Based on conversations around the water coolers, poster sessions, hallway walks and casual conversations, the buzz at ISTE 2011 seems to be around four key themes:
1) Integrating social networking Into the classroom curricula: How are school districts, teachers, administrators and students using social networks to connect with other educators from around the world and to collaborate with one another globally? A growing number of teachers are connecting through Twitter and expanding their Personal Learning Networks on Ning, an online platform for people to create their own social networks. On the student side, some kindergartners are using sites like Edmodo, a Facebook-like site for kids, and learning how to conduct themselves online and discovering what it's like to be a member of a global community of learners.
2) Bring your own technology: BYOT is based on the notion that most students already own a mobile device of some kind, whether it be a cellphone, smartphone, tablet or laptop; therefore, rather than school districts trying to equip every student with a mobile device, why not embrace the idea that they probably don't need to, nor should they. IT professionals and administrators are extrememly open to finding ways to support any- and everything. Instead of spending valuable resources on the purchase of a cart full of laptops, they're using those funds to build an infrastructure that can support any device from any manufacturer.
3) Tablet devices: It seems like I can't walk 50 feet without someone holding up their tablet or smartphone and sharing their favorite educational app to another colleague. Teachers and administrators are extremely open to these devices that hold tremendous promise as powerful, engaging classroom tools. The only apprehension I have observed is from administrators who indicate that many educators don't yet have a clear purpose in their own mind as to how they intend to use them to support student learning. "Because they're cool!" is not enough of a reason to convince your average school board member or administrator. Also, tablet devices are not as easy to support as traditional laptops or netbooks, from an IT perspective.
4) Supporting STEM through technology: Several sessions I attended focused on how technology is an integral part of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and if not for the internet, educators would have a very hard time finding much of the amazing resources that are available. There is also a movement to add the letter "A" (for "Art") to the acronym "STEM" making it "STEAM." Art adds that right-brain, creative modality, making STEM activities more engaging for the learner.
Look for videos on these key topics throughout the week and be sure to come back and visit us for more insights and observations from the floor at ISTE 2011.
For more ISTE coverage, get the full picture in the ISTE 2011 Wrap-up.
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