Tag Archives: ISTE

Not At ISTE But Still Learning

In 2008 I attended my first ISTE (NECC) Conference, in San Antonio. Even from that first experience, I saw that “the entree”, my most valuable takeaway of the conference came in the form of conversations. Presentations, workshops, and sessions were important, but it was the conversations and the connections that occurred between sessions that helped me grow the most and kept me coming back for the next 4 years.

This year I missed ISTE. Correction…this year I REALLY missed ISTE.  As I slumped on my couch at home, reading all the tweets, posts, and direct messages of colleagues and friends announcing their arrival in San Antonio I couldn’t help but feel envious. Envious of all the face to face meetups, jealous all the sharing and learning that would not include me.  But I was not alone. There were others on twitter who, like me, also felt like the kid who couldn’t go to the prom.  We all had our reasons, but bottom line – ISTE was happening without us.

Then something truly magical happened. Our collective online “pity party” took a turn that I could not have predicted. A community was born. I noticed all the amazing educators posting #NotAtISTE hashtags on Twitter and started up some conversations.  One particular conversation with Victoria Olson (@MsVictoriaOlson on Twitter) led me to create a Google+ Community where all those of us who could not go to ISTE would be able to share links, resources, and ideas.  We may not be able to meet face to face and have conversations like those in the Bloggers Cafe, but we could use Google Hangouts to create a virtual Blogger’s Cafe. I threw it out there on Twitter.

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Would anyone show up? The next day our community had over 40 members and by the end of ISTE we had grown to 129.


We commiserated with each other and tried to cheer each other up by posting all the fun things we could do because we were #NotAtISTE.


We also shared resources and had some fun and thoughtful “face to face” conversations in Google Hangouts.  We discussed how to truly integrate technology for student learning, how to encourage teachers to move beyond mere technology substitution and grow to augmentation, modification, and eventually to redefinition (the SAMR Model), and so much more.  Thanks to Josh Gauthier (@mrgfactoftheday) for taking the initiative and jumping in to host some live hangouts. The growth and sharing was truly organic.

As a result of this group I also had a chance to really dig in and learn about Google Plus and how truly powerful it can be to connect people with other people. I don’t know if we would have had the technology even just two years ago to pull this off.  The sense of community from this group went beyond just education chat, we were building relationships here.  We’re even planning to have a real #NotAtISTE13 meetup at ISTE 2014 in Atlanta.  As much fun as it was to be #NotAtISTE, I hope I get to go next year. I can’t wait to meet my new friends face to face.

3 Cool iPad Apps Shared at ISTE

My ISTE Experiment

For the last few years I’ve lugged a big backpack around the ISTE Conference. The backpack contained all the tech I “thought” I needed for the conference: Laptop, speakers, chargers, power cords, camera, cables, adaptors, batteries. All in all it came to about 15 -20 pounds. By the end of the day it seemed more like 50.  This year I wanted to see if I could get by with just my phone and my iPad – no backpack. Turns out it worked. I was able to check e-mail, Tweet out during sessions, check Facebook, and take notes. With my phone I was able to snap pictures and grab QR Codes. I even carried a mini charger in my pocket just in case, but I never needed it.

I also picked up some great apps that were shared by others at the conference. Here are the three coolest ones.

Type Drawing

To put it simply, Type Drawing is drawing with words.  You type in a word, then draw with it. The faster you draw the bigger the letters. Draw slowly and the letters get really tiny. By changing words and colors you can get some really interesting creations. Imagine telling kids to make a picture with their spelling words. Thanks to Bridget Belardi for sharing this.



Kevin Honeycutt shared this at one of his sessions. Sure it’s got a digital piano and drums, but what grabbed my attention was it’s feature that lets you create and play your own 12 Bar Blues. Watching Kevin create a simple blues song in just minutes was enough to tell me I HAD to have this. By the way, if you ever get a chance to hear Kevin speak, DO IT. You won’t be disappointed. I was happy that his was my final session at ISTE. I left energized and inspired.


Thanks again to Bridget for showing me this gem.  Noteshelf is the best app I’ve seen for note taking on the iPad. It lets you write notes, quickly and easily. It has a zoom feature that helps you write small to fit more info on one page. If you want to make your notes look “cute” there’s a pull down box with hundreds of little smileys and icons for jazzing up your note pages. Noteshelf also lets you bring in pictures from your iPad photo library. Using multi-touch, those images can be moved, resized, and rotated.

For handwriting notes on an iPad you really need a stylus.  I picked up a little Pogo Sketch stylus at Amazon.com for under $10. Noteshelf has a “wrist protection” feature that lets you rest your wrist on the iPad while taking handwritten notes. I tried it. It works.

The best part about Noteshelf is that it connects to the cloud. Notes you take can be uploaded to Dropbox or Evernote. I tested it by creating the note below, sending that note to Evernote. Once it’s in Evernote your handwriting is searchable. I was able to search for keywords and it recognized my writing.

I really want to use Evernote more, but for me note taking means writing and Evernote doesn’t let me do that. Now that I can write my notes with Noteshelf, send them to Evernote, and search what I’ve written I’ll be using this powerful cloud tool much more.


ISTE 2010 Snapshots

It seems just about everyone has posted blogs of their thoughts and reflections from the ISTE 2010 Conference in Denver, Colorado. Now it’s my turn. Since it’s difficult to weave all the events, sessions, and conversations into one coherent stream of wisdom or insight, I’m not going to try.  For me, ISTE feels a lot like Twitter in real life.  There is so much to see and so much to do and everything and everyone seems to be coming and going at such a fast pace, it’s like most of my ISTE experiences seemed to happen in short “140 character” bursts.  So instead of a long narrative detailing my experiences, here is a list of  imaginary “tweets” that will hopefully paint a picture of my ISTE experience.

As you can see, for me at least, ISTE is mostly about the people and the conversations.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I depend on these connections to help me learn and grow as a teacher. I love attending a conference that puts so many wonderful educators, tool creators, and subject matter experts in one place.  Don’t get me wrong, the conference sessions were wonderful and packed with information too, but I made it a priority to meet, talk, and learn from those around me. That’s why I spent so much time at the Bloggers Cafe, the poster sessions, and just around the conference and exhibit hall talking with people. I did attend some amazing sessions, and I’m also thankful that many of the ones I missed are archived on ISTEVision. Even though the conference is over, my learning continues.

Rocky Mountain Tech High

Tomorrow I begin my drive to the ISTE Conference. I can’t wait to arrive in Denver and get my “tech high”. I’m really looking forward to all the sessions, workshops and posters, but most of all I look forward to connecting in person with so many awesome educators and tech leaders, many of whom I know only by their twitter avatar.

If you’ve never attended ISTE (formerly known as NECC) it can be a little overwhelming. Even though this is only my third time attending, I have learned a few things from my previous visits. So if I may, let me share…

A Few Words of Advice

  • Absorb all you can where you are and don’t worry about what you’re missing. Once you get to ISTE, you’ll quickly find there is so much to see and do that there’s no way you can possibly get to everything – but that’s okay. So don’t burn yourself out trying to do it all. Just admit there are things you’re going to miss and, say it to yourself right now, “That’s okay.”
  • Be sure to visit the poster sessions. I’ve learned more in ten minutes of one on one conversations at poster sessions than I have in 45 minutes of some regular sessions. Here is your proof of concept. Take some time and learn from teachers who are actually doing the things that so many of the presenters are talking about.
  • Go listen to someone new. (I got this tip from Jen Wagner.) So often I catch myself looking through the catalog at WHO is presenting and making my decisions based on a name. Sure the “big names” are awesome presenters, but take time to look at the session descriptions, find something interesting, and listen to someone you’ve never heard before.
  • Never eat by yourself. Some of best conversations happen over breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It’s a great chance to slow down, get to know other people on a more personal level and hear what they have learned.
  • Don’t just be a sponge, also be a watering can. (Another Jen Wagner gem.) You’ve got a lot to contribute. ISTE is about learning, but it’s also about teaching. We’re all teachers, right?
  • Be sure to continue your conversations. The great thing about a tech conference is that you can start a conversation in person and then use any number of web tools to continue it later. Just because the conference ends, doesn’t mean the learning has to end.

Where Will I be at ISTE?

To be honest, I haven’t even looked at the session list or started working on my ISTE planner yet.  I can tell you I will be at the Discovery Pre-Conference event at the Denver Zoo on Saturday the 26th. (I know I’ll be missing EduBloggerCon and I really wanted to go there too – but “that’s okay”.)  On Sunday I signed up to attend the Constructivist Celebration to learn and create with a bunch of amazing teachers. I think there might still be room if you want to sign-up. Between sessions I plan to hang out at the Bloggers Cafe, and after sessions I’m signed up to attend various events hosted by BrainPop, Wikispaces, Gaggle, and a few others.

For now I’m just looking forward to get away for a few days, unplug, and enjoy the drive to Denver. It doesn’t really take 4 days to get there from Southern California, but my Nikon and I have a few side trips planned along the way. If you know me, you know there will probably be a train trip in there somewhere too.  (Keep an eye on my Flickr photostream.)

See you at ISTE.

The All Important Question

For those of you who don’t know me, I am a technology coordinator, tech teacher, technology coach, or for lack of a better title, the guy in charge of making sure our teachers and students are using technology effectively to support curriculum. My workplace is St. John’s Lutheran School in Orange, California. We are a K-8 Christian elementary school with approximately 680 students. We are currently finishing year 2 of a 3 year plan to implement 1:1 Tablet PC’s in our middle school. Students in K-5 currently share a single computer lab and also have one student computer in each classroom.

Last week my principal asked me these three questions:

  • How you would like to see instruction change as technology develops?
  • How does it transform instructional strategies?


  • How do we intentionally design and train staff to accomplish the desired outcomes?

This was my e-mail response:

Yesterday I had a teacher share with me that they would really love to have some of “those mini laptops” for their classroom. When I asked why, they excitedly shared their vision of students being able to take STAR Reading, Math, and Accelerated Reader tests whenever they wanted. Seriously, if that’s the only argument for putting technology in the K-5 classrooms then my answer would be a definite “No!”. Computer based assessment is not a transformative use of technology. It’s just using a modern (and expensive) tool to do something we’re already doing.

The ISTE National Technology Standards for Students say that we should be preparing students so they can effectively use technology tools and demonstrate…
1. Creativity and Innovation
2. Communication & Collaboration
3. Research and Information Fluency
4. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
5. Digital Citizenship
6. Technology Operations & Concepts

In my opinion, we are already working on the first step toward transforming our instructional strategies through the process of curriculum mapping. Changing a mindset of “my textbook is my curriculum” to “my curriculum is my curriculum and a textbook is just a resource” is a monumental task. Once this has been accomplished then we can work on identifying lessons and activities that focus on curriculum goals and also meet these six areas of technology proficiency.

Preparing and training our staff to do this will involve tweaking a couple of other mindsets as well. First is that our students need to learn to be good citizens and demonstrate Christian morals and values in two worlds – the real world AND the online world, because they will be living and working in both. Our teachers need to be able to model and teach good digital citizenship to their students. This will involve training in web safety, appropriate use, and how to integrate our Online Behavior Agreement (PDF) into their Christian Learning curriculum and any lessons that involve using technology.

Second we need to help them understand that all learning and knowledge is not limited to the walls of their own classroom. They need to be connecting and collaborating with other people (subject matter experts) and classes outside our school, state, or even country. To do this, teachers need to develop their own Personal Learning Network (PLN) – an online community of professional educators for sharing ideas & lessons, getting support, and working together on projects. This will require moving beyond email and training them to use and integrate online collaborative tools and social networks into their daily life. It will also require some cooperation with our IT Department, convincing them to open up some of the restrictions currently prohibiting such tools. If our staff understands and demonstrates proper use of the tools and can use them effectively to help our students meet the ISTE Standards, this should not be a hard sell.

After we met on Tuesday to discuss this further, I was assigned the task of planning our professional development days for the 2010-2011 school year.

Be careful what you ask for…

(Be warned, I will be calling on my PLN for help with this.)