Unlocking Potential – ISTE 2011


I attended my first ISTE conference in Philadelphia from June 26 until June 29.. There were many interesting sessions to choose from and I feel that all the ones I chose to attend were valuable in many ways. Here is a short description of each session I attended and how I plan to utilize some of the ideas I learned about in my position as an ESL Technology Resource Teacher. 

The conference began with a keynote from Dr. John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist. His presentation moved quickly, but was pretty interesting! Dr. Medina explained that every brain is wired differently from every other brain. He challenged us as educators to see each student as a unique individual and to remember that fluid intelligence (problem solving) is just as, if not more important as crystallized intelligence (memorization). This keynote reemphasized my desire to bring project-based learning tools to our ESL teachers’ attention and to help support them with this style of facilitation in the classroom. It is key in the learning process.

Monday, June 27th Sessions

Meeting the Common Core: Rigorous, Relevant, Project-Based Learning Enhanced Through Technology
Dayna Laur, Buck Institute for Education with David Ross: Explore the power of technology-infused project-based learning as we move our students to deep understanding of the Common Core standards.

In this session I gained an understanding of how Project-Based Learning (PBL) connects to the Common Core Standards and 21st century readiness and ways in which technology supports the PBL classrooms that meets CC standards. The presenters gave several examples of ways in which teachers can move beyond traditional instruction and assessment methods to encourage long-term retention and skill development.

I plan on integrating some of the strategies shared at this session within the virtual course I am writing. It is entitled “Empower English Language Learners with Tools from the Web.”

Learning Tools Family Feud: Crowdsourced Edition
Joyce Valenza, School District of Springfield Township with Steve Dembo, Gwyneth Jones, Chad Lehman, Shannon McClintock Miller, Nicholas Provenzano and Matthew Winner: A favorite 70s game show with a fabulous 21st century twist. Listen in while our lively panel illustrates the results of a learning tools survey. 

This was a very entertaining, but extremely informational session which took the form of a game show while highlighting 21st century learning tools. A survey of 100 teachers were asked questions such as, “What is the best web tool for creating a digital story?” The responses were: Voicethread, Animoto, Storybird, Photostory and Prezi. Many of the tools I had already heard of, but this session helped illustrate how the tools are best used in the classroom.  

Many of our teachers get overwhelmed with the plethora of 21st century learning tools available for educators. I will take the information I gained from this session and enhance my web 2.0 workshops that I am planning for next school year. These workshops will be available as face to face and virtual sessions.

Infographics in the Classroom as a Creative Assessment
Kathy Schrock, Nauset Public Schools : An infographic is a graphic representation of information. Learn tips and tricks for using student-created infographics as an authentic assessment.

I’ve been using Kathy Schrock’s materials since my student teaching days and was very excited to attend this session. Kathy did not disappoint. She showed the packed ballroom of educators how infographics are created and allow the student to research, critique, summarize and communicate information in a visual way. Infographics-use in the classroom is a pretty new phenomenon that allow artistic, visual learners to display data and research as graphic representations. Students can use free drawing programs online or use more expensive programs, such as Adobe Photoshop Elements if available. There are many different types of visualization methods that a teacher could assign students to create. These visualization methods are found in a “Periodic Table of Visualization Methods” and include the following: data, information, concept, strategy, metaphor and compound.

I believe our ESL students would benefit from this type of assessment tool because it requires less written words and more graphics/charts/graphs while still demonstrating mastery. One of the tools used to create infographics is Glogster, which I have offered PD on in the past. I now plan to offer more sessions for our teachers this school year and tie in what I have learned about infographics.

Project-Based Learning in Hand
Tony Vincent, Tony Vincent Inc.: Hand-helds can play a significant role in project-based learning. See how the iPod touch and iPad can be used for planning, investigating, and presenting projects. 

This was probably my most favorite session of the entire conference because I am about to pilot iPads in two ESL classrooms this Fall. Tony is a proponent of project-based learning and using mobile devices in the classroom, so this was definitely a must-see! He began by explaining that the process for learning through projects is: 1) Question, 2) Investigate and 3) Share. Teachers need to give students time to be creative and produce. We start by asking the students a driving question that cannot be answered with yes or no. It must be researched and explored. Tony shared many apps for concept mapping and note taking that can be downloaded for the iPad. Students begin by researching and recording the information that they find and then they move on to building a presentation of this information either through audio, visuals or both! There are many audio and video apps available for the iPad such as Voice Memo, iMovie, and even comic strip designer apps.

I will be downloading many of these free or close-to-free apps onto our iPads to be used for the ESL iPad pilot this Fall. For example, students can use the SonicPics app to create digital stories all on the iPad and then present their work to others. The possibilities with the iPad are truly endless and fit nicely with project-based instruction in the classroom.

 Tuesday, June 28th Sessions

The Tuesday morning keynote was presented by Dr. Covey who wrote, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” His presentation was entitled, “Mindsets for the 21st Century: Unleashing Leadership Potential in Students.” Dr. Covey was joined by Muriel Summers, principal of a top-rated magnet school, and two of her brilliant students. Muriel Summers had all of her teachers read this book and implemented the system, which students follow, in her school. Before adopting the 7 Habits, the average reading score was 57.4%. It went up to 89.7% after one year. Math went from 77.4% to 100%. In my opinion, everyone should read this book! One big take away from this keynote, for me, was, remember to give students “voice and choice.”

The Tech Commandments: 10 Ways to Revitalize Education with Technology
Adam Bellow, eduTecher : Explore 10 ideas that will revitalize the thinking behind modern educational technology. The presentation is high-energy, engaging, motivating, and poignant. Video on demand can be viewed here

 This session addressed some of the common problems that occur in schools when it comes to successful technology integration. The tech commandments included:

1.    Training is Essential

2.    Money isn’t What Makes Educational Technology Work

3.    Restricting Access is Too Extreme

4.    Banning Tech Tools is Detrimental

5.    Teach with an Understanding of Today

6.    Collaboration is Key

7.    Schools Need Direction

8.    It’s Okay to Try

9.    Tech for Tech’s Sake Can be Worse than no Tech at All

10.  Understanding Buzz Words and Keep your Fingers on the Pulse

Many of the suggestions offered in this session will help as I develop my mission statement for ESL technology in this department. I feel that a well-developed plan must be created so that our ESL teachers are kept up to date on new technologies and feel supported in the process of integrating the tools properly. We want technology to enhance instruction, not replace instruction. Teachers instruct and facilitate with the support of web-based tools and devices, but it must be done correctly to be successful. These tech commandments are a wonderful guide in making sure this happens in a school district.

How to Get Teachers to Adopt Technology
Rushton Hurley, Next Vista for Learning: Digital tools create opportunities for powerful learning and professional growth. Learn techniques for inspiring your staff to discover their inner technophiles. 

This was another one of my favorite sessions of the conference. Rushton Hurley is a great presenter and offered many helpful suggestions to encourage teachers to stop fearing technology and just put it in the hands of our students. He shared his Dos and Don’ts philosophy, which will help me in my one on one sessions and whole group workshops with teachers that aren’t comfortable with technology and are scared to make a mistake. Here are Rushton’s Dos and Don’ts:

Don’t have teachers require themselves to be experts.
Do remind teachers of their expertise and reconnect teachers with the passions that they had when they first started teaching.

Don’t start with standards.
Do show something fun

Don’t sit everyone in a lab for training.
Do allow regular, short sharing time.

Don’t limit technology to labs.
Do show what’s possible with one or two computers in the classroom.

Don’t buy expensive software a teacher hasn’t used.
Do use what’s freely available.

Don’t blanket the campus with expensive hardware.
Do use targeted spending to focus purchases.

Part two of my ISTE 2011 Reflection will be posted shortly…


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