ISTE 2016 Coverage

Top 5 Highlights from ISTE 2016

Let’s face it. ISTE 2016 was huge this year.

The International Society for Technology in Education conference in Denver attracted nearly 20,000 attendees from 72 countries. As of Wednesday, ISTE’s final day, more than 221,000 tweets included the #ISTE2016 hashtag; nearly 4,000 #ISTE2016 photos were uploaded to Instagram; and all social media content featuring the conference hashtag reached more than 58 million people around the world, according to a news release.

During the four-day conference, ISTE unveiled new Standards for Students, designed to guide learners who live, work and play in a technology-infused world.

ISTE also announced a collaboration with Microsoft to offer several programs that aim to help schools and educators prepare for the use of technology in education. The initiative includes contributions to curriculum for massive open online courses (MOOCs) in relevant topics, and the development of a plan for guiding schools through their digital transformations.

Dozens of panels and hundreds of workshops took place during the nation’s biggest ed-tech powwow.  If you were there, you know it was impossible to see and hear everything, especially since many events occurred simultaneously. So what were the main highlights from ISTE 2016? Here’s a clear-eyed, yet subjective, assessment from a first-time attendee of the top five takeaways.

1. Michio Kaku is funny. Whether you agree with his theories of the future or not, the opening keynote speaker knows how to deliver a punchline. His comments about guys literally becoming stupider when they see a pretty girl because the blood drains from their brains were hilarious.

2. The real learning at ISTE took place in the Playground and Poster areas. That’s where teachers and students offered hands-on workshops and demonstrated what they’ve learned while integrating technology in the classroom. Kudos to all of the instructors who prepared lessons and presentations for free, just for the sake of sharing knowledge and experience.

3. You have to see the Colorado Rockies play while you’re in Denver. zSpace, a Sunnyvale, CA-based tech company that creates virtual reality systems, booked a private suite at the Rockies baseball game on Monday, June 27. Along with providing the obligatory hotdogs, peanuts and popcorn, zSpace and its Director of Education and Product Experience Elizabeth Lytle guided selected members of the media through the company’s newest products, including Human Anatomy Atlas. This collaboration with Visible Body allows the user to explore virtual models of the human anatomy in 3D, with the ability to twist, turn and dissect organs such as the human heart and the spinal cord. Atlas contains more than 4,600 anatomical structures, including all major organs and systems of both male and female bodies, and over 1,000 quiz questions for healthcare professionals and students. zSpace has proven that VR and 3D have already progressed pretty far. Oh, and the Rockies came from behind and beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 9-4.

4. New this year was the ISTE Campfire. Dozens of educators gathered in less formal settings to discuss mobile learning, STEM and STEAM, the maker movement, games (or “gamification”), and teaching and learning strategies. Like Playground and Poster, it was a refreshing breakaway from the lecture or panel format. Cross-disciplinary connections were made, and a number of campfires spilled over into dinner, drinks and even less formal interactions.

5. Will Richardson is the real deal. There’s been a lot of talk about how education needs to fundamentally change to incorporate technology and meet the changing needs of students. Richardson is one of the few speakers and education leaders who has his finger on the pulse of what’s wrong and what should be happening in today’s classrooms.

At ISTE, Richardson delivered a lecture titled “Next Steps for the Next Wave: A Plan for Changing Schools.” He quoted Yale professor of psychology Seymour Sarason several times, including: “Productive learning is where the process engenders and reinforces wanting to learn more. Absent wanting to learn, the learning context is unproductive.”

During his talk, Richardson said, pointedly: “Billions, even trillions have been wasted on technology that hasn’t moved the needle on learning.”

One of his core tenets is the acronym LEAD: learn, educate, articulate, do it. Some of Richardson’s points ring so true, they stir emotions you didn’t even know you had. 

If you’re serious about education and its reform, you have to check this guy out: willrichardson.com.

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