I was one of five DoDEA teachers, that I know of, to attend the ISTE conference in Philadelphia this year. The other four were Paula, Jennifer, and a couple I met, the Humphreys, during my poster session. Most of the conference didn’t start until Sunday but I had a super volunteer meeting on Saturday.
I applied in early February for the super volunteer program with ISTE which I had heard about it when I did a volunteered at ISTE in San Antonio two years ago. If you are accepted as a super volunteer and work two 4 hour shifts, then you get reimbursed for your registration fee, which is a good deal. The volunteer shifts are at the Ask Me stations where people ask for directions to rooms and events at ISTE. After you answer the same questions a few dozen times you get to know your way around the conference pretty well. It also helps you learn about the inner workings of the ISTE conference functions. The best thing, though, is that I felt much more a part of the conference.
This year I presented at a poster session at the conference a presentation called “Engage Students by Having them Create Animations”, which is a clunky name. I focused on six animation projects I have done with students including mechanical, Google Slides, and stop motion animation. I didn’t quite know what to expect but it was a good experience. I talked to several teachers who seemed really interested in animation including a couple of teachers who said they had marked my session as a favorite in their ISTE app. I spent much of the poster session explaining how to do Google slide animations and demonstrating thaumatropes. I’m hoping to hear from some of the teachers who visited my session, so I can work them more on using animation with students.
The poster sessions are in two hour blocks spread out during the day and I managed to attend every session at the conference. There are so many poster presentations that it becomes overwhelming trying to digest them all, so I decided to focus primarily on STEM tools and professional development. I didn’t see any STEM tools that were brand new to me but I did learn quite a bit about implementing tools such as Raspberry Pi and Makey Makey. I had a good discussion with a teacher presenter from Denver on how she teaches using Raspberry Pi, and she should be a good source of information moving forward. Since I am moving into a classroom next year, I’ll have room to create a maker space, so I talked to several teachers on how to set up a maker space and what to do with it. I also learned about breaker spaces, where students take things apart such as small appliances, which I think is a great activity for a middle school kid.
I’m hoping to develop a more systematic program for technology professional development at our school since we have a hodgepodge of different trainings at the moment. There were several poster sessions on professional development and I talked to different teachers on how professional development worked in their school or district. I found the idea of badges and micro credentials particularly appealing but I’m not sure what that would look like at our school. I also liked the idea of gamifying professional development by having teachers either compete as groups to reach specific goals or achieve certain training levels.
I focused most of my time attending the poster sessions but I did sit in on a few speakers. There were two speakers I particularly liked. Nancye Blair Black presented a session called “Six Code-free Computer Science Activities Perfect for any Middle School Class.” I have to admit, I was expected specific activities related to computer science like the ones you find in CS Unplugged. Instead, she talked about computer science concepts and how these could be addressed offline. For example, students could practice writing algorithms by creating flow charts on how to win a volleyball game.
The other session I really enjoyed was called “Magical Adventures in the Gamified Classroom” by Tisha Richmond. In this session she explained how she changed her culinary art classes by adding gaming elements to them. Among the games she created with her kids was one called “Food Trucks.” The kids came up with names and logos for food trucks, presented their ideas to local food truck owners, and created regional dishes as they “traveled” across the country in competition with each other. It was quite impressive how thorough the games were. What was even more impressive was how engaged students were in the games and how it transformed her enjoyment of teaching. As a skeptic at heart, I’m not usually swayed by inspirational presentations but this one touched me and I’m thinking of buying her book.
I held off attending the vendor Expo until Monday afternoon. The Expo is so big that it’s a little disorienting to me and many of the vendors sell things that are geared to above school level purchases such as student management databases. I did learn about some products that I had heard about but didn’t know what they did, such as Seesaw. I also, of course, picked up a bunch of free stuff including 3 t shirts (including a double extra large, which I’m not sure what I planned to do with), 5 tote bags, a pack of sticky notes, stickers, and a bunch of pens. Best of all, though, was that I won a robot. Sorry Paula.