ISTE’s Top Ten Conversations

Apps & Mobile, EdTech, Learning, Learning Innovations, PreK-12

If you have spent the past two days at ISTE, it’s pretty much guaranteed that your feet hurt, you’re feeling exhausted (and blistering hot and sweaty in the San Antonio sweltering heat) and your brain is on complete overload. Still, for the over 20,000 participants in this year’s ISTE’s conference, there is still one more day to go. It seems safe to say that no one will be wrapping it up tomorrow without having met someone new, learned something new or had a conversation about trying something new during the next school year.

Here are the top ten conversations overheard about everything new at ISTE this year:

1. Surface RT – every teacher is going home with a brand new Surface tablet. With just a quick registration and a signed letter from your school, Microsoft handed 10,000 free Surface RTs over to each teacher who applied for one. Christmas has come early because everyone gets to go home with a “new toy” to play with over the summer and then integrate it into the classroom come fall.

2. Google Glass- There was definitely a Star Trek-like vibe happening at ISTE this year. Many were catching an occasional glimpse of the chosen few teachers who have been lucky enough to get their hands on Google Glass, most notably Adam Bellow and Andrew Vanden Heuvel. Both were seen quite often, sharing nicely, and letting their fellow conference goers try on these futuristic Google goggles, leaving everyone with a little insight into what the future may hold for mobile devices.

3. Long lines and colossal crowds- when a conference has this much to offer, it’s nearly impossible to avoid huge crowds of teachers who want to get in on it. Luckily, most people who feel passionate about education are typically polite, patient and good hearted, so it’s really not that difficult to maneuver around the convention center.

4. Gamification- Jane McGonigal kicked it all off Sunday evening with an inspiring discourse about how games of all types hold the potential to change the process in which today’s students, young and old, learn. Jane’s closing was record breaking good when she lead the audience in the world largest game of multiplayer thumb wrestling. But the conversation did not stop there, as it seems this year’s conference offered a significantly greater amount of sessions focusing on how games can and should look in education.

5. Augmented Reality- educators may have known this one was coming, but just weren’t sure how or what it would look like inside the classroom. The FREE app, Aurasma, lets educators integrate augmented reality into lessons and classroom projects. They are excited to try it because Aurasma makes it so easy, with amazing results. This is spreading like wildfire and it’s one of those apps that makes teachers want to skip straight to September so they can use it with their students.

6. Ignite Talks- after the debut last year, the ISTE Ignite Talks were back and the first round kicked off the conference with excitement and optimism. Each speaker had 20 slides and 20 seconds on each slide to tell their story and remind us all how much good is really happening in the field.

7. The Blogger’s Cafe- The good news is blogging is definitely a popular practice with so many who choose to attend ISTE. It is obvious because it’s been almost impossible to find a seat in the area since the opening keynote finished Sunday night. It is a great place to spend some time and meet other like-minded educators. It is so popular, actually, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if it doubled in space for next year’s conference!

8. Virtual Schools and Online Classes- The fact is the number of online courses are quickly increasing and the demand for them continues to rise. Students and parents want them more and more! But, the number of qualified online teachers is not rising at the same rate. Educators are starting to make the shift to teaching online. Should be interesting to watch this community of educators connect and grow as the field opens up and we focus on how and what we need to do in order to become a successful teacher, online.

9. Iron Chef Challenge- ISTE Edition- a new, featured, fun event this year! On Monday morning, 11 teams of educators could choose from one of the four “chef” challenges:

  • Fusion Cuisine. Develop a project tied to a subject area standard and the NETS for Students.

  • Fine Dining. Teams write an application for a technology grant and justify how they will use the funds.

  • Thanksgiving Feast. Teams roll out a technology initiative and create an implementation plan.

  • Corporate Dinner. Teams develop a new app to help teachers solve a specific problem. They will be pitching their idea to EdTech.

Each team also received a list of ingredients needed to create their solution. Starting Wednesday at 10:15, each team has 5 minutes to “pitch” their solution. Certainly looking forward to seeing the results and hope to see more of these types of sessions at ISTE’s to come!

10. Adam Bellow- Last but not least, the closing keynote, by the extremely talented and long time ISTE presenter, Adam Bellow. Adam has shared massive amounts of resources and tools with fellow educators over the past few years. He also has created Educlipper, known as the Pinterest for educators, and wrote a new book with Steve Dembo, titled Untangling the Web. No one wants to miss fast talking Adam and bets are currently being placed in Vegas as to how many slides Adam has created and included in his big finale speech.

Alison Anderson

Alison Anderson

Alison Anderson is a Media Specialist at The Madeleine School. Follow her on twitter at @tedrosececi.

4 Comments

Jay Keuter /

Common Sense Media’s release of Graphite (http://www.graphite.org/ ) seems to have flown under the radar… I am partaking in ISTE “remotely” this year but have not seen much chatter in the Twitterverse and blogspace on this resource. Really like the social nature and peer-based underpinnings and given it is still in beta still a ton of top end for this tool.

Anne Jenks /

Great post. This was my third and best ISTE conference. It was the best because I got to meet many if the people I follow on Twitter including @ipadsammy and @mattBgomez. Going to sessions presented by people you follow makes for a more valuable experience because you already know that you value their opinions and like what they have to say. Sorry I missed meeting you, but maybe next year in Atlanta.

Alison Anderson /

Anne, I’m so sorry I missed meeting you, too! This was also my third and best ISTE conference although I am amazed how much my goals have changed for the same conference in just 3 short years. Each year has been a hugely different experience. There is definitely something for everyone at ISTE. I feel very lucky that I have been able to attend, expand my mind but mostly connect with so many great people. Looking forward to meeting you next year!

scott horan /

Great summation! I did not realize we got up to 20,000!!!! The only thing you missed was the student panels and student poster sessions and the student STEM Playground. We took a group of 7 to present about C# and Gaming and then we trouped through the student areas. There are so many smart students doing great things in our schools! After 41 years I feel more honored than ever to be a teacher. Thanks to all of our SIGS for putting on so many great activities. They are the heart and soul of ISTE