Posted in Conference Reviews, Roanoke County Schools, Tech Tools

ISTE 17 Takeaways

I had an incredible and surprising opportunity to attend ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) this June in San Antonio, Texas. ISTE is a huge conference in the world of educational technology, and attending it always broadens my perspective, gets me excited about teaching with technology, and provides me with an arsenal of ideas and resources to use with the students and teachers at my schools.

San Antonio River Walk

And while I have had the opportunity to attend ISTE in the past, being the lone attendee from my district this year made me view the conference through a different lense. I did continue to try to spend as much time as possible learning new things to bring back to my schools and district (like I have in the past), but I ended up lost and wandering frequently. I guess I didn’t realize how much I rely on my colleagues to help with my horrible sense of direction. Being lost in a venue such as ISTE, however, provided opportunities for things I wouldn’t have necessarily seen otherwise. My perspective on the opportunities I had to connect with others was changed as well. I found myself talking to many more people, and I learned a ton in the process.

And truly, I wasn’t really alone…the team of folks from Level Up Village were great hosts. I had met and talked with most of them at length virtually, and they are just as kind and fun in person. I learned so much just by hanging out with them in the evenings and at various other points throughout the day, and they introduced me to some people doing great work in Global Education and Tech Ed in general. Just being around their team provided opportunities for me to consider trends of technology education that I might not have otherwise thought about!

So, with all that in mind, here are some of the things I took away from ISTE this year.

Global Education and Design Thinking

I am not sure if it was because of the company I was keeping or if there truly was an increase in the push for Global Education at ISTE this year, but I heard about Global connections everywhere. On the day I arrived in San Antonio, I made it to the conference center in time to attend the Global Education Day run by Lucy Gray and Steve Haragon. During our breakout groups, I learned about new-to-me Global Ed partnerships and was able to connect with many different teachers across the world who were utilizing global connections in their classrooms. I was excited to hear educators talking about incorporating Design Thinking into Global Ed projects. Here are a few resources gleaned from that experience:

One evening while at ISTE, I was also introduced to Terry Goldwaldt from Taking it Global, and then ended up in a session he led by accident (back to the getting lost part). I was able to hear about how this organization is mobilizing students to be change makers in the world. Check out the current TIG’s project: #Decarbonize: Youth Art For Climate Change. I’m so glad I accidentally attended!

I also learned more about the UN Sustainable Development Goals, also known as Global Goals. I had heard a little about them via Twitter, but after hearing more, I feel that it is important that I share them, and keep exploring their relevance for educators. Here’s a quick video explaining.

Two other great resources about SDGs:

Finally, I walked away from ISTE with some new reading material about Global Ed: The Global Education Guidebook: Humanizing K-12 Classrooms Worldwide Through Equitable Partnerships by Jennifer D. Klein.

As our district continues to focus on the 4 C’s, Creativity, Critical Thinking, Collaboration and Communication, and adds another area of focus, Citizenship, I believe these connections and resources will be very useful.

Virtual and Augmented Reality Experiences

ISTE also had a huge number of sessions around Virtual and Augmented Reality. I especially LOVED hearing about getting students involved in creating these experiences. I attended two sessions that shared ideas around the same student creation tools: Thinglink and Cospaces

Designing, Visualizing, Making in 3D Session

In this session, the panel discussion really started me thinking about possibilities for student created experiences. They showed a ton of teacher and student examples, and when we broke up in small groups, I was really able to get a better grasp on the student creation potential for VR. Here are a few of the examples that one of the presenters, Michael Fricano, from EdTechnocation showed:

You can see all the slides from his presentation here: 3D Network Panel: Designing, Visualizing, and Making in 3D. I walked away intrigued with the idea of student VR creations.

20170627_223837889_iOSOn a side note, one of my co-workers knew Michael from her time teaching in Hawaii.  She suggested I find him while I was at ISTE, and amazingly enough, I did!  AND that was completely by accident — I didn’t realize he was one of the presenters when I wandered into his session.

Create, Capture, and Cardboard Your Curriculum Session

In this session, Mary Howard from Your Smarticles walked us through creating our own Virtual Reality experience. It was pretty easy, and something I definitely think my upper elementary students could replicate. In one of her examples, she even showed us how to make a VR Breakout Edu experience! Check out the awesome HyperDoc she shared!

Ideas from Playgrounds and Poster Sessions

20170627_192046103_iOSBecause I kept getting lost inside the conference center during this trip, I ended up spending lots of time at Poster Sessions and Playgrounds. I loved it! These are the best places to get tons of ideas and tips and tricks for all things Ed Tech. Here are a few things I learned:


Green Screen Tips

I love the Green Screen App by Do Ink and have use it a ton, but the things I learned in 5 minutes by just walking by a green screen playground station were some of the most useful tips I’ve learned for using green screens with students! My favorite tip was to use green straws to animate hand-made figures (adding a STEM and Maker Component). They also showed a variety of cheap resources to use to create green screen videos.

Digital Portfolios and Digital Badges

Our district has been discussing digital badging and hopes to roll out Digital Portfolios for students very soon. There are lots of examples of schools divisions using both these tools, and seeing what others were doing helped me consider the potential for our elementary students and teachers.

Here are a few Digital Badge resources that had interesting information:

This long, but really GREAT documentary from Madison City Schools in Alabama on Digital Portfolios in worth watching. They share strategies and resources for getting Digital Portfolios started in a division or school. I really like the direction this district took when rolling out Digital Portfolios and how they made them extremely relevant to students. Here is their Free Google Drive folder with resources and a link to Qurious Digital Portfolio Database which seemed to be a great way to keep track of individual student portfolios.

Making Digital Breakouts

20170626_151720829_iOSI loved the short and sweet session at the TCEA (Texas Computer Education Association) playground on Digital Breakouts. The presenter walked us through solving a couple Digital Breakouts and then discussed technical ways to make these great learning activities. Check out her presentation here. I actually loved all the sessions and resources TCEA had available at ISTE — every time I walked by their area I learned something new!

Other Resources to check out:

Throughout the conference I heard a few other tools mentioned frequently.  I am hoping to delve deeper into them before the new school year begins.

  • WeVideo — I have used this video creation resource before, but want to look at it more in-depth for collaborative student projects with video.
  • Sound Trap — A tool that allows students to collaborate on music and podcasts.
  • Spiral – A tool that might be good to use in flipped learning situations.
  • Little Bits Code Kit — I love Little Bits, and especially loved learning about and playing with their new Code Kit. Now I just need to find funds to buy a few to try out with students…
  • Flipgrid — I already love this service and use it frequently, but I can’t share it enough with other educators.  Loved seeing a playground session they ran.


I love ISTE keynotes — they are incredibly inspiring. I only made it to one this year — Jennie Magiera — and I’m sure glad I did. Her message was about amplifying the untold stories of limitless potential — both for teachers and students. I have added her book, Courageous Edventures, to my summer reading list, and I highly recommending jumping at the chance to hear her speak if the opportunity arises.

Thank You Level Up Village

I am so grateful for the chance to attend ISTE this year. My love for the Level Up Village company only increased as I got to know the folks from the company personally, and I am even more passionate about the opportunities they provide for schools across the world after talking with other teachers who have taught their classes as well. Their combination of Global Education and STEM activities is unique, and they really make the entire process of teaming with another country easy. While their courses meet various Global Goals for Sustainable Development and have earned the Seal of Alignment at the Proficiency Level for the 2016 ISTE Standards for Students, the important things I heard from other LUV teachers was that the courses changed the way students thought about both the world and their ability to impact it.

As teachers, that’s what we want to see fostered in our students. That’s the gold standard for meaningful courses. So being able to meet and see and hear about the work that Level Up Village is doing to make these courses available for educators world-wide was inspiring. I am very thankful for the opportunity to spend time with such great folks at one of the best conferences in the edtech world.



Instructional Technology Resource Teacher

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