citizenship, game-based learning, gamification, student privacy, design thinking, flipping the classroom, project-based learning, personalized PD and learning, student-directed learning, social media, device deployment, Google Classroom, and Voxer.
Watters led a lively conversation with several dozen educators taking part around student data and privacy that addressed the responsibilities of schools to educate students and parents, how and why to read the fine print on terms of “use” policies, what’s the balance between encouraging student collaboration and protecting privacy, the importance (and challenges) of data portability, and long-term implications of leaving digital footprints. Participants were intrigued by the site tosdr.org that crowdsources terms of service fine print into easily understandable language.
One sobering thought raised by a participant: If Facebook ever goes the way of MySpace, investors will likely see all of the millions of photos and information as sellable assets. (Facebook policy states that they have "a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.)
Keynote Theme: The Whole Child
Actor and humanitarian Ashley Judd’s untraditional keynote included pauses for prayer intermixed between stories about challenges with alcoholism in her family. Though many participants weren’t sure what to make of her presentation, Liberty Elementary principal Joseph Manko noted that Judd’s stories were a “good reminder that we may not have identified all of the children in our classrooms with complicated family lives.” When students are hungry, upset, anxious, it’s more difficult for them to learn.
Author and motivational speaker Kevin Carroll also devoted his keynote to describing significant childhood challenges--essential abandonment by an addict mother, frequent moves and extreme poverty. His six-year-old self couldn’t wait to attend school, the place where they served breakfast and lunch. Carroll’s life story emphasized the importance of children needing to belong, the impact of one caring adult on a child’s achievement, and a call to play because “play is the highest form of research.” Carroll shared the award-winning Nike ad of an entire city playing tag, which was inspired by an afternoon of tag Carroll orchestrated at Nike’s headquarters. His final message: Believe in young people and remember to include play in their lives.
When Jeff Charbonneau, America’s 63rd Teacher of the Year addressed the ISTE gathering, he reminded the audience that we “don’t teach robots, we don’t teach content—we teach kids.”
And he wants to do so with great tools. Charbonneau believes that “all students should have access to tech and resources wherever they go to school.” As a result, his organization, the Zillah Robot Challenge, sends free robotics kits to any students in Washington state who want to participate. Charbonneau also challenged educators to continue to ask, “What If” and to ask students the same question as they explore their world.
Shameless Self-Promotion: DILAs
EdSurge partnered with Digital Promise to launch the first Annual Digital Innovation in Learning Awards (DILAs). Admire a teacher, admin or org? Nominate them here!
Heard in the Halls
Google Classroom: In between sessions, attendees eagerly gathered around teachers now piloting Goggle Classroom’s beta version to see the new tools in action. Beta users have a list of “wants,” including adding the ability to message to parents. Google reps said yes, that’s on the list for development. Classroom is expected to be available to all schools in 40 languages before the school year begins.
Voxer: This new social media darling turns smartphones into live walkie-talkies. You can also leave a voice or text message to be picked up later. (Ready to get your Vox on?)
TweechMe: New to Twitter or want to find a particular education chat? This recently launched app offers Twitter 101, 201, and 301 as well as most of the education chats in the twittersphere.
Google Cardboard: Given away as schwag at the 2014 Google’s I/O summit, this “party favor” may be turning into the next thing for teachers to create virtual experiences in their classrooms. Essentially, Google Cardboard turns a smartphone or tablet into a modern View Master or alternative Oculus Rift for under $20.
Wearable Tech: Last year, Google Glass drew a crowd. This year, ISTE goers were intrigued by a wider range of wearable tech--and what they could mean for education. Can sensors in wristbands, headbands, even clothing, provide meaningful feedback to improve student learning?