Take A Look at Our Team’s Takeaways from ISTE 2021!

Top Takeaways from the Forward Edge Curriculum & Technology Integration Team

The annual ISTE Conference & Expo is globally hailed as the most comprehensive educational technology conference in the world; Educators and education leaders have congregated at the ISTE conference for over thirty years in order to exchange ideas, network with other innovators, and engage in high-impact, hands-on learning. 

This year there were around 9,000 attendees for the virtual conference, which included teachers, technology coordinators, library media specialists, policymakers, and other industry representatives. By actively participating in this annual event, these forward-thinking members of the industry bring their newly acquired skills and knowledge back to their companies, schools, and educational landscapes, which in turn propels these communities to even greater achievements. 

This is especially true for our Curriculum and Technology Integration team members that participated virtually this year. Each team member has brought a unique, valuable insight and skill set back to Forward Edge, helping keep our company as the technology edge for education. 

Though ISTE 2021 is over, the conference is still fresh in the minds of all. In a few words below, Lisa Kuhn, Justin Thomas, Molly Lutts, and Brooke Conklin share their perspectives, insights, and key takeaways that they gleaned from their ISTE 2021 experience.

 Lisa’s Takeaways

Favorite Session: Hello!  I’m Nearpod, Nice to Meet You!

Presenters: @LearnwithLabby & @QJacksonSSrocks

I’ve been wanting to learn Nearpod since my high school teachers have a school subscription to it, but it has always seemed so daunting. These two were incredible! They were energetic and made the learning authentic – they showed the teacher and student views side-by-side as they demo’d and discussed the various features. The focus of this presentation was that Nearpod can “do it all” – NO MORE TABS needed. That is to say that you can embed just about any type of activity you want into Nearpod – videos, audio files, AR/VR activities, polls, Flipgrid, Microsoft and Google integrations, and more! No need to jump from tab to tab as you present. I am using it for an upcoming High Aims presentation and am excited to see how it goes.

@EricCurts is always a solid presenter and ISTE Live 21 was no exception! The PK-5 students in my district will be 1:1 in the classroom for the first time this fall and I searched out sessions that focused on this age group. Eric demo’d how to create various types of Google activities, from drag and drop (build a snowman) to animating stop motion in Google Slides (a rocket flying through space) and MORE! For me, he epitomizes what it is to be an educator – he both shares his treasures, wisdom and resources with others, and is always on the lookout for and accepts contributions from others. With so many pedagogically sound technology options out there, cutting through the overwhelming possibilities and saving time are critical for today’s educators. Eric helps facilitate this with his giving spirit.

Justin’s Takeaways 

ISTE this year was relatively similar to last year with it being completely virtual. They made several upgrades to their virtual platform, which helped it run smoother than last year and was a big upgrade. There were an exponential amount of sessions, but with every session being recorded it made it a bit more manageable. Here were a few of the many great sessions I attended:

  • Hipster Google: Tools You Probably Never Heard Of (Eric Curts)  had a lot of really good Google add-ons and extensions that were interesting. There are some really good musical ones that I want to share with my elementary music teacher!
  • Come on Down to the ISTE Standards for Students Game Show 2021 (Stephanie Bass, Kevin Bower, Melissa Henning, Ruth Okoye, Karen Streeter) had a fun format of going through each ISTE Student Standard and then providing three tools that best worked for that standard. The audience then voted for the tool they like the best.
  • Bring ISTE to Your Teachers – Building an Exciting Local Conference (Mike Johnson, Jeremy King, Katie Nettles) was a really interesting session on how a couple individuals created their own local conference called GRITC (Mobile Bay area Alabama) and how they continue to sustain the conference each year.

There are still a lot of amazing tools within Google and other programs that can be shared with teachers and our coaching is making a huge impact all across the board. We provide such great support to teachers and continually learning new and innovative ways to assist them are so important. I also really believe that we can create an amazing learning conference – the session on creating a local conference was very interesting to me and I love the idea of creating something similar for our tri-state that can be such a great resource for teachers to meet and learn. Overall I feel like I picked up some new tips and ideas from ISTE and I’m still catching up on some videos and recordings!

Molly’s Takeaways

Tracee and I presented on Sunday of the conference.  We had people from all over the country attend and interact with us.  We were so excited to see so much interest and engagement in our session “The Hybrid Coach”, and we were able to connect with coaches from almost every continent.

I sat in a lot of sessions about coaching and leadership. Some of the best sessions I attended were panel discussions where people were sharing their tips and tricks and engaging with the participants so that it was more of a discussion than a lecture.

I also sat in a lot of Makerspace specific sessions. There were really cool ideas shared and student examples/projects mentioned. There was a lot about empowering students by coming up with the rubric but letting go of control and having students lead the learning. I sat in a session that explained the purpose of a Makerspace: Purpose–solve real-world problems, empathy driven solutions, engage in process to achieve success.

Brooke’s Takeaways

This year’s ISTE Live was hosted virtually, which made accessing presentations, materials, and connecting with presenters a breeze! While we miss the energy that the typical in-person conference offers, the virtual set-up is a nice change for ease of access. This year’s digital conference platform was quite impressive, allowing presenters to launch activities like polls, breakout rooms, and chat panels to keep the audience engaged. Justin Thomas and I presented a poster session titled, “Become the Historical Story Teller: Using EdTech Tools” on Wednesday. We had some reservations about what presenting a poster session virtually might be like, but were pleasantly surprised by the smooth experience! ISTE provided each session with a moderator who monitored the chat and resolved any technical issues that arose. This made presenting on a virtual platform extremely easy. Justin and I were able to connect with Social Studies educators from all over the country during our session and enjoyed indulging our passion for Social Studies education. 

As an attendee, the theme “Designing a new Learning Landscape”, shone through all of the sessions offered. I attended several great sessions about reimagining learning in a post-pandemic word, utilizing newly gained tech competencies to reinvent student learning, and even a session that challenged participants to consider how the changing workforce environments brought about by the pandemic requires new skills from graduates. 

As with most ISTE conferences, there was no shortage of tool-focused sessions, such as “5 ways you should be using Google Jamboard”, and it was nice to discover new uses for tools my educators have been using in the past year of remote and hybrid learning. ISTE ‘21 offered many learning opportunities, but I am looking forward to connecting with many of the people I’ve met virtually at ISTE ‘22 in New Orleans next year! 

Taking the Next Step

If you were unable to visit us at ISTE2021 this year, we want to introduce ourselves to you! Forward Edge is a Technology Solutions Provider for K-12 school districts, operating out of southwest Ohio, and we pride ourselves on our ability to stay ahead on the latest news in education technology. Attending ISTE is a vital part of making sure we are bringing the best solutions to our customers, day in and day out. We offer a variety of Professional Learning programs on the latest technology tools available to supplement your district’s PD initiatives, helping schools expand knowledge of technology and ways to integrate it into curriculum, aligning their practices with the most recent ISTE Standards for Educators, Coaches and Students, and offering services to improve classroom productivity and enhance student engagement.

We are extremely excited to attend ISTE 2022 in New Orleans and experience the conference in person once again! If you are interested in learning more from any of our team members listed in the article above and what they encountered at this year’s virtual ISTE 2021 conference, or you would like to learn more about our online badging program for educators, Edge•U Badges, email us at hello@forward-edge.net today!