My Top 7 Highlights from ISTE 2016

| By Gary Hartstein, Director, DigitalJLearning Network

I always look forward to the end of June. It’s not because school is ending – I’ve been out of the classroom for more than a few years. And it’s not because I’m excited about the hot, humid days that lay ahead. Late June signals the start of the annual International Society for Technology in Education Conference, or ISTE. This year I got to travel to Denver, Colorado, to connect with over 15,000 educators from around the world. OK, so I didn’t come close to meeting all those people, but you get the point: big EdTech conference, and lots of cool stuff to see and learn.

This year’s conference didn’t disappoint! There was much to see and do – more than I could possibly fit into four days (let alone one blog post!). I’ve compiled some of my highlights to share with you.


ISTE Standards for Students
For many years, ISTE has developed and shared standards for students. These standards have long provided educators with guidelines about what students need to be able to do with technology. It’s been close to 10 years since ISTE has updated its standards for students, so I was especially excited to see new standards this year! I was even more excited to learn that the focus is on learning and not technology! They even offer supplemental resources, such as a downloadable e-book, to help teachers plan engaging lessons that align with the new standards.


Books That Grow
Supporting personalized and blended learning, we’re often asked for resources to personalize learning in reading and language arts. Books That Grow is an exciting new resource to help teachers differentiate and personalize the same text for students of different ability levels. The whole class reads the same text, but students have different versions assigned to them based on their reading levels.


Cogent Education
There’s a great deal of buzz around student-driven learning. We all want to see students develop their critical thinking skills and the drive to learn independently. Currently focused on science, Cogent Education offers a Problem-Based Learning product that helps students think like scientists by working through virtual case studies. Cogent’s engaging online components help improve students’ critical thinking, while also providing real-time data that helps teachers with assessment, differentiating, and personalizing learning.


I’ve heard from many teachers about the challenges they face trying to move around the room while still projecting content to their interactive whiteboards. Never mind trying to get students to easily connect their own devices and share content with the class! While there are solutions currently, Airtame may be the game-changer. By simply plugging a small HDMI device into the projector or board, it’s easier than ever to let anyone in the room share content from their personal devices with the whole class. And it’s all done without extra wires or cables!


For teachers, developing their own interactive digital content is challenging on a good day, frustrating to impossible on a bad day. It’s even harder, and time consuming, for a teacher to make that content engaging without having a background in programming or app development. Prepmagic gives teachers easy-to-use tools to create engaging digital simulations and assessments. Would you like to create an animated bank shot to illustrate angles? How about using a cliff diver to demonstrate arc and velocity? Prepmagic makes it easier than ever before!


I discovered ZSpace’s virtual reality platform at ISTE last year in Philadelphia. When I stopped by their booth this year, I was thrilled to see an incredible amount of new curriculum that they’ve developed to go with their engaging, interactive technology. This is not just a 3D field trip where students experience the virtual environment visually. With ZSpace, students can actually interact with the virtual world! ZSpace has found a way to move beyond visual, allowing students to pick up three dimensional virtual objects such as a human heart. This is a must-see!


Jewish Educators Network
One of the biggest highlights for me was getting to spend some time with the Jewish Educators Network. This has been an ongoing tradition that began many years ago as a “Birds of a Feather” group. This year, a full room of Jewish educators from around the world learned together and shared what they’re doing in their own schools. The link above is to a blog post by Rabbi Tzvi Pittinsky, one of the outstanding educators who helped lead this engaging session. (Pictured below: Google Cardboard viewers, sponsored by The Jewish Education Project, that were given out to session attendees.)


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