Whew! I got back home from ISTE 2011 in Philadelphia last Wednesday and it’s taken me a week to get caught up and to find a free moment to reflect on the experience. I once described attending an ISTE conference like being hit by a huge wave while standing in shallow water on the beach. This analogy is just as apropos for this year’s event.
It’s estimated that ISTE attracts over 13,000 attendees from around the globe each year (see final numbers for 2011 here). There are also thousands of virtual attendees who tune in daily to webcasts, podcasts, and other online streams of communication coming from the conference. All of this can be overwhelming for a first-time attendee as well as for a conference veteran. As a way to cope, I approach the conference like I’m combing a Florida beach for shells and other treasures and am always happy to find a few gems each day that I can take back home with me.
Here are my 10 takeaways from ISTE 2011:
- What’s with all the QR codes? I’ve heard about QR codes before; but, gee whiz, they were all over the place at ISTE this year. Exhibitor booths had them on display, presenters put them on handouts, plus they were on business cards, conference posters, conference websites and more. If you are new to QR codes, like I am, you may find this tutorial by Vicki Davis helpful. And, if you want to generate your own QR codes, there are several free QR code generators available on the Web. I used Kaywa’s QR code generator to create the QR code above for my blog.
- Holy mobile computing, Batman! IPads, iPhones and other brands of smartphones have clearly overtaken laptop computers in popularity at ISTE. In fact, pulling out a laptop to update your Facebook status, post a tweet, or check your email is so passé at ISTE it will get you stares. Just kidding. I must admit though being the only one I could see in a packed session on iPads typing notes on a laptop did make me feel out of place. (I’m still not comfortable typing on an iPad screen!)
- Speaking of iPads, I thoroughly enjoyed Camilla Gagliolo’s standing-room only session titled The iPad Revolution: Innovative Learning in the Classroom, in which she shared some of the innovative ways that iPads are being using in Arlington (VA) classrooms with special needs students and first and second graders who are publishing their own e-books.
- Gagliolo’s session got me psyched about finding new apps and resources for my iPad 2 that I’m still learning how to use. Two new to me apps that look promising are Singing Fingers, which allows you to finger paint with sound, and ShowMe, which allows you to record voice-over whiteboard tutorials and share them online. I also bookmarked Mike Fishers’ comprehensive iPads in Schools LiveBinder for later exploration.
- Kudos to Karen Fasimpaur for a great session on open educational resources (OER), which are “digitized materials offered freely and openly for educators, students and self-learners to use and reuse for teaching, learning and research” (Wikipedia). While I was aware of the OER movement prior to ISTE, Karen’s session tweaked my interest in exploring the topic further.
- Special thanks also goes to the Adobe’s Youth Voices reps that ran several hands-on workshops covering the production of music videos and animation with Adobe software. I attended the stop-motion workshop where I learned how to produce animation with Abobe Premiere Elements 9 (which I won a copy of!! Woot! Woot!) I also registered on the Abode Youth Voices Essentials website and downloaded the stop motion animation curriculum that is available in PDF form.
- Over 55,000 tweets with the #iste11 hashtag are archived on TwapperKeeper.com. That’s over twice as many tweets as were generated at last year’s ISTE conference. Following the conference on Twitter provides virtual access to sessions that you’re unable to physically attend, links to session handouts and websites being shared, conference updates, quotes worth retweeting, and more. It is how I began and ended each conference day.
- Twitter is where I learned about Chris Lehmann’s inspiring closing keynote (which I missed while traveling back home) and that it was posted on YouTube. Lehmann is principal and founder of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. His talk focuses on building a school community around the values of inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation, and reflection. He also stresses the importance of fostering a sense of agency in students, which is “the ability to own your ideas and do powerful things with them” by helping them develop their “head, heart, hands, and voice.” Thus, once again, I walk away from this conference on educational technology acknowledging that it’s not about tools, rather it’s about how we use the tools to cultivate human potential.
Note: Lehmann’s talk begins around 37 minutes into the video. It’s preceded by a performance by a 5-member poetry slam team from Lehmann’s school that is equally inspiring and that begins at 32 minutes into the video.
- Getting away from the conference and exploring the Philadelphia art scene was high on my “to do” list when I arrived. I took in the Philly Museum of Art on Saturday and then made my way down to South Street to visit the Philadelphia Magic Gardens, a massive outdoor labyrinthine mosaic installation created by mosaicist Isaiah Zagar over a 14-year period. The folk art environment covers half a city block and consists of tunnels, grottos, rooms, multi-layered walls, and floors every inch of which is covered with mosaic tile, mirrors of every shape and size, embedded found objects, bicycle wheels, sculptures, and more. The only thing I’ve seen previously that comes close to this installation is The Watts Towers in LA by Simon Rodia, which I understand served as part of Zagar’s inspiration in creating the Philadelphia Magic Gardens. If you make it to Philadelphia any time soon, you’ll want to put the gardens on your list of places to visit.
- Lastly, I need to give a nod to the Reading Terminal Market, which served as a prime source of food and coffee during my four days in Philly. If you have a chance to stop by there on a trip to Philly yourself, I strongly recommend Old City Coffee for breakfast and The Original Turkey for lunch.