I wrote this post as I was reflecting on the plane coming home from San Diego….I just remembered that I hadn’t actually posted it 🙂
As I fly back towards Toronto, ON, and in conversation with @learninghood, I wanted to take an opportunity to offer some suggestions for the presenters and organizers of ISTE, to be held next year in Austin, Texas. For the past few years. The ISTE conference has been the focal point of learning for us. For individuals immersed in the use of technology to support the learning, and for those wanting to learn how to make a technology a natural seamless part of the teaching and learning process, ISTE is the place to be. Educators from all over the world descend on one of the host cities to learn, network, collaborate, and share. The people we meet every year are so fascinating. You can’t help but walk away with a head full of thinking and a strong motivation to implement something new. Even the poor sessions have something to offer in this regard (click here from my thoughts on this).
Last year, @learninghood and I had the pleasure of presenting a model classroom we designed and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to do so. We have also been blessed with the opportunity to visit ISTE on a few occasions and have participated in many a session as a result.
Here are some of our suggestions as we look forward to next year:
Student Voice: Don’t forget the kids! This year we sat in far too many sessions where teachers talked about what they did, why they did it, and how great they thought it was. This may be true, but if we don’t hear it from your students then it seems somewhat incomplete. Anyone can gush about an activity or lesson but provide us with the proof. Shoot some video of student testimonials prior and embed them on your blog so we can engage with them and comment back, have students Skype in (AIM, etc) and talk to us directly, bring them with you to co-present, bring them to present with you as coach, and guide, show student work (show us what they created and provide for us a way to access their examples and, even better, listen to them reflect specifically on a piece of work. The Student Showcase sessions with the Posters are dynamic in this regard – blend that concept into your session.
Parent Voice: Let us know what parents think of the work you are doing. Were they okay right from the start? Were some wary of you doing something new wit your students? How do you inform parents that you are putting their children in virtual spaces? Are you aware that you are creating a digital footprint from someone else’s child? Have you articulated that for them? Do they know you post the child’s work online? Do they have the ability to access it if you do? What do you do for the parents that don’t have access to ethnology? What about those parents that don’t speak your language? These are pieces that are all vital when exploring the use of technology and some framework for your participants would be helpful.
Engage us early: Beware of taking too long to set the stage (this is especially true in Model classrooms). We are excited to participate with you as students as this provides us with the real practical and contextual framework for your activity. We can easily make the connections and take it back to use immediately. To much background information loses the crowd. Keep this information on your session description or Ning page – we can always read that later. This of us exactly as students – you’d lose us as kids too.
Go deeper than your resource page: I sat in many a session where presenters just went over a list of resources from a wiki page. This made it almost redundant to sit in the session. We can click on the links in your wiki page anytime. provide us with some context for using the tool and provide us with a real example. this is especially true in BYOD sessions. We come with devices so put us to work using them. Don’t just take us on a gallery walk that we could do on our own.
Lectures: Please break up your talk with some video, some audio, some discussion time, and visuals and please don’t just read your slides verbatim. We can read those on our own – go deeper and provide anecdotal stories and context, show us some data and speak to it, help us to understand it, and then elaborate on it. In this regard, don’t assume that everyone knows how to read data. Saying “as you can see” when pointing to a chart or graph can be highly presumptions. a large majority of people in the room will have no idea what they “are supposed to see”.
Be prepared: I had two separate presenters announce to the room that they had just prepared the links and slides “last night” and to “bare with them”. It is hard to feel confident In a presenter when something like that is announced.
Pens? Notepads? Seriously? We’re at a technology in education conference and we’re all carrying devices. There was only one booth that I visited (Splashtop) that was handing out iPad stylus pens versus ball point. Pens and notepads are so yesterday. Please try to be innovative with your giveaways.
Room Allotments: We know that it may be hard to gauge popularity and how many people will choose what but Fullan is a big name and warrants a much larger room than he was given. So many were turned away. On the flip side, some speakers had huge rooms that were largely empty. Also, BYOD sessions are known for their popularity. Choose rooms that fit the capacity. Room attendants were counting participants – this means they had a magic number at which to close the door. Please publish these numbers so that we can gauge how early we need to be at a room.
Keynote: The opening keynote of any conference is designed to motivate everyone, fire electricity through their veins and provide them with the adrenaline to go forth and learn. A speaker like Sir Ken Robinson is highly engaging but here he was given a task to facilitate a panel. We came for him – everyone I spoke to did – we didn’t come to see a panel. Let people do what they do best and keep the infomercials to a minimum. Everyone around me was tinkering on their devices. I didn’t see anyone paying exclusive attention to the stage.
Food: Travelling the spansive halls of any convention centre is exhausting and when we got hungry, we really had no choice but to find a restaurant outside of the centre. There we more outlets for nourishment than there was at Philadelphia last year but still not enough. Some more areas to grab and go with a hotdog, sandwich, etc. are needed.
ISTE is the focal point and year-end culmination for learning and exploring the infusion of technology in education. It is understandably huge but almost too huge – it needs to be streamlined. Like a restaurant menu with too many options, a congested program makes it difficult to find or do anything well.
Consider the first week of July versus the last week of June. It is very difficult for educators to to attend (especially from Canada) and you would certainly expand the accessibility of this conference if an early July date was considered.
We learn so much at ISTE every year and this year was no exception – our brains are full. There is, however, plenty of room for improvement.