1. EdTechWomen Leadership Dinner – ISTE Board Member Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach started the evening off by encouraging all of us to embrace our inner girl in becoming stronger leaders, which sparked a rich discussion at my table about how our girlish tendencies to ask questions, be unsure, and get very excited might really help our teams. But we wondered if those same qualities make it more difficult to be respected in external situations such as raising investment. Matt Wallaert, co-founder of GetRaised.com, then took the mic to talk about a different kind of raise, and the importance of using data and logic when asking for an increase in pay. Our table pointed out that in teaching, many are locked into a salary schedule, but these women still need help in advocating for stipends or increased prep time when taking on more responsibility.
3. Butterfly in the Sky – Common Sense Media invited LeVar Burton to share his story and talk about the Kickstarter campaign to relaunch Reading Rainbow in the digital age. It was incredible to hear how passionate he is about education and meeting kids where they are. Back when I was a kid, that meant television, now it’s mobile devices. All he has to say is “But don’t take my word for it,” and I’m transported back in time.
4. Letting Loose with Karaoke – Sometimes it seems like there’s a divide between the folks who make educational technology and those who use it day to day in the classroom. It’s hard to find events that successfully bridge that divide, truly bringing together teachers and tech companies. ISTE tries to bridge that divide, but there ends up being a big split between the sessions and the expo hall. At the EdTechWomen dinner, I was sitting next to a teacher who lamented that there weren’t a lot of teachers involved, mostly women from industry. ISTE Karaoke was almost the opposite ratio, mostly educators with a few of us tech company folks sprinkled in. But I didn’t mind, that’s my kind of crowd – no one parties like teachers and librarians! Reminded me of my regular happy hour when I taught in San Francisco that we’d dubbed, “Teachers Gone Wild.”
I wasn’t sure how they were going to pull off a Karaoke event where all 16,000 ISTE attendees were invited, but they did a great job. Two stages helped split up the crowd, and the live band backing up the main stage was fantastic. Pre-selecting the performers based on video entries guaranteed a higher quality show. And let’s face it, Karaoke is about the unexpected, and no one expects a librarian-type to sing the blues or a Minecraft gamer to belt out a pop anthem. Techy-teachers make for some great Karaoke singers!
5. Device Accessibility – My personal goal this year at ISTE was to learn more about how we could make our games more accessible to a wider range of abilities. How can we make Addimals work better for a child who has trouble seeing or how can Mt. Multiplis work for a child who has limited mobility? I went to several sessions and events targeting UDL and inclusive ed, but my favorite was an overview of the accessibility features of iOS devices by Jennifer Courduff of Azusa Pacific University. She gave some great tips for playing around with these features (most important, don’t turn on VoiceOver unless you’ve enabled the “Accessiblity Shortcut” to turn it off/on with 3 clicks of the home button – otherwise you’ll need to plug in your iPad to turn it off). I’ve attached some of the links from Dr. Courduff’s presentation, but here is one of my favorite videos from the session.