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Learning Library Blog Top takeaways from ISTE 2015
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Top takeaways from ISTE 2015

By Jon Castelhano
September 2, 2015
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Every year I return from the ISTE conference with a backpack full of information and a Google Doc filled with session notes. Like everyone else who has been to ISTE conferences over the years, I have come to find that the connections made are invaluable, but there is still a benefit to sharing the little gems with others who didn’t attend. These are just a few highlights that I found in my pile of “stuff.”

Maker movement. I think it is safe to say that Raspberry Pi has made a dent in the maker movement. This program allows students to learn programming skills and create technology-rich projects that do not break the bank. At the Raspberry Pi + iPad session, Mike Amante did a great job sharing his experiences with the device, explaining how he is using the technology with his students and expounding on his plans to expand the program in the fall. Two representatives from the Raspberry Pi Foundation surprised the attendees at the end of the session to share news about Picademy USA.

Innovator’s mindset. If you have ever listened to or follow George Couros (@gcouros) on Twitter, then you understand that he has a great way of using short, thoughtful statements that make you really think about education and what it can be. I always try to catch one of his sessions at the ISTE conference because he never fails to provide great thoughts that can easily be shared at administrative meetings, staff meetings or lunchtime conversations. Here are a few statements that he shared in the session Developing the Innovator’s Mindset.

  • Relationships are the most important piece in schools now and in the future.
  • The biggest barrier is our own way of thinking.
  • We must think differently.
  • The digital factory model is still a factory model.
  • Technology is more than a tool.
  • Technology can be transformational in the hands of a great teacher.
  • Would you want to spend all day in your own classroom?
  • Everyone is a teacher and a learner.

One of the hardest things for many educators to do is build their professional learning network (PLN). Taking that first step from picking the right social media platform to venturing out of the four walls of the classroom can be scary, but it’s absolutely necessary to grow as an individual.

The session The Passionate PLN by Jessica Raleigh (@TyrnaD), was a very informative, hands-on experience that introduced Twitter to everyone as a way to connect and make a difference. One highlight from Jessica’s session was learning how to connect with The Breakfast Club (@BFC530) on Twitter and use the hashtag #BFC530 to participate and ask questions during a Twitter chat. If you are looking to build your PLN and connect with others, you can check out this group every weekday morning at 5:30 a.m. ET.

Looking ahead ISTE 2016. The ISTE conference is a good destination because it has something for everyone and consistently provides a variety of sessions. If you are an educator looking to participate in an event with options, and you want to grow your PLN and meet like-minded peers, I recommend educating your school boards and administrators about the opportunities ISTE has to offer. Finding local events, lunch-and-learns, and Twitter chats, and meeting your colleagues for coffee on a Saturday morning also provide collaborative time and opportunities for connections to help you grow professionally. Get out of those four walls and see what others are doing and share!

Jon Castelhano is director of technology at Apache Junction USD in Phoenix, Arizona.