Friday, June 29, 2012

ISTE Daily: Final Day, Wrap-Up and Takeaways

My plane landed around 5:30am EST. The overnight red-eye is never pleasant on a full flight and the work the next day put me into a contemplative (or zombie-like) mood until that night's #BYOTchat where some of the colleagues I met and #ISTE12 made some lurking in-roads into a new PLN. But before the reflection, Let's get to the last day:

7am SHRED Session:

I like the SHRED sessions for their inspiration in a broad variety of topics. I saw one preview of a digital film-making presentation that went so far beyond the typical half-hearted "digital storytelling" project. It was inspiring enough that I want to rework one of the multimedia projects in the #digcit class to incorporate Digital Book Reviews/Commercials that can be posted to the school's library blog.

I also eliminated one of my planned presentation based on the two-minute preview that made it clear this session was going to go in a direction in which i wasn't interested in...guess it has to cut both ways, neh?

The Future of Leadership:

Since I now had an open session spot, I turned to my PLN and found a new session that looked intriguing (thx @wkingbg). This was firmly a "preaching to the choir" session on digital leadership, run by the gentlemen who run #cpchat on twitter -- Connected Principal Chat. They could have been tapping into this blog with discussions about the need to participate in Social Media, Tearing down walls between admin and faculty (literally, one of the guys has his "office" in a commons area), making curricular and professional development decisions that focus on the context of the student and individualizing, rather than standardizing test-taking. Picked up a ton of new twitter connections on the back channel and will be sharing stuff from them throughout the year,

#ISTELOL -- a break for humor

One hour of education and edtech snark. Really, no one was safe. There was an operatic walkthrough of Teach-for-America invasions, a Johnny Carson-style psychic ripping on vendors and a Q&A session with some great lines. Probably should have ended my conference on this note.

While this was going on, the Google I/O announced the Nexus 7 tablet. How cool would it have been for the  Google booth at ISTE to have immediately pulled out Nexus 7s for demonstration or, better yet, some giveaways. That would have been an awesome use of confluence. -- Ah well.
]End Interlude]

Primary Sources and Digital Tools
Put together from a social studies perspective, this was to be my last session of the conference. There is a careful balance that must be created in presentations like this one. There is the overarching theories that underscore the methods, the activities, and the apps and tools that make it possible. In addition to the usual challenges (differing audience members, differing familizarity with tools, etc).

This session began very heavy on theory name-dropping. Within five minutes, we had heard about T-Pack, the Stripling model of Inquiry, SCIM-C, Webb's Depth of Knowledge, The HOTS, The LOTS, and more. This is not to criticize any of these individual models, but when placed that close together and as a generic overview, the impact of any one idea is lessened and you lose the links to the activities.

Interesting fact: In most schools, less than 20% of the activities we do tap into the Higher Order thinking skills (HOTS) such as create, evaluate or analyze.

That being said, the presenters did a good job of introducing a variety of activites that could be done with a broad range of tools. 2 Cool Examples:

  • Creating Reveal Slides: Reveal slides are portions of picture that allow the viewer to focus on the detail of one section of the slide. Forces students to distinguish between description of artifact and inferences/analysis
  • 10 Words Wordle: Using a collaborative text tool (such as google docs), each student describes a picture in 10 words. Those words, from the class, are then loaded into a word-cloud generator such as to show the classroom concensus.

There were a lot more tools and toys that had fewer educational applications (VOKI) but when there were practical examples of primary sources (much love for the Library of Congress) combined with concrete activities supported by tools -- This presentation was at its strongest.

Final Keynote

I really don't want to spend a lot of time on this. We left early. It was about a really cool environmental advocacy program in Borneo. There was a YouTube video about it. And Orangutans use their lips on touchscreens. That about it. -- I took the redeye because I wanted to stay...for this. Lost that bet.

Summative Reflection

First of all, thanks for everyone who followed these daily posts. I hope they were useful for non-attendees and my growing #iste12 PLN.

I have been thinking over the last few days about ISTE as a conference and what role it plays in education. Some of this is centered around a growing sentiment i was picking up from veteran techs and educators in the last few days of the conference: Is ISTE still worth it?

Taking a Stand on Advocacy
At some executive level, I think ISTE needs to think about who it is as an advocacy organization. When the opening keynote had 15 minutes of pre-roll government wonks kick off a keynote that was the opposite message, the clarity of the organization is confused.

I talked to a number of ISTE board members who deeply believe in the personal context-based education that can be created by educational technology. Yet these same board members have created an expo floor that is dominated by the impersonal test-score focused, #shinypretty, LOTS. Again, the message is mixed -- in this case apparently for financial gain.

This is not to say that the body should begin excluding specific ideologies. I appreciate being able to move from a session on developing digital citizens, to arguing about BYOT, to STEM, to constructivism in its purest form. ISTE can be a big idelological tent for teachers and techs alike -- but if we are supposed to advocate on behalf of the students, it might be time to quit giving a platform to things which we as a body believe is harmful.

Keynotes: 1/3 is bad. Just ask Meatloaf.

  • Make them inspiring
  • Don't let the vendors tell you who to pick
  • Make them relevant to the body of educators
  • Don't pander to me -- I have access to the Youtubes. Amateur production quality - even as snippets -- is barely tolerated from my students.
  • Don't hold a general business session before the keynote
  • Be consistent in your messaging with your speakers, your thanks, your guests and, most important, My Time.
Connections will Happen given the Time, Space, and Structure
Check the twitter feed. The strongest part of #iste12 was the connections made between techs and educators, teachers and admins, etc.The difference between my time with #sigMS and in the technology pavilllion were so tremendously different. One allowed me to form connections, learn and teach from others, and discuss best practices. One of them made me feel intrusive, uncomfortable, and unwanted. The difference? Organization:
  • Clearly mark the area for its purpose (signpost)
  • Invite people into the conversation
  • Have an organizational person there to greet, check-on, and give feedback to presenters/demonstrators/conversationalists

Is ISTE still worth it? absolutely!

As a professional and someone with ideas, a passion for teaching with technology, and for advocating to our students, this forum provides one of the best places to make the personal connection with others in a non-digital forum. It strengthens online connections and puts us all together for generative power that cannot be accomplished separately.

But there are cracks forming. Inconsistent messaging, poor efforts on keynote acquisitions, disorganization that derails effective networking. This will be a great time to refocus on what ISTE as an organization brings to the national conference table. Good luck and see you next year!

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