Top 10 Things You Should Know About ISTE 2019

If you weren’t able to make it to Philly for ISTE this June, or if you went but feel like you couldn’t see EVERYTHING, never fear! MDR was there and we’ve prepared this Top 10 list of the big takeaways from this meeting of the minds between educators and EdTech.

#1: AI and the Good Digital Citizen – ISTE CEO Richard Culatta talked about the future of AI and how to prepare students, “The language of future problem-solving will be the language of AI. Students won’t just have to work with AI in their future careers,  but will have to consider things like the ethics of building things with AI, how to program it to make moral decisions, and what it means to be human.” We saw this idea repeated across the conference with an emphasis on how students will use Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) skills to:

  • Make their communities better
  • Respectfully engage with people who have different beliefs
  • Shape and change public policy
  • Assess the validity of online sources of information

Understanding that “emotions are the gatekeepers to cognition” can help providers balance advances in AI with the need for the human element.

#2: How AI Can Be Useful for Edu – from the session AI in Education Unpacked: Broken Promises, Plentiful Perils and Incredible Opportunities, we took note of the caution that machine learning is only as good as the data that was used to train the algorithm. A key virtue of human and machine learning is understanding and that takes a lot of the right data. Speaker Andreas Oranje from ETS recommended ways for educators to use AI productively right now:

  • Check on scoring and other biases
  • Security to ensure achievements are fairly earned
  • Reading and writing tools that help all students gain confidence to learn more
  • Tools to help teachers target instruction based on student’s skill gaps

#3: Riding the Hype Cycle – Speakers Abbie Brown and Tim Green, both professors in Instructional Technology,  curate, evaluate and disseminate tech trends in their blog.  They use Gartner Groups’ model of “the Hype Cycle” to evaluate Ed technology along axes of visibility vs. time:

Marketers should plan for how to address and capitalize on each stage of this cycle.

#4: EdTech Procurement: Educators and Providers Weigh In – Dr. Jennifer Morrison of Johns Hopkins University surveyed 335 Districts & 50+ Ed Tech companies with a focus on improving student achievement through introduction of technology. Highlights of what she found include:

  • Overall, district participants were generally satisfied with the procurement process
  • District participants most often indicated relying on pilot tryouts, then rigorous and non-rigorous evaluation evidence
  • Participants most often described references as being a critical source of information
  • Vendors most often noted product features were a key selling point of their products
  • While both noted the importance of end-user involvement for technology adoption, end-users did not appear to have a prominent role in the ed-tech procurement process

#5: Using ESSA to Fund EdTech – From this panel discussion, it was clear that the Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant, authorized under Title IV-A of ESSA, is a flexible source of federal education funding that can support a wide range of critical activities and programs. ISTE strongly urges state and district leaders to think of technology as working collaboratively with the other two funding categories (well-rounded education and safe and healthy schools), not competitively against them, for example: schools can use School Climate money for Digital Citizenship funding.

#6: The “e” in eSports is for Education – eSports are huge and were a big topic at ISTE. The Fortnite ProAM, eSports League of Legends had more viewers than Game 7 of the 2017 World series. Gaming is a hook for learning and helps build skills that transcend sports like how to communicate, collaborate, and respect and value team members. With gamification being applied in lessons and classrooms, these “plays well with others” skills are more important.

#7: The Digital Badge – Creating online spaces for teachers to congregate, collaborate, build community and gain skills has become a priority for big players in education like Apple, Microsoft, Google, etc. These spaces also provide a platform for flipped PD delivery: rather than depending on externally offered seminars or lectures, educators can take control of the process, earning the badges and certifications that best fit their professional development needs. Educators are on board: to date, the Apple Teacher PD Program has already issued over 1.5 million badges.

#8: From STEM to STEAM – The addition of Arts to the STEM definition is being widely adopted and dovetails with the trending focus on SEL. Emotional and social skills are necessary to the project-based learning so frequently seen in STEM curricula. The arts encourage creativity which helps students develop aptitudes that are universally valuable:

  1. An experimenter’s mindset
  2. Whole brain thinking
  3. An innate desire to be a creator (and not just a consumer)

#9: Jobs of the Future – By 2022, AI will eliminate 75 million jobs and create 133 million jobs, according to World Economic Forum. So what will the role for humans be? Providing leadership that ensures technology and content are infused with compassion. The transformation necessary to embrace this future has already happened:

  • Students are different
  • The ways they learn/consume/share media is different
  • Jobs are different

This transformation is about people, not devices. Parsing out the jobs only humans can do, and developing those skills and capabilities, will be education’s task. 

#10 Education is Forever – One overriding theme from ISTE 2019 is that whatever area of societal or economic transformation you focus on, education has a role to play. Learning is lifelong, self-directed, adaptable and multi-disciplinary. As MDR celebrates our 50th year, we’re thrilled to be part of an industry that is so vital and valuable. We hope you had a chance to stop by, visit with us, and have a celebratory cupcake!

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