What Just Happened? #ISTE13

2013-06-23 16.38.42I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference in San Antonio last week.  Today, I’m trying to make sense of all the notes, pictures, and SWAG that I returned with.  I also wanted to write a blog to share some of the things I learned, so here is my attempt to do both at the same time.

The ISTE13 Conference Experience

When the program was published several weeks ago, I had a feeling I might be overwhelmed by the conference.  It literally took me three days to just read through the program and make notes about possible events I’d like to attend.  When I had finished going through the program, I had booked myself for at least three events for every time slot!  So much to do, so little time!


Ironically, most of the highlights from the conference for me were not about technology, but about people!

  • The conference was huge! Word on the street is there were around 20,000 attendees from all over the U.S. and 70 countries, yet everyone seemed like they knew each other.  I blame Twitter!  Seriously though, the people attending the conference were really nice.  I found myself in conversations with people from all over the world while standing in line for workshops, waiting for events to begin, and just hanging out in the lounges.
  • The content I learned from the workshops was great!  I learned many new things, and was reminded of some things that I had forgotten, but the most impressive part of the workshops was the passion in the voices of the people presenting.  They were sold on their topic, and they were convinced that the information they were sharing could literally change the way our kids learn.  As I listened to the speakers, I was reminded that it’s not the technology, it’s the teacher!
  • bandThe final highlight I should mention came from the keynote sessions.  The speakers were incredible (I’ll get back to them in a bit), but the highlight was the “house band.”  ISTE brought in a live band to entertain the audience before and during the keynotes.  I have a feeling they could have showcased any band they wanted at this event, but they chose a local group, comprised of high school students, to entertain thousands of people from around the world!  And they were amazing!  They are called the Dara Niemi Band. You can hear some of their music on their website: http://daraniemi.com/.

Here’s a clip from their performance at the final keynote.

The Exhibit Floor

I tried to spend some time on the exhibit floor, hoping to come across that magic “next greatest thing!”  The space was huge, with hundreds of exhibitors (I’ve got the free pens to prove it)!  I took time to watch and listen, and tried to envision how the product would change how we teach at Timberview.  But at many of the booths I visited, I found myself thinking, “Can’t Google do that?”  So I spent much of my exhibit time here:


Poster Sessions and Student Showcase

If I could change one thing about my experience, it would be to spend more time at the poster sessions and the Student Showcase.  I had no idea how cool these would be!

At these booths, students and educators showed real life examples of technology in schools.  I loved listening to the students explain how they used technology in their learning.  You could actually see the excitement in their eyes.

One of the groups of students was from the Centro Escolar Los Altos in Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico.  They shared with us how they created ebooks using iBooks Author to share with the younger kids at their school.  A few of the students stood at the front of the booth and explained the program, while the rest manned a station where they demonstrated the process.  They spoke eloquently (in English I might add!), were very knowledgeable, and eager to share.  I realized later in the conference, that I missed eight other sessions that they presented!  Luckily, you can find all of their projects on their blog!  


From the opening keynote to the last session I attended, Gamification was a recurring theme.  As I learned about using games to impact learning, I kept thinking that they should call it something other than gamification.  Too many people think games are just “wasting time” or “enrichment.”  So I came up with my own term for using games in school…ready for it?  I think we should call it – Good Teaching!

My Takeaways Regarding Gamification:

My first takeawayJane McGonigal is a rock star!  I knew a little about her through her TED talks and following her on Twitter, but seeing her in person, and hearing the passion in her voice, convinced me that gaming is an integral and necessary part of learning.

My notes from her presentation:

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The average Call of Duty gamer plays 170 hours per year! That’s one full month of full time work every year!

The longer you stay in school, the less engaged you become.

The longer you stay in school, the less engaged you become.

Ten Positive emotions from gaming: Joy, Relief, Love, Surprise, Pride, Curiosity, Excitement, Awe/Wonder, Contentment, and Creativity

Ten Positive emotions from gaming: Joy, Relief, Love, Surprise, Pride, Curiosity, Excitement, Awe/Wonder, Contentment, and Creativity

The opposite of play isn't work - It's depression.

The opposite of play isn’t work – It’s depression.

Signing her book, "Reality is Broken."

Signing her book, “Reality is Broken.”

Takeaway number two: When I heard about gamification, I immediately related it to technology…video games.  But it’s not about the technology at all; it’s about the game itself.  Rory Newcomb gave an excellent definition of gamification in her session:

  1. In short:  a careful and considered application of game thinking to solving problems and encouraging learning using all of the elements of games that are appropriate (p. 15)
  2. A more thorough description:  Gamification encompasses the idea of adding game elements, game thinking, and game mechanics to learning content.  The goal of gamification is to take content that is typically presented as a lecture or an e-learning course and add game-based elements (story, challenge, feedback, rewards, etc.) and create a gamified learning opportunity… (pg. 18)

Here’s a link to her presentation.  If you are at all curious about gamification (you know you are!) her presentation is worth your time!

And if you are looking for ideas to gamify your classroom, check out Andrew Miller’s website: Andrew K. Miller

Takeaway number three: Teachers who use gaming effectively in the classroom are just doing what all great teachers have done throughout history – doing whatever it takes to make teaching relevant!

Apps I Didn’t Know (or Just Didn’t Understand!)

First, I owe Evernote an apology.  I’ve had the app on my devices for years.  I even used it several times in 2010, and once or twice in 2011, but I never really gave it a chance.  After hearing many people talk about it at workshops and conferences this year, I decided to give it another shot.  I am now a believer in the power of Evernote.  I’m not sure there is a tool out there that could have helped me keep my notes from the ISTE Conference organized (not even you, Google!)

Here’s a list of a few of the  websites and apps I learned about (or learned more about) at ISTE:


  • Educlipper – Pinterest for educators.  You can share clips with other teachers or your students.
  • ThingLink – Really cool way to create interactive posters.  I see a lot of potential for class projects, presenting information to staff, and publishing information to the community.
  • Infogram and Easel.ly– Both Create great looking infographics.
  • PollEverywhere – This was a popular tool during the conference.  It was used at keynotes, sessions, and in the exhibit hall.  It’s one of those tools I knew about, but didn’t realize the power.  It’s way easier than I thought.  The presenter sets up the question, then participants answer the question via text message (or Twitter, etc.)
  • InfuseLearning – This one is a must have! It allows real time feedback in the classroom.  Teachers can ask all kinds of questions, students can answer with any device, there’s the ability to draw your response, and teachers can send out links to websites from the program.  It’s pretty incredible – and FREE!
  • BigHugeLabs – This site allows you to do some cool stuff with pictures.  I thought it was cool that you could make trading cards and press badges!  Word on the street is, if you log in as a teacher, your students can log in to an ad-free space.
  • Cel.ly – Mobile social networks.  (Think “Remind 101” with a twist.)  Cel.ly allows two-way communication between teachers and students, faculty and parents, etc.  It’s definitely worth learning more about.
  • Doodle.com –  An easy way to schedule meetings with multiple parties, and it works with your Google Calendar.  I have used this, but it was a nice reminder about a powerful collaboration tool.
  • ScreenCast-o-Matic – This is probably the single best tool I saw at ISTE!  It’s a free online tool that allows you to create simple screencasts.  When I say simple, I mean really simple!  Teachers can easily record lessons for Flipped Learning or days when a sub will be needed.  Tutorial videos are very easy to create.  I think this tool and I may become very good friends this year!


  • Skitch – Skitch is pretty amazing!  You can annotate pdf, pictures, etc. directly from your device.  Works with Evernote.  Lots of potential!
  • Remember the Milk – This is another one I tried a couple of years ago, but just couldn’t convince myself it was worth hanging onto.  After listening to Elizabeth Calhoon talk about it, I think I’ll give it another shot this summer.  It’s a task manager with lots of organizational tools.  Evidently it syncs to Google, so I’m definitely good with that!
  • Ifttt – If This, Then That – This is just genius!  You can set up “recipes” for pretty much anything!  “If I’m tagged in a photo on Facebook, then send me a text message.”  So cool!  I think I found something to do this summer!

Finally, this tool could be the most useful of them all.  It can be used to help those people who are always asking you questions that they can easily find themselves.  Go to the website http://lmgtfy.com/ and enter the question.  Copy the link and paste it into an email.  Send the link to the person asking the question.  (Click preview under the link to see what your colleague will see.)

I’ll leave you (finally!) with this:  ISTE13 reminded me that technology is just a tool, and no matter how powerful the technology is, we have to have great teachers in the classroom; teachers who are passionate, brilliant, and daring; who are willing to do whatever it takes to change the world!

And to my friends and colleagues at Timberview, I apologize in advance for the crazy ideas I’ll be throwing your way in the fall!