ISTE Reflections Day 3

Day 3 started with a keynote presentation from author Steven Johnson.

Johnson talked about trends outside of education, most notably the ubiquitous presence of social networking platforms in society. This is nothing new, but today with social tools things are accelerated.

I found a few of his points interesting, but as far as an inspirational speaker, he fell short. I will miss Adam Bellow on Wednesday in order to catch our flight (the last keynote speaker), but I have had the fortune of hearing Adam at VSTE before.

Belkin, along with so many other companies, was showing off school solutions for mobile computing. These new iPad cases looked really good, save for the fact that a direct, on-screen fall was still possible. But these didn’t look bad. What was cool was the extra accessory for holding things like a charger, pencils, etc. It was a modern-day pencil box.

Steelcase had the most compelling furniture – I felt it really matched my vision for what is needed in a 21st century classroom – seats move, they have space for bookbags, and they have an accessory lip for an iPad holder.

Probably the biggest news from this conference was Microsoft’s decision to give away 10,000 Surface RT computers. These are iPad competitors, and while I’ve “played” with them at the store, I never really had the opportunity to dive deeper into the machine’s capabilities. I will continue to assess the device in detail after returning home, but so far, I was not impressed. It took me over an hour just to get the device setup with a so-called Microsoft account. The hardware part of the device is not badly done; it’s solid, it feels well-designed, and it looks attractive. But the software is where the details are, I guess. It’s too limited as a Windows platform (you can see the file manager, but you cannot run stock Windows apps). The store was easy to navigate to find apps like Twitter, but a rich catalog necessary for school was not to be found.

In terms of sessions, I visited with the leaders in Henry County Virginia that have already deployed over 4000 iPads to grades 3-5, and are moving on to grade 6 next year. They shared some wise advice based on their experiences.

I also got to hear from a dynamic person in my type of position who has deployed iPads at a high school. The funny thing about ISTE this year is the breadth of iPad deployment sessions – I have to feel that for most people, if you’re not doing an iPad 1:1 you’re missing out on something.

The overwhelming messages across all of the presentations are these:

  • don’t get bogged down in what apps you need; start with ones that are general and open themselves up to creative pursuits for kids,
  • don’t try to tie test scores with iPad deployments. Why? It’s never going to be the iPads that make the difference, it’s the pedagogy… and that likely will take 1-3 complete school years to catch up with the disruption of technology…
  • involve the parents as soon as possible – and keep open the lines of communication,
  • iPads in some communities can transform parental involvement – and interest in education again,
  • teachers need to take the time to reflect on everything, including the new teaching methods and techniques that lend themselves to 1:1 computing.

Mrs. McCay and I spent Tuesday night brainstorming even more about our training with teachers on July 1-3 at GES. I’m really excited, not only because ISTE always provides some inspirational learning opportunities, but more because we’re going to get to do some very cool things with teaching and learning this year with our own pilot!