ISTE 2016

Back from #iste2016. Once again, I return inspired, motivated, energized — and exhausted!

Themes

From my perspective as a museum educator, there were some clear themes we saw this year:

  • Google, and Google Classroom in particular. Classroom had an strong presence with at least 10 sessions. Many of the sessions were full. I was relieved to find out that I’ve learned the tool well, as the ones I did get into were mostly things I already knew. I’m watching Classroom to keep growing and improving, especially after Google sees all the teacher use. Google Cast has huge potential, even though it really doesn’t impact me.
  • 3D printing/scanning, AR and VR were huge. I mean really huge. One presenter said there were 46 sessions about the AR/VR/3D modeling.  It feels like it’s becoming mainstream. Teachers are using it frequently in the classroom and companies are out with all sorts of things. My favorite sessions were about Paleoteach.org and one from @stemnation about a fantastic project getting kids to print 3D versions of printing “press” typefaces.  There were more 3D printers in the exhibit hall than you could count.
  • Free. Again, free is a common thread at ISTE. I heard complaints about software that used to be free now charging. I heard questions at my session asking about if a resource is free. If not, teachers won’t even look at it. It is essential that publishers and content providers keep this in mind.
  • Inclusion and UDL: I was happy to see quite a presence of accessibility and inclusion sessions. I attended a Playground about UDL and learned a few new tips/tricks. I sadly couldn’t make a couple of the sessions, but have downloaded the handouts. Hoping I can glean info from them.

The “disruptive” theme continues. ISTE attendees tend, as a group, to not like standardized tests and such. As a group, they lean towards empowering students and less about the top down. I’m not always sure what this has to do with technology, but I love it, and I love how the tools of technology are seen as a means to an end of empowerment and learning, rather than as the ultimate goal. I felt there were fewer “use this app” sessions, and more sessions about tools for learning.

Networking

This year was a networking year for me, which was so fun.

The Smithsonian’s Learning Lab officially launched at ISTE with a big splash. Having watched the Learning Lab from afar for a few years, it is really exciting to see it officially go live. I enjoyed talking about it at my poster session and was pleased to hear that many folks from my poster stopped at the Learning Lab’s table!

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Meeting a blogging icon, Glenn Wiebe!

I also met a blogger icon, Glenn Wiebe of historytech. I was beyond giddy! We always read Glenn’s blog – he does fabulous work keeping an eye on the combination of social studies and technology. I fully admit we “borrow” (with credit of course) ideas from Glenn. It made my conference complete to connect Glenn and Darren Milligan (Smithsonian) about the Learning Lab. Glenn also published a far-too flattering post about my session. THANK YOU, Glenn! I look forward to working with Glenn in the future.

I was able to connect with the team at Georgia Public Broadcasting who publish the 8th grade Georgia history textbook and virtual field trips.  GPB uses the same digital publishing software that we use, so it was extremely helpful to connect with them and share our successes and frustrations.

The now-annual Minnesota Tweetup was also a fantastic place to reconnect with old friends and make new connections. These are often folks I see on Twitter or at conferences, so it’s a great chance to actually talk.

Sessions with iconic bloggers always makes ISTE fun. I saw Chris Lehmann, Will Richardson and Pernille Ripp around the conference. Why all three were scheduled at 4 p.m on Tuesday is beyond me. Why, ISTE????

Talking to strangers also makes ISTE fun. For example, I met @im_alastair and @mpickens813 on the train to the airport. Lively conversation made the long ride much more fun!

Session

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Thanks to Mike Walker for taking this shot!

I did another poster session, although this one was on my own! Once again, it was about digital primary sources, “Reading Primary Source Images like a Book.” It was a busy two hours of sharing about primary source analysis and resources.

On to 2017 in San Antonio!

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ISTE Day 2

My ISTE Day #1 wasn’t really an ISTE day…. spent the morning at the World of Coca-Cola. Definitely a polished, high budget experience – very directed. They used an interesting combo of text labels and short 30-second videos scattered throughout. We then went to the new Center for Civil and Human Rights. Blew me away. Deep look into the Civil Rights movement in the Atlanta area. It was fascinating, moving, disturbing and well-done. While it was quite directed, there was still more free exploring. Well done media, lots of reading.

ISTE Day #2:

  • Our poster session was bright and early at 8:00. I arrived at 7:45 — there were people there waiting! We were out of bookmarks (I brought 60) by 8:10. Tons of people, lots of interest, great questions. We have lots of ideas about what to do next year!! Looking forward to it!
  • Caught the tail end of a couple of sessions.
  • Exhibit hall: oddly, had a great time in the exhibit hall. Connected with a few vendors I’d talked with in the last year about digital books. I will follow up with one of them – to keep our options open.
  • Talked with a couple of cool sites/ tools: knewton.com and tackk.com. Tackk.com is a free basic webpage (single page) builder. I can totally see using this in sessions with teachers!
  • Went to a last session about digital content. Very interesting. Confirmed what we knew – teachers want something beyond a pdf. Comments include: extra multimedia, annotation, ability to add content, social sharing.
  • EdTechWomen dinner — awesome! Met a number of interesting and accomplished women: principals, Microsoft employees, business women, teachers. Great conversation and connections. Thanks for the advice, @teachwatts. Will let you know when the book is done!
  • And in true ISTE fashion, I had a great conversation with someone in the hotel elevator that we continued in the lobby. Tip about a digital storytelling session that I missed, but has resources. And we did some great AP History bashing – one of my favorite things! 🙂

Iste is really about the people.

Multiple Choice = Google

A few years ago, I ran across a tweet quoting Brian J. Nichols:

If you can Google it, it isn’t a good assignment.

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This short tweet shifted my world. I look at the work my kids bring home through a whole different lens. Not that I ever approved of assessments that were based on simple factual recall – when I was teaching 20 years ago, we never ever used bubble tests. Those were considered the lazy teacher option that didn’t test anything except who had the best memory. In 1990, I was telling my history students that I didn’t expect them to memorize all the dates and facts as long as they knew how to find it. Back then, finding the information meant looking it up in a physical encyclopedia.

My daughter just finished her sophomore year of high school, including a year of AP World History. In this class and in her biology class she took a  horrifying number of “Scantron” tests.  Of course, the kids never got the tests back (you see, they might pass the answers to someone else) and parents never got to see them. I finally requested to see the tests and had to make an appointment so I could look at them in the room with the teacher present.

Back to Google…..   After seeing the tests, I was so disappointed. They were 90% basic low level questions that could be easily answered using Google.

What about AP Tests?

A few months ago, I was asked to give a talk to a group of history and education majors at Carleton College about tech in education and how museums are using tech to work with the K12 audience. On a whim, thinking of my daughter’s tests, I looked for a sample AP test.

Question from Sample AP US History Test

Question from Sample AP US History Test

I took this  sample AP test and Googled the 40 questions exactly as written. It took about 2 seconds to find the answers – and that was checking a couple of pages to verify the answers. Thirty-five of the 40 questions were easily answered this way. The other five required information from a chart or photo.

I asked the students at Carleton to find the answers to a couple of these questions. Obviously, they had the same result. The students, many of whom had taken plenty of AP classes, were shocked. The professors were very amused.

A few weeks after this, I had the opportunity to talk with a history professor at Oberlin College, and asked him what he thought about this and AP in general. He said that they often need to reteach students how to read and study history when they arrive at Oberlin. Students who have been through AP classes are geared to read for minutae and minor detail. They haven’t been taught to read for concepts, context and the big picture.

AP Philosophy

In looking closely at the AP material online, it turns out that the multiple choice questions and the free response questions are each worth half of a student’s “grade” on the test.  There are 80 questions to be completed in 55 minutes. The free response questions, including primary source analysis and essay, takes 130 minutes.

This quote from the AP materials confuses me:

“Although there is little to be gained by rote memorization of names and dates in an encyclopedic manner, a student must be able to draw upon a reservoir of systematic factual knowledge in order to exercise analytic skills intelligently. Striking a balance between teaching factual knowledge and critical analysis is a demanding but crucial task in the design of a successful AP course in history .”

They admit that rote memorization isn’t necessary, yet fully one half of the test score is based on this skill. While I don’t disagree that a basic level of knowledge of factual knowledge is necessary, is it necessary to have grades depend on the skill of memorization when we now have access to encyclopedias of content in our pockets? There is no possible way we can have the entirety of knowledge memorized — we need to be able to find it. We need to teach students how to find this information.

In my daughter’s AP World History course, her assessment/grade was based on this skill of rote memorization: assessments were worth 60% of the grade, and these assessments were by far mostly multiple choice Scantron tests with a few writing assessments thrown in there. Any creative assignment that required critical thinking, creativity and communication was worth just a few points. The content, structure and assessment of the course is designed to heavily favor strong word-based learners. It does not allow for success of a visual learner.

Even Will Richardson dislikes Google Questions

At ISTE in June, Will Richardson shared a story about his high school daughter’s history final – 100 multiple choice questions. He thought that all but 5 could be answered using the phone.

“I’m a big advocate of open phone tests. If we’re asking questions we can answer on our phone, why are we asking the questions?”

I’m excited to have yet another awesome quote about the value (or lack of) low-level questioning.

I had a fun, quick Twitter interaction with him later — I just had to know what someone like him, who is so active in this community, so well respected, does when his own kid is given an assessment like this.

Watch Will’s talk. The history final story is at 12:30. Then don’t give any more tests that can be Googled.

ISTE13 – Adam Bellow

Adam Bellow

Thankfully, I was able to see half of this keynote before I had to go to the airport. Powerful stuff. I had seen him throughout the conference with the Google Glass — very fun to see his video of his experience — and a video of his experience delivering the keynote!

The messages from the keynote were obviously powerful for his fellow educators — the tweets and blog posts following the keynote are amazing.

For me, the important pieces were:

  • The Scantron video (Adam with a “new” machine to read Scantron tests — a shredder!!!) This starts at about 39:40. He has a strong anti-testing theme.
  • His admission that he new little about Minecraft until this conference.
  • Message of change
  • Power of visual communication. Bellow is a master at slides, and it makes a difference.
  • “Technology can’t be the icing. It’s in the dough.”
  • 20% time  — he thinks this is low. Kids should be passionate all throughout school.

If the video starts at the beginning, go to 23:00 to start with Adam. The rest isn’t essential.

ISTE13 – Chris Lehmann

I just returned from  at ISTE13.  I am fortunate and grateful that I am able to attend this conference. This is not yet my reflection post. I’m still processing and find I need space to do that. As always, I wrote a great deal on the flight home – it’s the best place to immediately process. I will be posting thoughts from the flight later.

The next few posts are a spot for me to store the video from the conference that I will reference later. I love that ISTE does video on demand. It’s impossible to get to all the sessions you want during the conference — especially when they schedule Will Richardson and Chris Lehmann at the same time!

Chris Lehmann

I’ve blogged about Chris many times. It was watching him at ISTE 2011 and online that really started me down this path. He talk at ISTE13 is no exception. I’m sorry I wasn’t there in person.

Take a look through this video. Think about the questions he asks. These questions would make a powerful faculty experience. I may, in fact, take the questions and write a session even for the staff where I work.

The questions he asks – and is looking for a 10 word answer – include (paraphrased):

  1. Schools should help students become?
  2. How does technology help this?
  3. What are your “Legacy Apps” and how do you change?
  4. What will you do to change in 2013-2014?

Look for the responses on Twitter, #istetransforms. Powerful.

I was also empowered by Chris’s reference to parents. ISTE doesn’t always mention parents as much as I think it should, and it is often about how to convince parents to like tech, to move away from traditional grading. But how about us parents who want our schools to move away? Chris uses the term, Parent Activist. I love it. He encourages these passionate educators to use their role as parents in their kids’ schools to become activists, to encourage change there as well.