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Notes from ISTE 2014: Connecting with Leaders in Education Technology

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There are many things from this year’s ISTE conference that stick in my mind, starting with the spotlight on global education. The turnout for the Global Education Conference face-to-face event was so huge that fire regulations prevented many conference goers from seeing the Ignite speakers - that sort of popularity can only be seen as a good problem to have. Ignite is a fast-paced event during which speakers present 20 slides, shown for 15 seconds each on an automatic rotation for a total of five minutes of fame. The first Ignite event took place in Seattle in 2006, and it has since become an international phenomenon. ISTE Ignite was introduced at the 2012 conference and speakers and viewers love it. Lucy Gray and Steve Haragdon have done a fantastic job with this event and it’s always inspiring to speak with them.

The World Cup added another fun global dimension to the conference this year. Traffic in the halls would literally come to a standstill as folks crowded around TVs to cheer on their teams. It’s always a pleasure to watch the World Cup with an international crowd. Even as good-natured rivalries emerged among conference participants, I couldn’t help feeling moved to be part of a truly diverse community of educators attending the most important education technology conference with the common goal of exploring innovations to improve education.

The intensity of the ISTE conference means you are working nonstop and as soon as one meeting or session ends, you are off to the next. I was a traveling on my own this year, but at an ISTE conference you are never really alone. The power of professional learning networks (PLNs) amazes me – the sheer number of folks around the world building and fostering friendships and professional relationships via Twitter is incredible. Even more amazing are the face-to-face meetings that result from virtual PLNs. During the conference, the social media hotspot - the "bloggers café" - was nothing but smiles and squeals as people put a face, handshake or hug to a Twitter handle.

Walking the expo floor, it was hard not to notice the number of content and curriculum publishers that now offer their products in digital formats. It’s easy to see how interoperability may quickly become an issue as teachers and students need to log into multiple sites to access content. With the volume of platforms available, it’s sometimes a struggle to see how they will all come together in disparate learning environments. Some districts seem to be recognizing this as an issue and are creating their own interoperability standards - but even these differ district by district.

On the last day of the conference, I was part of an ISTE Board feedback group and Mark Weston from Georgia Tech presented an interesting challenge to the members present: Going forward how do we insure that the ISTE conference helps resolve the front-line challenges that teachers and administrators face in schools every day? I was struck by the question. Every year, the feature of the ISTE conference I most enjoy and find most useful are the poster sessions which offer insights into actual teachers’ practices for implementing various technologies. I am always blown away at how teachers are able to combine dedication, brilliance and limited resources - both money and time - into an engine for innovation. If you don’t walk away from these sessions inspired, you’ve probably signed up for the wrong conference. Teachers are and should be the rock stars of the ISTE conference and I fully support any efforts to provide them with tools and tactics that can be implemented immediately and successfully in their classrooms.

- Mark Otter, VIF Chief Academic Officer


For news related to education technology, follow Mark (@markjotter), VIF International Education (@VIFprogram) and VIF Learn (@VIFLearn) on Twitter.

You may also join our community today for free access to VIF learning center PD and resources, and to connect with educators from around the world.


Some awesome Saturday Morning English, French, and Spanish resources from our friends @TeachUNICEF…