Professional Development

THE Journal's ISTE 2016 Conference Guide

ISTE 2016 conference guide

The Colorado Convention Center in Denver, where this year's conference is taking place (June 26–29). /

This year's International Society for Technology in Education conference and exposition, taking place June 26-29, gives you the opportunity to attend 1,164 sessions and meet with 625 companies. That's a lot of ground to cover in a mere four days! To help you make the most of your time at the show, we've rounded up this ISTE highlight tour for your visit to Denver.

ISTE Special Events
Seventeen different "playgrounds" at ISTE give you access to ed tech you can play with and learn more about from people willing to share their favorite tools and resources in an informal setting. Depending on your interests, check out CUE's STEAMpunk Playground, the Apple iPlayground, the Google for Education playground, the Librarian's Network Digital Playground or any of the others.
Learn more here.

Interested in STEM and STEAM?

All three powerhouse keynoters this year can help you gain new perspectives on STEM and STEAM. Plus, ISTE also features a bunch of excellent talks, poster sessions and product demonstrations on the topics of science, technology, engineering, math and the arts. Learn more in THE Journal's "Guide to STEM and STEAM at This Year's ISTE Conference."

School and district superintendents, CTOs, CIOs and principals can kick off their ISTE experience with an early Sunday morning "Lead and Transform Town Hall." This year's speaker highlights include a keynote from Don Haddad, who leads the innovative St. Vrain Valley School District in Longmont, CO, a Q&A panel with other progressive leaders and a discussion with a group of students who attend a local "digital-age" high school. Other leadership events explore 1-to-1 implementations, systemic change, funding and trends in education technology.
Learn more here.

Ignite Sessions feature a dozen or more teachers sharing their favorite learning technique in rapid-fire succession, each in under five minutes. The first round, taking place on Sunday at 1:30 in the CCC Bellco Theatre, ping-pongs from storytelling to Snapchat to virtual reality to paperless classrooms to design thinking to STEM and badges and a few other topics besides. Whoo! Make sure your note-taking device is powered up before you take a seat.
Learn more here.

Back in 2007 ISTE published a set of standards for evaluating students, teachers, administrators and technology coaches on the skills, knowledge and approaches needed for success in education digital transformation. While you can attend explanatory sessions about how to apply the standards at this year's event, you can also contribute to the next generation of standards in sessions designed to allow people to share their perspectives. Teachers, specifically, will be meeting on Sunday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in CCC 706.

EdTekTalks delivers a small collection of "mini keynotes" on provocative topics. This year's session, taking place Monday between 2:30 and 4:15, will feature five sets of inspiring speakers, including mother-daughter team Janice Johnson Dias and 11-year-old Marley Dias sharing how they compiled a list of 1,000 books with "relatable female characters," the trending hashtag #1000BlackGirlBooks and a nationwide movement to get those volumes into schools around the country. Caleb Harper, director of the Open Agriculture Initiative at the MIT Media Lab, will share his work on developing a more transparent and collaborative food system for the world. And maker movement leader Ayah Bdeir plans to share her work on creating an open-source library of modular electronics that snap together with magnets.
Learn more here.

ISTE Learning Sessions
Sunday, June 26, available 7-8:30 p.m., "Virtual Reality Tour with Google Cardboard to Amazing Places!" for grades 9-12. Educators from Centro Escolar Los Altos in Mexico give virtual reality trips created by their students to participants in this poster session.

Monday, June 27, available 8-10 a.m., "Creating a Tech Squad," for grades 9-12. This poster session shows how a Colorado high school brought students into the support of their 1-to-1 program by building a tech squad, whose model can be replicated elsewhere.

Monday, June 27, available 8-10 a.m., "Research Papers Made Easy Using Technology," for grades 9-12. A poster session presented by high school students who explain how they developed strategies for writing scientific research papers in a fun way: by attempting to validate scientific claims made in movies or TV shows.

Monday, June 27, 8:30-9:30 a.m., "Twitter Chats for Professional Development," for grades PK-12. Two practitioners deliver the basics and tips in finding and participating in chats of interest in order to develop a personal learning network and then guide participants through a live chat.

Monday, June 27, available 2-4 p.m., "4 Steps to Setting Up a Low- or No-cost Coding Club," for grades PK-5. An elementary technology integration coach offers a simple plan for getting a coding club up and running, including coverage of facilities, equipment and people needed.

Tuesday, June 28, available 1:15-3:15 p.m., "How Movement in Classrooms Improves Learning, Behavior and Assessment," for grades PK-12. This poster session tells you why and how to incorporate physical movement into standards-based lessons with the use of Walkabouts from ActivEd.

Tuesday, June 28, 2:15-3:15 p.m., "Ask the Ed Tech Experts Hollywood Squares," for grades PK-12. Have an ed tech question? This interactive session with ISTE authors will let you get answers.

Tuesday, June 28, 2:15-3:15 p.m., "Can K-12 Ed Tech Procurement Change to Keep Pace with Innovation?" for grades PK-12. A big panel of experts from schools, industry and organizations address the challenges of technology buying and share best practices for faster procurement of the best products at "fair" prices.

Wednesday, June 29, available 8-10 a.m., "Authentic Assessment Smackdown: The Integration of Digital Literacies," for grades PK-12. Reps from New Jersey's Orange Public Schools share details of a PD event to help teachers develop the skills they need to create authentic tasks and projects for the classroom using free web-based tools.

Wednesday, June 29, 11:45 a.m.-12:45 pm., "Use Augmented Reality to Increase Literacy," for grades PK-12. Prince George's County schools presenters explain the basics of AR, guides attendees through creation of an Aurasma Studio account, and offer lesson ideas for the classroom specifically to help support and extend literacy skills.

Wednesday, June 29, available 11 a.m.-1 p.m., "How to Host a How-to Festival," for grades 6-12. For three years a New York district has run a how-to festival to let students share something they know how to do with their parents, families and the broader community. This poster session shares their model for a friction-free and successful event.

Wednesday, June 29, 11:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m., "Learning Environment Smackdown: Google Classroom vs. Edmodo vs. Moodle vs. Office 365," for grades 6-12. This panel session explores several popular learning systems and offers practical advice on how to choose the best one for your school or district.

Take a Break
Plan to be at ISTE a day early to participate in this year's ISTE Unplugged event. Free for registered attendees to the main show, this year's all-day Saturday event features Hack Education's Audrey Watters as co-emcee, alongside Steve Haradon from Learning Revolution Project. There's no set agenda; the bridge is built by participants on the day it unfolds. An organizing meeting starts at 8 a.m. and sessions erupt out of that. By 9:45 the official welcome takes place. An after-party runs from 7 to 9 p.m. that same night.
Learn more here.

This year's ISTE features six Game Shows, in which teams of four go Family-Feud-style to answer questions about school, education technology and Denver in the hopes of winning prizes, including a $2,000 Best Buy gift card.

Two "Pitch Fest" sessions on Monday are your chance to learn about creative ed tech offerings that could be available in the future. ISTE has weeded through applications to select 12 finalists who will have five minutes each to pitch their product ideas and a couple of minutes more to answer judges' questions. Then the judges — and those in the audience — will have the chance to choose their favorites, which will head into a final round on Tuesday to vie for selection as the "Most Innovative" and "Most Likely to Succeed." Attendees who get their badges scanned will be entered into a drawing for prizes Wednesday.

And don't forget the folks back home. The more time you spend in the exhibition hall learning about new ed tech products and services, the more tchotchkes you'll be able to load up on for your kids and colleagues.