Flipped classrooms, mobile learning, professional learning networks, and bring your own devices were the biggest mêmes at ISTE this year.
There were still traces of some of last year's issues: what do we do with educators who will not change/adapt/learn, how do we make do with lower funding, how do we combat the teach-to-the-test mentality fostered by high stakes testing.
Note the qualitative change though. Last year it was more, "how do we fight these big issues that are restricting education". This year it was more, "what changes and what tools do we need to use to move in the direction of improving education." There was a much more positive attitude, and probable 20-30% greater attendance.
Instead of automaton lecturers, teachers can become the navigators of each student's education. Flipping a classroom is not merely having students watch Khan Academy videos at home (or teacher made videos). The flipped classroom begins with the teacher understanding the tools available and setting the learning goals. The teacher then maps out how he or she wants to employ learning activities with his or her students. Teachers are no longer locked into a textbook, classroom lectures, and quiz questions. The whole web thus becomes available as the classroom of the future.
Mobile learning is helping drive the flipped classroom. Mlearning means students can access learning resources anywhere and at any time, they can (and they must) take control of their learning, they can collaborate in and beyond their classroom and with and beyond their classmates, just like in the real world.
Hardware for mobile learning can be iPads (currently dominating the marketplace), Google chrome books (about to become an educational tsunami), Windows tablets, laptops, iPods, or smartphones. But with money driving many decisions, administrator after administrator made the point, "It's a lot more economical to let students bring in their own devices and supply devices to the 30% who need it, than to try to provide devices to all students." And many teachers reported greater student interest, engagement, and participation when they used their own devices; students would rather take notes pecking and squinting at their own phone than to use the classroom laptops.
In my opinion, probably the biggest impact that the federal government can make on education today would be to dramatically increase bandwidth to schools, possibly by finding a mechanism to increase the pool of E-Rate funds.
Free and inexpensive tools and content are inundating education, but innovative publishers are devising new paradigms for pedagogy based on cognitive research. Watch for new players just releasing revolutionary products such as Foundations in Learning's Access Code and Insight Learning Technology's Algebra Insight (both ABA clients, for full disclosure).
And how do teachers learn about new techniques, tools, and resources? Teachers no longer need to be isolated by their classroom walls. Districts can make resources such as Atomic Learning and PD 360 available (also ABA clients), and teachers are also increasingly participating in education chats or subject specific education chats on Twitter, such as Edchat, NTChat (New Teach Chat), and ELLChat. Teachers share resources using Twitter, EduPLN, Google+, and Plurk. Teachers stay in touch using Google Hangouts and Skype. And teachers use all these resources to ask each other for help.
Finally, technology is freeing teachers to be the professionals they are. And it was clear while some change can happen classroom by classroom and teacher by teachers, the most profound changes happen when schools are led by principals with a vision. Leadership requires 4 conditions to be successful:
- Articulating a vision for modern education
- Providing support, training, time, and resources
- Rewarding appropriate teacher actions (not primarily with pay) and a willingess to take action against educators who do not hop on board
- Empowering teachers to take charge and then getting out of their way.
I came away from this year's ISTE really energized.
And for no extra charge, here is a travel tip: Don't pack at 1:00 in the morning.
This seemed like a really good idea at the time. Many of you know that my computer case is a backpack, which means I have to carry it. But my carry-on has roller wheels. So it made sense to pack my heavy laptop in my carry-on. And since everyone knows you pack your heavy things, like shoes, on the bottom, I packed the laptop, carefully folded my shirts, dress pants, and suit jackets on top. I tied everything down. Closed the suitcase, congratulated myself, and went to bed.
Checking in and then waiting in the security line was so easy without all that extra weight. It wasn't until after taking off my shoes and belt that I realized that I had to figure out how to get the laptop out of the suitcase without wrinkling all my clothes and without getting all 200 people behind me angry at being held up. The short answer is that neither was possible.
But I'm passing this lesson on to all of you. Don't pack at 1:00 in the morning; pack before you go out.