I am lucky enough to have a parent foundation that is exceptionally generous in their support of professional development, and after learning that I would be a local PBS Digital Innovator for 2016-17, I decided to take the plunge and apply for a grant to attend ISTE 2016. After all, if all of my technology learning to date had come from library conferences, what might it be like to go straight to the source, as it were?
In a word, interesting. There are some definite trends out there: a continued focus on coding, especially on making it accessible to the youngest students through toys and manipulatives like Bee Bots, Dash and Dot, Bloxels, and even Google's soon-to-be-released Bloks, though robotics and drones (yes! drones!) are angling to be the next frontier. Augmented and virtual reality are also very hot, with Google Cardboard and their new Expeditions app (only for Android, but supposedly coming for iOS in time for school) causing immense excitement. There was also a good focus on makerspaces and 3D printing.
The poster sessions were excellent, but I found myself disappointed with the concurrent sessions I'd pre-selected, though the ones I attended on digital storytelling and gamification in the library were excellent. I did notice that ISTE seemed to focus less on traditional presentations and more on posters/playgrounds/demo sessions, which allowed for a lot of wandering, but didn't allow me to personally spend much time reflecting and getting engaged the way I do through a traditional presentation. The times I felt the most engaged were the sessions that related most closely to my realities as a primarily elementary school librarian, which makes sense, but ISTE isn't a librarian's conference - that's the purpose of AASL (though the librarians network is a huge group within ISTE). AASL gives me ideas and lessons that I can take home and immediately implement; ISTE gave me some bigger ideas and concepts to play around with, but getting them into my curriculum is going to take some independence, time, and effort, and that can feel a little daunting.
Still, I came away with some great ideas and some new apps that I'm excited to try. Adobe Spark and Shadow EDU are two digital storytelling apps I want to dive into with kids, I'm trying to figure out how to incorporate a game into the library to teach research skills in an authentic manner, and I cannot wait to purchase some Makey Makey kits and incorporate electronics and code into a 5th grade choir project where students design their own instruments. I also learned about Printshop by Makerbot, which will allow students to draw a design on paper and then scan it into the iPad to be turned into a 3D printed object. This is really exciting, because it means that I can make 3D printing accessible to my younger students. I even have a better handle on how to run a Mystery Skype, which is definitely on the agenda for this year. I found out that Google Earth Engine can stitch together images in a timelapse format, and that Forms can now grade quizzes (with additional functionality through the Flubaroo extension), a feature that actually went live during the conference. By the time I heard about it, it was 48 hours old. That is pretty incredible.
I don't know that I'll rush back to ISTE 2017, but I am glad that I went, if only to get a sense of the whole scene. I will say that I definitely find immense value in my membership, and in the fact that ISTE makes it so easy to join different Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) and to stay up-to-date with the discussions. I've learned a tremendous amount through the PLN's I have joined, and I look forward to continuing my learning at a distance.
My name is Ms. Bery. I am a PK-8 library media specialist in the Boston area. In addition to being a certified school librarian, I am also certified in instructional technology, and have a strong interest in exploring and integrating technology in new and exciting ways in the classroom.
I am also a 2016 PBS LearningMedia Local Digital Innovator, and a 2015 recipient of the Massachusetts School Library Association's President's Award.
Check out the Sandbox for apps and websites I've found useful in supporting student learning and creativity. I also review children's, middle grade, and young adult books on Instagram.
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