ISTE 2018 Takeaways


The 2018 International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference has ended, but we’re so excited about everything that we saw that we just have to share!  Each day, members of Forward Edge attended sessions, engaged in educational playgrounds, and walked the expo floor capturing a sense of the emerging themes in education. Ultimately, our professionals can sum up ISTE 2018 with these five themes:

1. It IS about the technology!  No, it’s not about the specific tool – but technology can and must transform how we teach, because it has already transformed how we learn. 

At its core, ISTE is a technology conference. Even though new educational technologies have amazing applications, most presenters highlighted two underlying ingredients to student success: great pedagogical design and strong interpersonal relationships. Behind the glitz and glamour of the newest digital tool, VR headset, or shiny interactive panel, teachers have to do what they do best: teach! Although having access to technology levels the playing field and provides teachers and students with incredible opportunities, no digital tool can replace great teaching. Instead, using digital tools skillfully, designing engaging lessons that ignite thinking, and fostering collaborative relationships between students and teachers form the foundation of a solid educational experience. Once that foundation has been established, new technologies can enhance the experience, engage students, and unlock limitless possibilities. Although the technology is cool, great teaching and relationship-building should always come first!


2. Equity is our obligation to the students we serve – and technology is a key to powerful student voice and student-led advocacy.

Technology is being used in wonderful ways to allow students to share their learning with the world. Students are already publishing their essays, videos, podcasts, and other artifacts of learning in public digital spaces. But if our students are only creating videos of their examples of finding parallel lines in the classroom, we are missing vast untapped potential to learn and change lives. To truly support student voice, we must provide opportunities for each student to explore their own interests and advocate for the causes that mean the most to them. We must go beyond helping students merely find their passions, to helping them thoughtfully contribute to global discussions around the issues they care about. In this way, we create real opportunities for students to practice good digital citizenship.


3. Student Collaboration and Computational Thinking – Going beyond the buzzword “Design Thinking”.

There are MANY amazing new tech tools out right now that wowed and awed us at this year’s ISTE, but the common thread that linked these awesome tools was the potential for tech to drive genuine student collaboration. Tools such as Flipgrid, Empatico and Ideo’s “Conversation Starter’s Kit”, allow students to reach a new depth of learning by engaging with their peers in an environment where everyone can participate and have an active voice. Students are stepping out of the traditional “sit and receive” mold of education and to ask complex questions and then use these tools to engage in genuine collaboration with their peers, near and far, to create meaningful solutions. Technology is driving communication and preparing students to be collaborative problem solvers and computational thinkers that create and address questions that haven’t been answered yet.

Members of the Forward Edge C&I Team at ISTE!


4. Expanded Classroom Realities

Another notable undercurrent at ISTE revolved around innovative ways to break down barriers and transform the traditional classroom space using untraditional and otherwise cutting edge technologies. Augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) technologies were featured prominently throughout the conference expo hall, playground floors, and session rooms. These tools expand the four walls of a physical classroom and enable students to learn and explore the world around them, from the seat of their desk! Best of all, a variety of new technologies, like Google Expeditions, allow teachers to create their own virtual reality experiences tailored with specific content for their students. Even though it’s important to create a comfortable physical learning environment, it’s evident that school walls are no longer a barrier to meaningful, impactful experiences outside of the classroom!


5. New ISTE Releases

Have you heard the news? ISTE wasn’t just hosting activities at the conference; they were part of the fun too. ISTE unveiled a new set of standards, a digital tool advisor, and a prestigious certification for educators around the world! First, the new ISTE Standards for Leaders provide a framework for guiding digital age learning. As stated by ISTE, “these standards target the knowledge and behaviors required for leaders to empower teachers and make student learning possible.” As schools continue to adopt the ISTE standards, it’s vital that educational administrators and decision-makers lead the way to impactful change!

Another exciting announcement revolves around ISTE’s new EdTech advisor. This is a member-only review and rating platform that gives educators insight on tools, apps, and resources to help inform decision making. Members can use the Edtech Advisor to research new digital tools and make informed decisions about the tech they use with your students. What a great way to ensure the highest quality education for everyone!

Finally, the ISTE Certification for Educators is a new competency-based, vendor- and device-neutral teacher certification based on the ISTE Standards for Educators. As ISTE states, “This digital credential recognizes educators who understand how to use edtech for learning in meaningful and transformative ways.” I’m sure teachers and administrators around the world are thrilled to learn about this new recognition and are already making plans to earn their credentials soon!

#NotAtISTE18? For more information on key takeaways and to catch up on all of the conference happenings, follow @ForwardEdgeOH on Twitter!