The country’s largest conference focused on education technology is beginning this weekend, bringing together approximately 18,000 educators, vendors, and advocates for over four days of sharing classroom strategies, experimenting with gadgets, and discussing the significant policy changes that are transforming digital learning in K-12 schools. One of the main themes of the conference is the importance of shared responsibility in effectively integrating technology into the classroom.
Brian Lewis, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education, the organization hosting the conference, expressed his excitement about the increased emphasis on approaching technology integration as a team effort. He believes that everyone has a role to play in utilizing technology to drive learning. This viewpoint is demonstrated through the conference’s collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education’s "Future Ready" initiative, which aims to facilitate closer collaboration between school and district officials in articulating and implementing a vision for effective technology use in the classroom. Richard Culatta, the director of the Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology, will be participating in a panel discussion about the initiative.
Providing better training for teachers and administrators is another important theme of the conference, as well as exploring the "maker movement." Over 50 sessions will cover the strategies, tools, and philosophy behind the popular hands-on, exploration-based maker education approach.
These issues are at the forefront of the education technology field. Despite the widespread adoption of digital devices and content in schools, educators still face challenges in making informed decisions about technology investments and transforming the teaching and learning process in the classroom.
Philadelphia is hosting this year’s conference, with support from the highly regarded Science Leadership Academy. This magnet high school has gained national attention for its efforts to develop and implement a project-based, inquiry-driven model of technology use in schools. On Saturday, students from the Science Leadership Academy will help facilitate a "town hall" discussion featuring education leaders such as S. Dallas Dance, superintendent of the Baltimore County Public Schools.
New to the conference this year are a series of debates, including one on "coding in the curriculum" to be moderated by Michele Molnar of Education Week’s Marketplace K-12 blog. Michele, along with myself and Ed Week associate editor Sean Cavanagh, will be live-tweeting and live-blogging from the event. Additionally, there will be an open conversation with the ISTE board on Monday morning to discuss the "next big things" in education technology. All attendees will have the opportunity to contribute their thoughts.
Among the speakers at the conference is Nancy Weinstein, founder and CEO of the ed-tech startup Mindprint Learning. The company utilizes an online platform and cognitive assessments developed by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania to provide parents and teachers with detailed profiles of how children learn. Weinstein highlighted the fact that while special needs students receive this type of assessment, the remaining 90 percent do not unless their parents pay for it outside of the school system. Mindprint Learning’s model reflects two emerging trends in the ed-tech industry: the expansion of personalized learning to include non-academic factors, and the push to link ed-tech products with rigorous research on how students learn, not just what they learn.
As always, industry will have a significant presence at the conference. If you haven’t attended before, you can get a taste of what to expect by reading about last year’s massive vendor floor. Furthermore, be prepared for a plethora of ed-tech jargon at this year’s event. We invite attendees to play Ed-Tech Jargon Bingo with us. If you’re participating in ISTE, tweet a jargon term you come across along with your thoughts using the hashtag #edtechjargon. Find out more about this collaborative project here.
ISTE 2015 begins on Saturday and runs until Wednesday.
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