I know…this is only the third post, and I am already breaking my own rules. When I conceived the concept for 3 Great Ideas, I thought three was a good number. It will be easy(ish) to find contributors, and it’s a small enough number to not overwhelm people. So, because I’m a neophyte who thought he would actually be able to return from the #ISTE2016 with only 3 Great Ideas, this entry is going to be a little different. I stuck to the whole “three” idea, but each section is going to have lots of stuff in it. “Bear” with me…
Some of the Greatest Tools:
Obviously, if you go to a conference like ISTE, there is an overwhelming amount of tools and products barraging you from all angles. You can’t see everything, so don’t even try. The best thing you can do is soak up whatever you can and try to walk away with something you and your school can use. Here are a few tools that stood out for me:
- Flippity– When Kenneth Griswold presented this tool at TeachMeetISTE, people literally “oohed” and “ahhed.” Flippity allows teachers to create a student randomizer, just by utilizing your Google Sheets. All you need to do is have a roster of students, put it into Sheets, publish the sheet to the web, and you’re ready to go. Even more exciting? Flippity can automatically group students to the number of your choosing. No more on-the-spot scrambling if a student is absent or your numbers are off!
- Switcher Studio– Steven New (also a presenter during TeachMeetISTE) shared this really interesting tool that allows teachers who create their own digital content to use iPads and iPhones to broadcast and edit live video. There are also capabilities for multi-camera production, too (3 additional cameras if on the same wifi network). Then, stream to popular streaming platforms for live viewing.
- ZooKazam– This was another crowdpleaser that Kyle Calderwood showed us at TeachMeetISTE. ZooKazam allows users with the aid of a “target” (print online) to have augmented-reality animals appear on any surface through the use of your iPhone or iPad camera. Kyle is also one of the TeachMeetNJ organizers.
- Photo Apps: Bill Selak presented his session, “Iphonography 101” and shared a number of apps that take photo editing to the next level. Snapseed allows you to adjust color, focus and crop. Mexture allows users to integrate different textures with their photos. TouchRetouch was particularly interesting to the crowd in that the app provides users with the capability of easily erasing elements in a photo.
- Thinglink– Liz Calderwood, also a TeachMeetNJ organizer showed off this real neat tool where you can take any picture (or “thing”) and add pinpoints to it. Then, within these pinpoints, teachers or students can incorporate links, videos, other pictures, etc. This allows students an opportunity to incorporate visual models to show their learning. Really cool!
- Symbaloo– Symbaloo is a bookmarking tool that creates a user homepage on all devices. It presents all of a user’s favorite websites on an easy, icon-based page. Good tool if you want to curate a number of sites for students, or for keeping track of your own sites across devices.
- Historypin– This one, which I saw during “101 Web Tools” (presented by the people from SimpleK12) was really amazing. Historypin is a website where users can upload documents, photos, videos and more, and then tie it to a pin on a map. The purpose is to build an interactive map that tells the story of a place through the eyes and mouths of those that live there.
- Goosechase– This was SO FUN. During the ISTE session, Gamify Your Classroom, Marty Creech and Britanny Guy taught us about how to use game design to increase motivation in students. They led the session through this really fun and interactive scavenger hunt app, Goosechase. Goosechase lets students (or in this case, teachers) complete a series of tasks and earn points on a leaderboard. In our session, we got to high five other groups, and also learn about gamification via articles uploaded to Goosechase.
- DocentEDU– This is one tool that I actually knew I wanted to check out coming to ISTE. I had played around with DocentEDU briefly this school year when I saw someone mention it on Twitter but didn’t know much. It allows teachers to turn any website into an interactive space via a Chrome extension. You can embed questions, videos, links, notes and more on the surface of any website’s page. Really great way to create engaging content. Their CEO, Matt Nupen was a really nice guy, too and seemed really helpful.
Some of the Greatest Ideas:
Yes, ISTE had me walking away with a bazillion new apps, programs, websites, and tools that I want to use right away in the classroom. But, for me, I got the most out of hearing about others’ philosophies, ideas, and mindsets. Jon Bergmann, Thomas Arnett, Vicki Davis, Mike Gwaltney, Aaron Sams, and Stephanie Sandifer led a panel about blended learning, and I walked away with a new commitment to how I want to structure my classes.
Something that really hit home during the blended learning session was the idea that “distance can be a positive principle.” Many of us know lots about flipped classrooms by this point, but the panelists here made it clear that it isn’t just about creating videos for home viewing. In fact, they talked about the value of having students view teacher-created content in class, while the teacher walks around and helps students who are ready to discuss.
The panelists also discussed the importance of creating a workflow system that works for your blended learning model.
Pretty much, I walked out of blended learning realizing more than ever that we as teachers have to give students more opportunities to demonstrate and articulate authentic learning.
Speaking of articulating student learning, another great session was Building a TED Culture in Your Classroom. I love TED talks, and what really makes them meaningful is the vast library of free, accessible videos they post on their website. TED makes it possible for people around the world to access high quality, engaging talks from the world’s greatest minds. This workshop detailed how teachers can leverage the power of TED in their schools by having students and community members deliver their own talks. Jimmy Juliano and Laura Grigg, teachers in Lake Forest, Illinois, walked us through their story of first starting a TED Club in their school and then eventually organizing a community TEDx event. By the end of the event, I was super jazzed and trying to figure out how we could do this in my own school.
What I like about the TED talk model is that it gives students a framework for reflecting on their learning. Many of the teachers I saw at ISTE2016 focused on getting away from the “read a PowerPoint verbatim” model and instead, getting to a place where students do a thing, and then present on their process. TED is a great way of fostering this kind of thinking.
Some of the Greatest People
Of course, I am leaving out so many of the other ideas I heard at ISTE. But, as I am sitting here in the airport awaiting my flight home, it’s becoming clear what ISTE was really about–connecting educators with other educators. I was privileged to listen to some wonderful speakers. We started off with a fascinating keynote from futurist Michio Kaku, who talked about all the ways that technology will make our lives easier (and scarier) in the future.
Tuesday morning, we saw R2-D2, LeVar Burton, and Princeton professor Ruha Benjamin (that’s still a strange combination when you say it out loud). What a wonderful day when you can both nerd out over R2 and be moved and inspired by Dr. Benjamin.
Dr. Benjamin spoke in a way that inspired and challenged my ideas about education and the world we live in. Here we were, sitting there in the middle of this educational technology conference, and Dr. Benjamin’s keynote touched on the human element of things. It was a perspective-gaining moment and reminded me that once again, as teachers, the shiny toys are fun but we musn’t let them distract us. We’re in the business of equipping students with the tools to be better learners and compassionate people.