Closer Readings Commentary

What Happened at ISTE 2014?

From June 28th through July 1st, over sixteen thousand teachers, media specialists, instructional technology specialists and coaches, administrators, and other industry personnel came from around the world to Atlanta, Georgia to attend the 2014 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference and Expo. Held every year in June, the ISTE conference brings members and the wider public together to connect, present and exchange ideas.  Not-for-profit educational organizations, educational vendors, and a wide variety of educators present the newest Ed Tech trends, products, and teaching practices. Attendees also get the chance to evaluate the directions in which technology in education is heading. I was lucky enough to attend my first ISTE this year, make new connections, and gain a whole new kit of tools and skills to bring back to the classroom.

What is ISTE?

Let’s talk about ISTE. ISTE is a member-based organization for educators and Ed leaders, who are interested in helping learners grow and connect through educational technology. Boasting over 100,000 members worldwide, ISTE has developed its own standards for learning, teaching, and leading in a tech and digital world.

As with most educational conferences, there are always many compelling but competing sessions so that it is impossible to attend all. Here are two worth noting:

  • “Exploring World War I using historic newspapers”
  • “Cinematic storytelling with iPads and iPhones”

Session 1: Exploring World War I using historic newspapers

This session was led by Chris Carter of the Concordia International School Shanghai, Joe Phelan of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Mary Bezbechenko, Ohio State Coordinator for National History Day. I knew this was the centenary of the start of the Great War in Europe, but I had no idea what to expect going into the session. This session was held the day after the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, so as we entered the room we saw projected on the screen a report of the murder and speculations of whether or not war was coming as a result.

First up Mary Bezbechecko introduced the National History Day program and showed how it meets ISTE’s Standards of Learning. She also made the case that if teachers are looking to implement Project Based Learning in their classrooms, they should investigate NHD.

Then Joe Phelan took over to introduce us to EDSITEment and Chronicling America. Chronicling America is a long-standing partnership between the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The EDSITEment portal is designed to help teachers and students access the newspaper database of over 7.5 million digitized pages of historic America newspapers from 1836–1922. The folks at EDSITEment have also developed video tutorials, guides, and lessons using the database.

The last of the presenters, Chris Carter, showed how he uses Symbaloo to organize links to multiple topics and resources from Chronicling America and EDSITEment on one page. Chris also showed how Chronicling America could be used to meet the Common Core Social Studies literacy standards as well as the ELA standards for informational texts

One of the takeaways from this presentation was that these old newspapers are more than just a tool for teaching World War I. They can be used in all areas of the humanities to help students research the past.

Session 2: Cinematic Storytelling with iPhones and iPads

This session was focused more on a teaching tool rather than subject content material. Presented by Michael Hernandez, a film production and broadcast journalism teacher at a high school in the Los Angeles area. In the hands-on session participants learned how to make short films via their iPhones and iPads through the iMovie app.

I love digital storytelling, and if this method was used in a social studies class, students could really understand the content in a creative way. While this session did focus on Apple products, one can see how any smart device can be used in a storytelling project. Social studies students can make digital stories about any content, like the example I made here.

Final Thoughts

The ISTE conference cannot be summarized on paper; it has to be experienced. And even when one experiences it, one can only dip one’s toe in the Ed tech current. Next year’s conference will be held in Philadelphia and promises to be as amazing as this year’s was. If you get a chance to attend, I highly recommend it. If you cannot attend next year’s, definitely check out ISTE Live, which allows people at home to view sessions live during one day of the conference.