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ISTE Recap

Highlights

0:00:30  A discussion about innovation and was there innovative at ISTE?
0:01:50  What is innovation?
0:03:50  Who is driving innovation?
0:05:13  What Adrian took away from the conference.
0:06:30  The increase in tactile technology
0:07:45  What Mike took away from the conference
0:08:30  Where’s the data?
0:09:20  How do we see whole school transformation and help the teachers who aren’t attending conferences like ISTE?
0:13:10  What stem tools we saw that will help the slow adopters
0:17:10  Are we trying to turn students into gamers or gamers into students?
0:18:45  Tips for those attending ISTE for the first time
0:23:26  Why you should speak to the product managers
0:25:00  The most important thing you can do after a conference

Transcript: ISTE Recap

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Mike: All right so you’ve got Mike, Mark and you’ve got Adrian and we’re just sitting around our kitchen table in Austin, Texas. We’ve just finished the ISTE Conference in San Antonio 2017 and we thought we’d just do a bit of a debrief. We were just talking about our experience, some of the things we learnt, some of the things we’ve walked away wondering, and thought it might be good to record our conversation. So Mark you had some interesting things to say about innovation after the conference.

Mark: Yeah well we we’re actually talking with Alice Keeler at the dinner and one of the questions came up, what are you looking to get out of this conference? I’ve been to a few conferences but not one as big as ISTE. So I was really hoping that I’d find something quite innovative because my question was, what is out there that’s actually innovative these days?

You know I think there’s a lot of people doing things but then what are you actually doing that’s new and interesting and something that people haven’t heard of before. So to be honest I actually don’t know if I’ve found it. What do you guys think? Did you find something truly innovative?

Adrian: No, I didn’t find anything truly…like just jumping out that I thought I’ve never seen that before. I saw variations of nearly everything I’d seen and people are done with it, but then for me, it was looking at how you do the pedagogy the stuff that you do in the classroom what that looks like when you link your subjects together and then what you can use to enhance that.  Rather than trying to be innovative and flashy-dashy.  Because I think there’s always going to be something shiny on the lot, not necessarily add to what you’re learning is.

Mike: Well I think in that conversation we had a dinner the conversation did turn to what is innovation and I think it might be helpful to just backtrack a bit because like you’re saying Adrian flashy-dashy is innovation but maybe that’s not what innovation means to some people. So how would you define the innovation Mark?

Mark: I think whenever you’re in a classroom you’re always reflecting right. So you’re always trying to get more out of what you’re doing with the students. You’re trying to engage that student that maybe it’s not quite getting it or it’s kind of switched off, so you’re always looking for new ways of doing things or that’s what I was doing when I was in the classroom anyway.

I know that there are some teachers out there who won’t, but that was always my goal. So innovation for me was what’s going to be something that will tick a box that I know hasn’t been ticked at the moment. So whether it’s with technology or the way that we’re teaching that was kind of what I was looking for.

What’s something that people are doing that is hitting a mark in a way that hasn’t been hit before, because everything’s changing all the time isn’t it? Yeah, so teaching is changing all the time but at the same time it’s always staying the same.

Mike: So when you say what people are doing you’re really talking about application aren’t you?

Mark: Yeah, absolutely.

Mike: So you’re looking for applied knowledge or applied, what is that? Applied skills or something like that?

Mark: Well you bring up that pedagogy word that you said but it’s funny because whenever I’m doing workshops with people, that’s what I’m always starting with. I always start with pedagogy. I know it’s not what teachers come to our training for. They don’t come to learn about, or you know to grapple with pedagogy. They come to you know, what button do I press, but at the end of the day that’s the most important thing.

The thing that struck me from ISTE was you walk through those big doors into the expo hall and you’re like just overwhelmed and I think everybody’s sort of walking around like stunned mullets and they gravitate towards, oh I can get a free sticker and there’s a t-shirt over here and there’s a lots of flashy stuff going around but I think all of those vendors, if you look at it with a positive side they’re all trying to provide a new way of doing things but the people who are actually going to put it into action are the ones that make the difference. So that’s where the innovation happens. It’s not, what’s the tool. It’s not what’s the flashy.

Mike: So it’s interesting to me who drives innovation because I think quite often it’s not teachers and schools driving innovation, it’s actually businesses looking for new business lines and ways to sell things.

Adrian: Doesn’t that depend on…you know if innovation is something flashy, like I said before, then it’s going to be a vendor driven application, rather than a teaching and learning driven application. We get blinded.

Mark: Yep. I don’t know either. I think a lot of people who are developing these products a lot of them are educators.

Mike: Well, yeah I guess they are a lot of them. Yeah a lot of the people we talked to in the booths where ex-teachers and had found a passion in a particular area and pursued that outside the classroom but at the end of the day there’s always a bottom line on that isn’t it? And that bottom lines not necessarily better in teaching.

It’s how much product can you push and how much stock can you move and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just an interesting comment. I mean obviously we deal with schools all the time that say money’s quite tight and when you walk through a vendor hall that has goodness knows how many, there must have been, would it have been an exaggeration to say five hundred booths in there?

Mark: I think it would be more than that.

Mike: Yeah.

Mark: It took us three days to get through them.

Mike: So there’s plenty of money being spent on stuff, that’s for sure. Yeah, it’s always interesting. Adrian, what was your takeaways from the conference?

Adrian: We’re talking about that before. I went to a couple of sessions where you heard people speak about things that you kind of heard before and you go yeah I heard that before, so yeah same old same old type thing but then a couple of them that just resonate with me is that leadership one where we are looking at- the comment that was made, “If you could do it without technology why do it with technology”? and Mark and I started discussing that too terms of technology and fun.

Mark: Yeah the guy said it was way cooler.

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Adrian: I think it’s a really good thing to take a step back. If I could read something like run dog run on a piece of paper do I actually have to get my computer to say run dog run for me to be innovative and on the edge.

Mark: Yeah because it’s cooler.

Adrian: I think it comes down to the relationship with the kids. The take away for me was to try and get that aha moment happening in their classroom for as many kids as they can and what tool will help them do that and something might work for Fred but it might not work for Belinda.  So you’ve got to try to work on that and bringing together how we learn in different areas and seeing what adds to that and it might be something really cool and flashy, which is fun or something that just resonates.

So just for me trying to find that balance of the what do you put in front of classroom as well as what do you do in terms of your curriculum development and the way you deliver your stuff. That’s kind of a messy take away.

Mike: Yeah I spend a lot of time in that vendor hall and I think one of the things that I enjoyed seeing a lot more of was that tactile technology. So where the technology is integrating with stuff that’s actually in front of you on the table. A lot of that was geared at early primary or elementary but it was interesting that the students had to actually physically move things around and then that would interact within an app environment because quite often when you talk to teachers they’re like “Well kids still need to learn by touch and do” and kinesthetic learners and so on and I think that’s an interesting progression in technology, where it’s not just interacting with a screen or a keyboard now but the technology is now starting to interact with the physical space.

Mark: And that’s kind of driven by this whole STEM movement, like us wanting to engage with the sciences and the technologies, the hands-on materials.

Mike: Yeah it’s interesting isn’t it? Yeah I mean I didn’t get to a lot of sessions. For me it was just meeting lots of people and just chatting to different districts and some that I needed to catch up with. A couple of sessions that I went to I found it quite encouraging that people were asking hard questions. Especially in the leadership stands that I attended and not just accepting things because that’s just the way we’ve always done it. You know you spend a lot of money, like where’s the return on investment here and how do we know it’s better? That was a question that was being asked a lot you know and what is better? How do you define that? So I think there were some really good discussions.

Adrian: So healthy skepticism.

Mike: Yeah. So I’m not sure skepticism is exactly the right word but certainly not being- yeah critiquing and critical thinking.

Adrian: Critical thinking in a positive sense.

Mike: Yeah and I guess just asking where’s the data because a lot of what we do in technology, you know BYOD isn’t making things better, when we ask that we don’t even define what better is a lot of the time. We just ask how do you define learning sometimes and then we’ve got no data and no metrics on that. So just being able to dig down and find how do you measure some of this stuff and how do we know we’re making a difference, I thought was some good discussions.

Mark: Yeah that’s cool.

Mike: Yeah. I thought it was interesting too, we ended up meeting more Australians and New Zealanders in America than you do when you’re in Australia and New Zealand. It’s amazing the international reach that a conference like this has isn’t it? People coming from everywhere around the globe, which is a fair bit of influence when you think about it.

People are looking, they’re searching. So what do you think one of the things that we talked about in the car the other day was the fact that somehow we need to reach deeper into our schools, so even though I heard the figure 20,000 teachers our educators are at this conference, I mean that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of those that are willing to do things.

So we talk a lot about the 80/20 principle or the Pareto principle that says you know 20 percent of all of your effort will give you 80 percent of your results. So quite often it’s that top 20 percent of teachers, and I don’t mean the top 20 percent is the brightest or the smartest, but just the leading teachers I guess who are doing 80 percent of the work around technology and stem and so on. What are your thoughts on trying to reach all the way down to that next level on that next layer and having some deeper influence?

Adrian: The mystique of the technology needs to be removed I think because I went to a couple of sessions on coding. You know whenever you’re talking about coding people are going to get a bit scared because they’d never seen it before, but when you actually look at breaking a problem down into little bits of computational thinking and then working it out using syntax is just a language just makes it run, it’s very similar to what you do to write an English essay.

You break up a question, you break it down, you then structure it and then you solve it by writing it and that’s the same as coding. If you can kind of break that mistake down and kind of relate it to something else the teachers are already doing then you’re going to get wings.

I was talking to some lady who was a coach, coach here and coaching around in different schools and she was coaching someone and she was just focusing on baby steps doing really simple things that would get good leverage to the classroom and then the teacher will then start running with it. Where the teacher is saying but I want to be able to do this, this, and this then you know that you’ve hit that mark, rather than going I don’t want to do this and I don’t know how to do it. It’s a different mindset.

Mike: It’s actually becoming a bit of a passion of mine for me but actually how do we impact those eight or ten teachers who would never give up their holiday time to come to a conference like that. Not because they’re not dedicated, not because they’re not passionate about what they do, but because digital learning just hasn’t grabbed them or for whatever reason, and they’re just a little bit resistant. So what are we doing to reach those teachers?

My reflection going back you know what I was saying I’m looking for something that’s innovative, well I think what we need to be doing is not so much what’s innovative teaching at the pointy end with those sort of techie experts because they were all mostly the ones at ISTE. What are we doing that’s innovative to reach those people who haven’t quite jumped onto the wave?

If we think about it, if only 20 percent of the teacher are actually engaging their kids in personalized learning, you know in that kind of student agency kind of approach with these devices because that’s what they feasibly do, then that means 80 percent of the kids in our schools aren’t being impacted or enabled. I’ve been given opportunities like what they could possibly do to be creative so what innovative ways are we coming up with to engage with those teachers.

Adrian: We had that discussion online when we were sitting around chatting about learning and we were talking about minecraft and how in minecraft some people will get their kids to build up the volume of a cube and measure it. Well that is in minecraft and someone’s going to say I hated that, and it’s not a good use of technology because I can do it anyway. But we were discussing on the walk back home, that if that’s the level that you are comfortable doing in your classroom, then that’s a great place to be, because you’re confident and you’re willing to run it in the class and then it will get bigger and bigger but you’ve got to make sure that your pitch and encourage the people where they’re at.

Mike: And so Mark your observation about tactile objects coming into that whole digital learning process and how that’s development. I’m excited by that because when we saw Osmo – that little thing above the iPad and you move those blocks around on the table but when I’ve used those over the years with teachers that’s been the one thing that has helped those teachers that we’re talking about that 80 percent who are a little bit not quite sure.

The other ones when they see that product their eyes light up and they suddenly get it. They’re like now all of a sudden I know this is a way I can use the iPad that’s not a spelling app you know because that doesn’t excite them because a spelling app quite literally you can just go do that with flashcards on the floor. Whereas this is something that’s completely engaging and it can be the doorway and that’s the innovative pedagogy kind of tool that I’m looking for. We need to reach that 80 percent.

Mark: I like that Bloxels as well for young kids where they have to actually put all the blocks in the grid and then their iPad takes a picture of it and turns it into a game. I mean that again is that tactile but it’s game based learning. It’s design thinking.

Adrian: You can make it really tricky and complex. It starts off the same. The simple thing that I’ve talked about that one as well is that when I first looked at it and then when I started explaining that you can actually level up I’m thinking this game theory behind it you could tie in the story that a novel that you’re doing. You know you could actually build something that’s just incredibly just from having little colored blocks on a grid.

Mike: Yeah very interesting. What other products did you see that you thought would be good?

Adrian: Well the blocky join things that join together magnetically and you can set them up.

Mark: Oh, there are about three different brands. They’re the same kind of thing. They make a version of them and there was another one.

Adrian: Basically you get these blocks and you link them together then you can code them and program them so they can do things for you.  They can react to something and then we’re thinking how do we then combine that with something else like a challenge thing that we’ve got, and we could make a car park and instead of you driving the car, you have a robot car that you can program to get the boom gate to go up and down?

We use block legs to build the gate then you’ve got a designer go get something down at the right time and so automatically you’re going for something that’s relatively simple to quite complex and the thinking behind it especially if you get in a group the collaboration behind it’ll be nice. So the things that you can add to something the schools already got and really liked and not too pricey expensive things.

Mark: Mine was minecraft. It’s something that I’ve dabbled in for a little while. I talk with the teacher who we were traveling home on the bus from a town we took a class to and he set up a mine craft server on his phone and hot spotted his Wireless, so we had about seven or eight kids in the back of the bus. I was trying to sleep because I was absolutely exhausted, but he had kids mining and developing buildings and stuff on their phones and iPads around him.

I’m obviously pretty into digital, but I never really kind of got it. My kids at home have played it and I’ve kind of played it with them but when they went through minecraft in education and then you can do the code connection or code connect I think it’s called, you can go in and you can start coding and developing worlds with code inside minecraft, all of a sudden I can totally see where it’s going.

So like you’re saying you can develop area and perimeter with blocks in the square but then there’s so much. It’s literally creating, publishing tool kind of like book creator on the iPad, yeah sure I can write stuff on there but as soon as you go in there you realize that this is actually a whole creation tool. That’s what I’m excited about.

Mike: Yeah it would be good to run that as one of our stem 2.0 days.

Mark: Yeah definitely, that’s definitely two or three hours worth.

Mike: Yeah quite often when we get to doing a little bit of minecraft in a stem day, sometimes there’s a push back on that like “How does this fit the curriculum?” So you do need to make that explicit but yeah I think teachers are starting to see how you can embed that in your curricula.

Mark: Yeah and the key line that came out for that day which was run really, Microsoft did a good job, it was that “We’re not trying to turn students into gamers, we’re trying to turn gamers into students.” Because if you ask the students how many of you are gaming, you know some reasonably serious hours in the week, it’s quite a few of them.

We’re just re engaging those kids because when I like talked quite a bit with teachers you know when I was talking to people but Graham Nuthal’s book The Hidden Lives of Learners and I forget I’m terrible with data but he said there’s a certain percentage of people, students in the classrooms who are literally just doing time, they’re just turning up and those are the students that this mine craft sort of world can just totally activate.

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Mike: I was a little bit interested in those pi-top computers that you can build, so it’s basically just a raspberry pie but you can build a whole computer.

So I think with the new digital technologies curriculum coming in there’s two ways you can teach that. Here’s a poster and you know with arrows saying here’s a hard drive and here’s a ram and you know this is the components of a computer, so you can actually get those kids starting to be able to build one, which is great knowing that pushes the thinking a little bit because you’re like well I don’t know how to build one so you have to sort of be ahead of the curve a little bit.

Mark: Yeah and you can run all the Google Apps for Education apps on there, you can do all sorts of things if you have an actual Chrome book and learning all the insides of that because I’ve never done that before. I’d love to get my hands on one to look at it but you’d look at computers in a whole new way wouldn’t you, like you wouldn’t look at one the same.

Mike: Yeah it’s very good and quite cheap for what it is. That’s interesting. So what about some tips for those, your first ISTE for both of you guys? I’d already been so knew what to expect. What would you say to someone who’s thinking about going for the first time? What would they do to prepare?

Adrian: Shorts, shoes that you can walk in, don’t glam up because you got to walk everywhere.

Mike: How many steps did you do on average a day?

Adrian: Oh I did eighteen thousand one day!

Mike: Wasn’t it like eight kilometers?

Adrian: Yeah roughly one day inside the building. And just structure into your day because my first day I got all these sessions back to back. You got to structure your day to actually have some down time to process what you’ve seen. Especially when you listen to people speak because teachers are passionate about telling you about stuff and you’ve got to go away and process it and align it with what you’re doing and have some takeaway so you can grow out of it as well before you jump into you next session. Otherwise you’ll have session overload by the end of it.

And it doesn’t necessarily- it might sound really good on paper and it might not turn out to be that good. So be critical, walk out, walk out and if you find something that’s really good then hang in there and you’ll get some of the stuff that might have started off a bit slow kicks in, especially when teachers talk about what they’re passionate about and that’s got a great point.

I thought Jenna was great. I liked the way she spoke and had that personal connection with what she talked about as well. So sometimes the keynotes are really worth going to as well.

Mark: Yeah I’ve got two. My first one was I was talking to a DP of a school and she said she is developing the library space in this school and the whole maker space and they want to develop the digital today so she went with that specific goal in mind. I think she’s been to a few ISTE’s before, yeah and a few other big conferences. So I think that’s quite interesting to me. I hadn’t thought of it like that, actually go with a theme so I’m going to find out about this.

So for me I think I tended to drift towards the STEM learning. So I kind of probably did that subconsciously. But the second one is, I’d suggest going to a mix of spending time in the expo hall, going to keynotes, and then going to what were the ones, the spotlights, where they stand around and you can chat with them and talk.

They got a range of a whole lot of different things because they all give you different perspectives, like the keynotes are more kind of big picture thinking kind of that pedagogical approach and everything. The expo rooms your hands on tools and then talking in conversations with poster ends and workshops and things that are important to get a range.

Adrian: I want to a place which on paper sounded a bit kind of blandish and when I got there the guy was terrific. He knew his stuff and then I started peppering with questions and started to solve these problems, which I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t actually had the conversation. Unfortunately for the other half dozen people standing around us that were kind of expecting the other thing to happen, we had to stop half way through but just having someone who has done some stuff and then you can take you back to school. Just imagine the leveraging of that.

Mark: And not being afraid to talk to people too in lines, in queues, when sitting at tables there’s so many people who just, I don’t know if they’re overwhelmed or they’re just in their own little space, but they’re not too keen to engage or they don’t actually go up and say hi to people. But if you do that there’s so much richness in those conversations. You know the conversation I had with a teacher in Montreal was fantastic, probably one of the best chats I had the whole time.

Mike: Yeah I don’t try to find a spare seat where no one else is around. I’ll try and find somewhere where there’s like one seat in the next two or three and then you just plant yourself in that conversation and I think it’s quite good.

I guess my thing is for new people too is not to expect to be able to do everything you want to do, like you know you just can’t get to it all. There’s maybe 30-40 sessions going and maybe three or four of them sound really good and they all conflict so you just got to resign yourself to the fact that you’re just going to have to not do what you want to do.

And then it just amazed me, there was constantly lines out the front, especially around the Google sessions and the the Microsoft sessions and the Apple. I mean,  how was it in the app they sent out a message saying if you want any tickets to Apple, you’ve got to be here by 7:00 a.m in the morning and they’re gone by 7:15 for the whole day and then there’s constantly lines for those events?

So I would go not wanting to see Google, Apple, and Microsoft if it was me. I’d want to go to see what other people outside those organizations are doing and applying those tools because you can always find the Google stuff. They’re very good at being online with their presence and tools and educator communities and all of that sort of thing. So I don’t think I don’t know it just disturbed me a little bit to see people lineup for 45 minutes, 50 minutes, standing in a line just so they’d get inside a room to see something that you could easily see online.

Adrian: If it’s an expert in the field like the Microsoft guys that we chatted with the guy from the team that does teams and he was awesome because he knew everything and it’s great to have that kind of level of conversation. But if it’s a passionate teacher then you can get that through webinars and stuff, anyway it sucks out the guys that are the experts, just hang in there.

Mike: That is the one thing about ISTE like all the product managers from all the companies are there and so if you wanted to meet the head of OneNote, they’re there. If you want to meet the head of teams coming out from Microsoft, they’re there. All the product managers for Google, the classroom guys were there and available to have a chat too.

The same with Apple they had all their key product managers. We went and sat in a keynote presentation. So in terms of access to them is great and again I wonder how many people actually took the time to go and make the most of those connections like those guys are there and give feedback and ask questions.

Mark: Because they came, they actually ask you know what you think of our product. Having the chance to talk to the person who is top of the development team is incredible. It’s not often something you get.

Mike: You know for us we’re on the roadmaps for all three companies and so we know what’s coming down the line to a certain extent but even just, I mean, I walk up and ask some questions around Google classroom this week was really helpful. So yeah I’ll definitely try and make the most of that that time when you’re there as well.

Excellent. All right do you have any takeaways as we start to wrap up?

Mark: I’ve got to go away and sort of let it all sink in and that’s probably what a lot of teachers are doing right now. They’re already on the plane somewhere sitting in a hotel somewhere just trying to debrief and let things settle. And often the thing that we tell people at the end of a workshop is “What’s one thing you can take away and put into action?” But just going back to those notes in a few weeks or even six months time you go back to what you’re talking, and kind of unpacking it and see what sort of stuck .

Adrian: They probably don’t go back thinking I’m going to go change the world with everything I’ve learnt or the apps I’ve seen because you likely overwhelm other people. If you think that will work in a class, give it a crack, get feedback from your kids, then share it with someone else and see if you can do it and then bring something else in.

Mike: Yeah. I think my last thing would be make sure you set some time to engage in the culture around you. I mean being from overseas we’re loving the culture.  We just had the best barbecue I think. It was insane, insanely good, but you know like we were saying, we’re up early, we’re there by 8 o’clock in the morning. I don’t think we got to have dinner until at least 8 o’clock every night. Just because you’re meeting people and you’re out and you’re doing stuff to making the most of that, but you always make sure you put aside time just to go and enjoy the area that you’re in.

Next year ISTE is in Chicago, so that should be quite interesting as a city. I think it’s a good opportunity to go and see different parts of America and so on as well. Yeah looking forward to next year and yeah we’ll keep debriefing as we go.

We’ve got another few days left on out road trip and lots of long conversations as we drive across the Texan countryside.

All right, no problems. Well thanks guys for tuning in and we’ll catch you on the next Using Technology Better show.

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