I have been back from ISTE for almost a week now and I am still working on unearthing the knowledge, innovations, new ideas and a few expo center trinkets that I brought back with me. I am an elementary tech integrator for three elementary schools and was fortunate to attend ISTE with three other staff members from our district – an elementary principal, a third grade teacher and our technology coordinator. I discovered that we each approached ISTE from very different angles, but all with the common goal of improving student learning and providing our students with the best possible experiences.
I decided to focus on a couple of key areas at ISTE that tie with our district initiatives. Our upper elementary classrooms will be 1:1 with Chromebooks next year, so I am interested in changing the classroom environment to incorporate this infusion of technology. I am most interested in how this changes the way that the teacher and students interact since it allows for many collaborative experiences and formative assessment opportunities. I was especially excited about some of the enhancements in these areas coming from SMART and Google, both of which we already use in our classrooms. I would like to incorporate the use of SMART amp in our classrooms next year as a collaborative environment both within and between classes. I am also interested in helping the teachers to use the new Google Cast capabilities that allow a student to project his or her Chromebook screen onto the SMARTBoard to explain their thinking or share their learning in an easy and seamless manner.
Another area of interest in our district is the introduction of computer science and STEM concepts to our younger students, so I was on the lookout for great new “toys” to introduce coding to the younger students. I wasn’t disappointed because many vendors had robots, iPad apps, games, tiles, blocks, and a variety of other tools. I attended some sessions in which I was presented with differing points of view on how to get started, whether block-style coding is good or bad, and why one product is better than another. I love seeing the variety of approaches and the many tools that have been developed to make computer science concepts accessible to young students, but I think it’s important not to overwhelm the students. I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of Google Project Bloks and Apple Swift Playgrounds to see how they will influence this environment. I have more work to do in this area before school starts in the fall, but the research is great fun!
And, of course, I brought back several T-shirts, a coffee mug, stuffed animals, water bottles, seed packets, tote bags, etc. which I give away as door prizes during my PD sessions with teachers. I can’t resist – it’s just part of the fun and excitement that is ISTE!