This was my ninth time attending the ISTE conference, the third time it was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There were a few years that the in-person event did not happen but ISTE held a virtual conference that enabled educators to connect and learn with other educators from around the world. It is the reason I look forward to the summer and the conference I look forward to because it brings in people from more than 80 countries from around the world. It offers so many different ways to learn through the poster sessions, the playgrounds, the concurrent sessions, panel discussions, workshops, and other special events.
But beyond those specific learning spaces, there are lots of opportunities to connect with educators and build your PLN. It’s not just the learning that happens in those session rooms and spaces. It is about the learning that also happens on your walk to the sessions and while in the open spaces. A time when you can walk and talk or sit and have a conversation. And even once the conference day ends, the social events that happen later in the evening, are always great for connecting with friends and making new ones.
The conference was a little bit different for me this year because even though my schedule was busy it didn’t feel as overly busy as in prior years. I had the opportunity to join in some new adventures, present sessions on some of my favorite topics, and had the honor of being involved in the Closing Mainstage.
For me, as soon as I met friends at the airport, the excitement started. Then as soon as I arrived at the convention center to register on Sunday afternoon, it took a good 25 minutes to get there because I kept passing friends along the way, some of whom I had not seen in more than 5 years and a few that had never met in person. And when that happens, you have to stop and enjoy those moments.
Registration can definitely wait. Taking the time to stop, grab a quick picture, a hug, even a quick conversation makes all the difference. It brings those connections to life and reminds you to not miss out on opportunities, no matter how tired you are.
Presenting with friends
There wasn’t much time to waste as I had a workshop with my good friend Melody McAllister on Sunday. While we have done a live show for years, it was the first time presenting together officially. The focus was on podcasting and live streaming. We had a great crowd, our session was sold out and it was a high point in the conference for me. Being able to present with friends, share each other’s perspectives, and learn together, really makes a difference. For a long time, I did sessions by myself and that definitely helps me to build my own comfort level and confidence but I have definitely grown to prefer having friends present with me because we can bring in our different backgrounds and experiences and it’s just fun.
Another highlight was my Immerse Students in Learning session, all about AI, AR, and VR, topics which I have been presenting on for a little over 5 years. It has been amazing to see the increased interest in AI especially over the past 6 months with the entrance of ChatGPT, it has stirred up a lot of conversation and will continue to do so.
It’s a lot of fun to share with educators how I got started in teaching about AI in my classroom, knowing very little but also knowing that I needed to just dive right in. And that’s the advice that I often give. You don’t have to be an expert, you just need to have one idea, one method, one tool to start with and put it in the hands of the students. It’s important to also engage in conversations about these topics and these technologies so that we can be mindful of any concerns but also aware of the potential benefits not just in education but in preparing the students for their future and how these technologies might be used in the world of work.
Presenting with students
Another highlight was being able to co-present with Namya Joshi, (#EachOneTeachTen) a young student from India who we had hoped would be able to attend in person but thanks to technology and the power of using Zoom, I was able to bring her in to present with me during that session. Powerful to hear from students and I definitely recommend any time you can involve students in sharing the impact of these tools, and in this case the importance of STEM, then we need to do this. Hearing from her, (at actually 3:00 in the morning because of the time difference), did not diminish her spark for STEM and she was definitely an inspiration.
The three-day augmented and virtual reality ISTEVerse experience was a big hit and I tried to direct people to stop there as much as I could because a lot of people don’t realize the benefits of it until they experience it. And without access to the resources or know how to sort through all of the tools that are available, it can be hard to dive in and explore. That space had a variety of opportunities for people to learn about augmented and virtual reality, how to have students create rather than just consume, and that AR/VR is something that can be used in all content areas and grade levels.
Coffee with Kai’s Clan
And everybody kept busy with social events, which are great spaces for networking. Whether the Edtech karaoke, casual gatherings for coffee or small sit-down dinners, there were opportunities everywhere. Learning still happens in these spaces. What I’ve discovered over the years is that PD does not only mean sitting down in a session and listening to a presentation. PD is so many different things and there are so many ways for people to choose the type of PD that is going to impact them the most.
Those early morning CoffeeEDUs with Alice Keeler, the social events and mixers held by some of the companies that we all know, and quaint gatherings by some other companies that enable you to really engage in conversation and get to know the people behind the products and their passion for what they’re doing. An amazing dinner with the BookWidgets team was a lovely opportunity to relax, enjoy the conversation and spend time with friends.
Dinner with BookWidgets
The Closing Mainstage: AI in Education
And one final highlight as I’m rolling these out in chronological order, was the Closing Mainstage on Wednesday. I was honored to be selected as the person to introduce and then interview the keynote speaker Kevin Roose. He is a New York Times columnist, a bestselling author of three books and he writes about technology, education, finance, and AI. We had the opportunity to sit down and talk for about 20 minutes. I had a lot of questions for him but tried to streamline them to those that are on the minds of many educators that I’ve spoken to, and some questions based on what I had read in his most recent book Futureproof.
Some of the biggest takeaways from that conversation are:
- As educators, we need to be willing to embrace new ideas, trends, and technologies, even if we don’t fully understand them or we feel like we’re not the expert, we have to keep up with the changes that are coming.
- We have to prepare our students and understand how these tools can be beneficial to us and to students, but we also have to be cautious as with all things, and question their purpose.
- Consider any potential concerns or harm that can come from using them whether safety, security, or privacy. Ethics needs to be part of the conversations that we have and continue to have as these tools continue to evolve.
- If we look at the positives, for teachers, as Kevin stated on his podcast dividing the AI between the “relational and the logistical.” We need teachers, humans, for the relational so that we can work with the students, we can have conversations, and support them as they learn. But we can benefit from the logistical or the clerical tasks that AI can do like helping us with some of the grading or having it be able to see trends in student responses and create a personalized learning path for them in real time. We can use traditional assessments and give students feedback one-on-one, but we can also find a way to balance the use of the technology so that we have more time to work with our students and provide for them with exactly what they need.
It was a great conference and it’s hard to believe that it has come and gone already but before you know it, it will be June 2024 and we will be in Denver for ISTE. The last time it was held there was in 2016 and that was the first time that I got on an airplane in many years and so I’m looking forward to returning to the conference next year. If you have not ever attended but have been giving it some thought, I definitely recommend that you try to go. And if attending in person is not an option, take advantage of the virtual learning that is available. Several of my sessions were recorded and live streamed and many of the other sessions were as well. So you can join in, interact in the chat, build your network, and learn from wherever you are and whenever you want to.
Wakelet and Capstone friends
The power of these global networks is that there is something for every educator and it’s important to keep pushing ourselves to learn and grow and adapt with the changes that we have seen and will continue to see in education.
See you in Denver next June!
About the author
Rachelle Dené is a Spanish and STEAM: What’s Next in Emerging Technology Teacher at Riverview High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle is also an attorney with a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. Rachelle is an ISTE Certified Educator and serves as the past president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network. She was recently named one of 30 K-12 IT Influencers to follow in 2021.
She is the author of seven books including ‘In Other Words: Quotes That Push Our Thinking, Unconventional Ways to Thrive in EDU, The Future is Now: Looking Back to Move Ahead, Chart A New Course: A Guide to Teaching Essential Skills for Tomorrow’s World, True Story: Lessons That One Kid Taught Us, Your World Language Classroom: Strategies for In-Person and Digital Instruction and her newest book Things I WIsh [….] Knew is now available.
Looking for PD for your school? I provide in-person and virtual training on the following topics. If you want to learn more about and explore AI and ChatGPT, contact me to schedule! Rdene915@gmail.com