All Articles Education Edtech 7 takeaways from #ISTE2014

7 takeaways from #ISTE2014

5 min read


ISTE 2014 broke records this year, with more than 16,000 people registering for the event, and nearly a half million tweets using the #iste2014 hashtag floating around the Twittersphere during the four-day conference recently held in Atlanta, Ga.

Imagine the expo hall with thousands of educators — and others — visiting booths, learning about new products and trends. Imagine also the constant stream of attendees navigating four floors of escalators leading to sessions, playgrounds and more.

The SmartBrief education team was among those attendees looking to uncover what’s on the horizon for educational technology. Here are some of our takeaways from the event, based on conversations with attendees, vendors and others.

1. Recognize struggling students and intervene. Ashley Judd’s opening keynote session was an emotional journey. She shared her personal struggles with abandonment during adolescence, calling on educators to recognize struggling students and intervene. “If the only thing you ever do as an educator is believe a child who comes to you, you will have done enough,” she said.

MindShine has developed a web-based student risk assessment system for K-12 districts to help schools identify struggling students early and take action. The system seeks to use data to build a comprehensive picture of students, from academics to extracurricular activities to family information to discipline records.

2. All-in-one solutions are in vogue. Many educational technology vendors are developing “all-in-one” solutions. In a meeting with Jim Marshall, chief excitement officer with Promethean, to discuss their newest learning platform, ClassFlow, he described the product as the “glue” that ties it all together. Gaggle, a filtering and human monitoring system, also announced integration with Microsoft OneDrive, which will offer a one-stop shop for lesson development and integration with Microsoft’s social network and video conference and instant messaging service.

A growing number of vendors have wrapped once a la carte platforms and services into single package solutions. School Improvement Network has bundled its personalized learning solution and professional development tools into a single cloud-based platform. Skyward’s student management system links student data to teacher data, specifically human resource and financial information. The goal here is to help schools gain deeper insight into student performance and teacher effectiveness. Other all-in-one solutions, include programs from Odysseyware, Performance Matters and WIN, among many others.

3. One size does not fit all. There seems to be a concerted effort to move away from the “one-size-fits-all” approach to education, with a new emphasis on personalized learning and instruction. A number of products and services aim to take this idea from buzzword to practice. Tools from Copia and enable teachers to build custom curriculum, using content from different providers and resources. Compass Learning’s intervention platform, Pathblazer, is designed to pinpoint skills gaps in struggling learners and help them get back on track. Lexia Learning’s reading program and Learning Upgrade’s gaming solution for math and English aim to move students, at their own pace, toward grade-level proficiency.

4. Active and project-based learning is alive and well. Active and project-based learning took center stage during many presentations this year. Punahou School trio Liz Castillo, Gaylynn Nakamatsu and Belle Murashige demonstrated how they’re using iPads to apply an inquiry-based approach with their kindergarten- and first-grade students. The project focused on sustainability and how living things are connected.  The students, armed with their devices, took trips out to the mauka (mountain) and makai (ocean) regions of Oahu to gather information on plants, animals and people. They later used the devices and collected data to create reports on what they learned.

5. Rethink the learning space. As a growing number of schools move away from the “sage-on-the-stage” style of instruction, they’re looking to create new learning spaces that foster collaboration and student-centric learning. A number of attendees stopped by furniture provider Steelcase‘s booth to test drive Node chairs, Verb tables, Eno whiteboards and Buoy stools, all designed to foster flexible, collaborative learning spaces.

6. New conversations around BYOD and one-to-one are surfacing. Mobile devices and mobile learning are certainly not new topics in edtech but the conversation has changed. The question is no longer “Should we do this?” but now “How do we make this effective?” Devices are in classrooms — even in the youngest grades — and teachers are anxious to make the most of these tools. They’ve shed their apprehensions and are anxious to experiment with different tools and apps to see what can work in their classroom. Best of all, it’s happening across disciplines — from the humanities to the math and sciences and even physical education — and grade levels.

Interestingly, though, a number of educators reported that they’re running into a new obstacle: tech-averse parents. Several teachers said that they’re having issues with parents who are reluctant and unsure about new digital initiatives taking place in their children’s classrooms. Accustomed to more traditional rote learning practices, these parents are apprehensive about the devices, tools, and apps their kids are now using — and they’re challenging their schools and teachers. One teacher, who asked not to be identified, said his school is now realizing that they may need to invest in education for parents to get them on board with new tech-based learning approaches.

7. Give students what they need. Funds for Learning and Discovery Education were just two vendors calling attention to the issue of equity, specifically in terms of ensuring Internet access to all students. Both vendors indicated the need is especially high among rural districts with low-income populations.

Melissa Greenwood is SmartBrief’s senior education editor. Kanoe Namahoe is SmartBrief’s custom content editor.