An Educator’s Reflection on the 2018 ISTE Conference

Guest post by Jorge Valenzuela, educational coach at Lifelong Learning Defined, Inc

June 29, 2018

#ISTE18 in Chicago was the first ISTE conference I attended and needless to say I was profoundly impacted with the positive energy, passion for educating children with the very best edtech, and collegiality radiating from practically everyone I encountered!

Through attending sessions, the keynotes, the playgrounds, or simply walking through the expo — it was a fantastic opportunity to meet many of my edtech heroines/heroes in person and also increase my ISTE tribe!

I also had many takeaways from the conference, and if I had to pinpoint the most significant ones for me (personally) to share with other attendees and educators, I would narrow them down to the following four.

ISTE Membership

For those who have not, I highly recommend becoming a member of ISTE — International Society for Technology Education. Edtech should be used by all teachers to augment instruction and ISTE can help ALL educators build their skills, work with others and save time and precious resources.

A part of membership that I find extremely helpful for continually refining my practice are the ISTE standards for both students AND all educators. There’s even a set of standards for Computer Science Educators, which I regularly refer to in both my lesson planning and writing.

There are several membership options to choose from, and I would encourage colleagues to select the best option for them and their professional organization(s).

Professional Learning Networks

The ISTE Professional Learning Networks (PLNs) are highly effective for assisting educators with both knowledge acquisition and practice enhancement by participating in collaborative professional development, study of pedagogical approaches and best practices in our profession. At ISTE 2018, the PLNs were in full force and during the PLN Meet and Greet, I became better acquainted with some of other PLNs that I previously did not know a lot about (i.e., the Digital Equity and the Teacher Education Networks). I now plan to join those as they will be integral to helping me refine my practices as a researcher in teacher preparation and also a better provider and collaborator of equitable edtech access for all learners. I highly recommend colleagues explore their professional needs and wants and connect with the right PLN to continue the learning throughout the year!

Computer Science Education

I believe the ISTE conference was the premier hub for everything Computer Science (CS) Education! From the expo to the CS Firehose and the CS Playground any educator (from the beginner to the expert) could find resources for leveling up their practice. Amazing CS champions like Code.org, littleBits Education, VEX Robotics, pi-top Education, LEGO Education, and Microsoft (among many others) were all present and readily available to meet ISTE attendees where they are in their CS journey by helping them with the appropriate support/PD for growth.

littleBits Keytar, ISTE 2018

Digital Equity

Digital equity and how to remedy accessibility for all learners was a VERY hot topic throughout the entire conference. Personally, I realized that there is so much more that I can do in this regard. Patricia Brown’s TED Talk empowered me with the courage required for having important conversations with both colleagues and students for using digital media for much needed social change! The amazing panel of student community leaders moderated by Jennie Magiera was also a fine example of why our project-based learning (PBL) units need to structure public products that utilize edtech for developing the advocacy skills of our students’. For this purpose, I highly recommend joining the Digital Equity PLN.

Notable Resources

Other notable resources that I like and highly recommend to educators, conference attendees, and ISTE members to continue exploring and learning about are:

Jorge Valenzuela is an educational coach and a graduate teaching assistant at Old Dominion University. He is also the lead coach for Lifelong Learning Defined, Inc., a national faculty of the Buck Institute for Education, a national teacher effectiveness coach with the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA) and part of the Lead Educator program for littleBits. You can connect with Jorge on Twitter @JorgeDoesPBL to continue the conversation.