I was looking forward to attending ISTE in Denver this year. Being a member of the leadership team for the Digital Equity PLN meant new responsibilities would squeeze into an already packed schedule of events, sessions and socializing.  I knew I would finally get to meet some of my online PLN, and hopefully participate in meaningful conversations. The conversations are usually the most interesting part of any of my conference experiences. This year didn’t disappoint.


Some of my takeaways from ISTE this year…….

The Maker movement is in full steam. Whether it be coding with the established (whose creator brought R2D2 to the ISTE stage), learning about Raspberry Pi or getting your hands dirty and creating yourself; this was the year of the Maker. I will be interested to see how schools and districts integrate Making into their day. Will it be viewed as part of the traditional learning and worked into the existing curriculum? Will they write a new curriculum using it as the foundation? Will it be an enrichment learning activity for the lucky few? Or perhaps an after-school program open to all interested students. Whatever they choose, they will have to somehow expose all students to what Chris Aviles terms Innovation Labs or Spaces, in order to usher in a new era of citizens to solve our world’s many problems.


Another takeaway was the importance and evolving role of instructional technology specialists (edtech coaches). I have always felt that eventually this position would fade into the background as educators became more adept at using technology to create learning activities for their students. In the ISTE Edtech Coaches Playground this year, I met so many of my colleagues (other coaches) who they themselves felt they needed coaching and guidance. That the speed in which new technology for learning spaces, coupled with the myriad of responsibilities {there is no blueprint for this position so in some cases coaches become the all around go to for all things tech in their building. Whether it be an IT issue or assisting an admin with their personal devices} is leaving them feeling overwhelmed and in some cases discouraged. The EdTech Coaches PLN definitely provided a space to meet with others who understand the mission, and sometimes dilemma, and there were plenty of resources that would meet any coaches needs. I look forward to participating in the PLN more during the upcoming year.

My last takeaway is more of a continuing thought about diversity; an underlying theme of the conference and recently in technology overall. Being a part of the Digital Equity PLN has given me a view, voice and platform to discuss not only equity, but diversity as well. In the society at large, the two are oftentimes tied in ways that they shouldn’t as each has its own history in respect to culture, schooling, technology and the culture of schooling and technology. The culture of educational technology mirrors that of its older siblings technology and education. Why would it be different? The people in edtech  live in our world of inequity, sexism, racism, etc.. How much of societies dysfunction has been brought into this subset of education and technology?

One of the keynote speakers, the brilliant Dr. Ruha Benjamin, helped us navigate that question, as she held up the mirror and forced us to look at the culture that as most feel edtech is the most innovative and progressive sector of education. Is it? As I look back on those 3 days I realize that being exposed to the latest and greatest technology is all well and good, but without the interaction, the conversations that push our thinking and the kind of risk taking and growth we want for our students; we are leaving the human aspect out of learning.


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