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The Big Buzz at ISTE this Year — Another “R”?


I may (or may not) remember ISTE 2010 for receiving the first copies of my new book, A Gardener’s Approach to Learning. I gave copies to some of the educators I’ve worked with repeatedly over the years. Here, Jeff Whipple, New Brunswick, Canada, receives the first copy. Doug Peterson blogged about the book here, after reading it on the plane home.

It seems like each year we come away from this international conference realizing some new big buzz, some new technology or application to wrap our technology integration attention around. It’s been digital story telling, blogging, podcasts, Twitter, and others going back — probably to The Print Shop.

This year interactive white boards (IWB) had a big presence. But their prominence owed to two related factors. Many schools, ripe with stimulus money, invested in their classrooms by installing projectors and IWBs. It was an obvious choice, from a perspective of supporting teachers, (though not so much from the view point of transforming teaching and learning — I’m not getting into that in this blog post). Secondly, with the sell of who-knows-how-many IWBs, Smart, Promethean, and others were able to impose a heavy visual presence on the conference.

But that doesn’t make a buzz.

Apple’s iPad also made its presence felt with far more lit of faces than I would have ever imagined. I carried mine with me everywhere and will report on that experience later.  But just about everyone I talked to felt that the jury is still out on how much transformative impact this device will have on teaching and learning.

All in all, I think that Chris Lehmann said it best in his ..ISTE reflections.

..This year, to me, it felt like there was a deepening at work. People weren’t running around as much for what’s new. Many of the people I talked to were looking to figure out how to make sense of what they already had learned.

I felt drawn to sessions and conversations that seemed to be taking me to where we need to go with what we’ve got. There seemed to be two kinds of conversations going on in the presentation rooms and in the halls. There was training, and then there was professional development. There were those who pursued new tools and their mastery. And then there were those who wished to walk away from the presentations and conversations with new insights, better understandings, new stories, more philosophical backing, and a richer and more practical vision of contemporary education.

I think that both areas were exceedingly covered by ISTE 2010.

After re-reading this post several times, it occurs to me that there was one word that kept popping up in conversations.  ..and it is fitting that I share this on July 4th, the celebrated date of my countries signing of its Declaration of Independence.

The word was Revolution.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


  • http://macmomma.blogspot.com Lee Kolbert

    Hi David,
    This year, i strategized how I was going to spend my time in sessions and I was hoping to gain some insight into how to get more teachers on board with some new thinking and so I was looking for some interesting PD ideas. I was also focused on the whole concept of safety as I saw that as a real issue with the parents in my classroom this past year. I came away with some very good ideas and things to think about from sessions and also informal conversations. As for new tools: I have so many tools in my classroom that i’m not even using. When I returned to the classroom this past year, I was lucky enough to have some of my vendor friends hook me up with the latest and greatest for my classroom. People are surprised to learn that I rarely use my interactive tablet or clickers. I think there are lots of people in the same boat where we’ve hit a point where we have some great tools, now let’s slow down and figure out some authentic, compelling reason to use them; if there are any. And let’s stop spending more money on items we’re not using. It’s like the buffet where there are so many good things to eat so you take a little of everything. Now that I’ve tasted the items, I’m ready to fill my plate with just what was really good and make a substantial meal of it. Make sense?

    It was nice seeing you again at ISTE and hope to see you again soon.

  • http://barbarabray.net Barbara Bray

    Hi David,
    I agree that we are in a Revolution. Schools are changing or, at least, need to change. There are so many tools including Web 2.0 and new apps that no one can keep on top of them all. What I did see was some innovation on what people are doing with the tools they have already. I got excited about how teachers are changing how they teach so students are creating and innovating and taking more of a responsibility for their own learning. Bernie Dodge shared how his students at SDSU are creating Board games using critical thinking and then publishing them at gamecrafter.com. Not only is this a cool way to publish your games, it can be a way to make money. I learned about scalable games from Agentsheets and played with creative tools like Frames from Tech4Learning and Animationish from Fablevision. I guess I love play and being creative. That’s where I hope to see the Revolution. I’m focusing more on Playshops instead of Workshops. School and learning should be fun. I say let’s have a Revolution and bring Play back into the mix. It was great seeing you at ISTE and I am going to get a copy of your new book!!

  • http://pause2play.org Sheri Edwards

    I agree with both Lee and David — I’m not looking for the greatest gadget or Web 2.0 tool. I can find the tool I need when my students and I need it. I want my students using technology, which means I’d like money spent on infrastructure, broadband access, and computing devices in my classroom so all students can access our Google Apps in Education and all students can access the information that helps them answer their questions when they ask them and need to ask them.

    I’m also looking for Professional Development for my staff who now have seen what their students want and need to do – and how their lessons can be enhanced for more engagement for students. We need to transform our ideas of teaching and learning so we are creating, recreating, considering, connecting, collaborating, sharing, reflecting with our students and other classes around the world. It’s a mind-shift, just a step to the side, that can be made with connections to those already doing it.

    I think many teachers are stuck as I am — willing and able to enter the revolution, but without access, hardware, and support, how do we stay with our students who use and create at home or with friends and who know what they could be doing in schools? And they need wisdom in online etiquette and citizenship to which schools can guide them; right now they’re teaching themselves. Wouldn’t it be nice to capture that self-direction in school? Isn’t that what education promotes — life-long learners?

    So, the revolution has started but some of us are just sparklers waiting to join those who have the real fireworks. And thank you both for lighting the fuse that inspires us.

    Sheri Edwards (grammasheri)

  • http://www.quisitivity.org Gerald Aungst

    David, I was having a similar thought this morning. I also agree with what Chris Lehmann said on Twitter today, that perhaps “evolution” is a better word, but I think there needs to be a bit of the upheaval that the word revolution brings with it. I think the founding fathers would agree that their Revolution was not a new idea, but that they were indeed paying repect to everything and everyone that came before them. They just were in the right place to do something with it.

    I can distinctly remember about 15 years ago when my district was buzzing about the new technology that was going to revolutionize the way we taught and the way kids learned. We invested in hardware and software, poured time and money into teaching people how to use them, and our county built a library of resources around it that we could use for free any time we liked. There were resources and materials available for just about any subject, and the best part was, it was all interactive, with students and teachers able to engage with the content, not just passively observe it.

    What was this revolutionary tool? The video laserdisc player. Remember those? So did all of the potential ever get realized? Nope. The players ended up gathering dust on the shelf next to the VCRs that continued to get heavy use, and eventually were used to hold up the DVD players that came next. I’m more than a little concerned that the current fads will go the same way. If I got nothing else out of ISTE this year, it is that the philosophy, the pedagogy, and the vision have to come before we choose the technology that will carry it. If we just lay new technology on top of the old methods, we’ll just end up pouring funds into expensive shelf liners and paperweights (since technology doesn’t seem to have eliminated the paper yet!)

  • http://plnaugle.blogspot.com Paula Naugle


    I enjoyed reading your post and the comments that preceded mine. I have to disagree with you on the R standing for revolution this year. I think that already happened starting back in 2004 with the onslaught of Web 2.0 and all the tools that have cropped up since that time. I think the R word I heard most often at ISTE this year was “reflection”. I had more conversations with people who are reflecting on how to use the tools properly in their classrooms, or which tools they need to really learn and which ones they can let go of.

    I heard more reflecting on how they could use technology to be greener and go paperless. There were many conversations about policy and the lessening of filters in their districts. Many reflected about what they had accomplished in their classrooms this year regarding technology integration and where they want to head next year.

    I know that there are still way too many educators who have not joined the revolution you speak about, but they are so late. They actually should be reflecting about that at this time by asking themselves these questions: Why haven’t I pushed harder for technology in my classroom? Why haven’t I taken responsibility for my own professional development? Why haven’t I joined social networking sites where learning occurs 24/7? Why haven’t I read blogs, books, or watched TED talks?

    It is time to stop blaming the school districts, the budget cuts, and the lack of this and that, and get out there and learn about the revolution that has happened. There are such great webinars, sessions, and discussions happening everyday. Teachers need to grab hold of some of the opportunities that are available and use them.

    Yes, I definitely think reflection was the R word that sums up ISTE for me this year. Let the reflection continue to move us forward.

  • http://twitter.com/gardenglen Glen Westbroek

    To continue with Paula’s thoughts …

    I agree that reflection is and should be a major focus for all educators (including administrators.) My concern is the teacher(s) who continue teaching the same way using the same tools they used years ago (printed worksheets and planned reading with lectures.) If I do not reflect on my pedagogy, I do my students a disservice. My focus at ISTE10 was to look for ideas to challenge my thinking and cause me to reflect more. I’ve already considered changes for the coming year – thus I consider ISTE10 was a huge success.

  • http://see.ludwig.lajuntaschools.org Chris Ludwig

    I’m going to partially agree with you that ISTE 2010 was more about vision than technology, but I’m concerned that the subset of people for whom that is true is a relatively small population. There are still a lot of educators who are entranced with the tools or befuddled by the tools, but either way it is about the tools being used.

    Think back to the scene in the vendor exhibition area: was it crowded with educators? Yup. Were educators learning about the latest and greatest fancy technologies so they could spend their grant money? Yup. Not bad things, as such, but not the revolution we hope for, at least not yet.

    Personally, I had a great time at ISTE where, like you, I sought out sessions and individuals to learn more about what to do with what I have already. But from what I saw in the exhibition hall upstairs, plenty of people are still willing to let the tool do the teaching, and until that changes, the revolution is on hold.

    • http://2cents.davidwarlick.com David Warlick

      I agree with you Chris and I, too, spent time in the exhibit hall, looking for what was new. I’m planning another blog post about my experience there. It is important that the tools be part of this picture and that the vendors be part of this picture. We are all partners in this endeavor. As I said in the blog post, I think that ISTE 2010 did a good job at providing both the tech and the technique.

  • http://tsearl.edublogs.org/ TonySearl

    My NSW Australia Public High School classroom certainly is unrecognisable from just 12 short months ago. A tech hardware revolution that will mean nought unless there is also subsequent change to how any ‘new learning’ is ultimately valued.

    We’ve had what our former PM called a digital education revolution (DER) and Mr Rudd supported that with unprecedented tax investment. Our new leader is the former Education Minister, so here’s hoping our first female PM, Julia Gillard, continues the revolution.

    My Public School classroom tech now includes an IWB (short throw projector) over one half of my students issued permanently with laptops (to take home too!)and Wi-Fi access throughout all learning spaces. Oh and even a laptop for master learners. We’ve got plenty of hardware, now. Equity and access boxes have all been ticked.

    The focus now is to consolidate this rapid hardware rollout with meaningful learning changes. What exactly do we want? is our classes new guiding question.

    Yes, that’s a nice type of overwhelming to have and incrementally Public High schools in NSW are moving towards an answer.

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  • http://johnpeters1959.blogspot.com/ John Peters


    I’m one of those who now wants to “learn with what I already got!”

    I know in the past few years our school district has spent a lot of money on things like IWB, Student Response Systems, mounting projectors in many teachers room and other wonderful tehnologies. I have most of them in my classroom myself and enjoy using them. Now, my challenge, is to learn how to use these tools effectively with my students. I’m okay with most of them but there’s always room for improvement, right?

    We had an interesting, albeit short, conversation about Apple’s iPad following the “Are iPads a 1:1 Solution?” session at Edubloggercon on Saturday. Will it be a “Game Changer”? I don’t have the answer to that yet. I think that the iPad could be an extremely effective part of of a school’s technology integration but I’m just not sure how at this point. I do know that our SpecEd daughter uses and loves her iPad. After we bought one a few months back we sent it to school with her and her teachers used many apps with her. Has it totally changed the way she learns and interacts with her environment? No, but it is another piece of the puzzle we are trying with her.

    You said the Big Buzz at ISTE was: The word was Revolution. I read Chris Lehmann’s post “Evolution or Revolution”. My comments were:

    “There are many inspiring educators who are tired of the status quo and desire to see that change happen NOW! I think I saw many such teachers and administrators in attendance in Denver last week.

    The question is when will the type of change we desire occur? How will we know how to help it happen and can we convince those we are responsible to such as superintendents and school boards to allow it to happen?”

    I don’t know where we are headed but I’m glad I’m along for the ride!

  • http://www.teacherthink.com TeacherThink

    Amen. I think it is about time we stop looking at “what” we are using and investigate how we are using it. I hope that is part of what you are conveying here.


    • http://2cents.davidwarlick.com David Warlick

      I think that what you write is about the effect. There are those who are turned on by the light and those who are turned on by what the light can be shined on (http://bit.ly/d3uok8). What I’m concerned about is the cause.

      For some, technology is about better ways of accomplishing school. The way that IWBs are being sold and most often being used are more effective ways of empowering the teaching and possibly improving the learning. But if learning is one of the key criticals of being successful in rapidly changing times (lifelong learning), then what we need to be doing is empowering the learning not the teaching. But we’re talking about a different kind of schooling here — unschooling, if we might delve into the conference/unconference conversation.

      What I’m trying to convey is that we need to look hard at the world that ICT, biotech, nanotech, and all the other indications and catalysts of change that are happening, and figure out how that changes what it is to be educated.

  • Susan Young

    How an I purchase a copy of your book? @dougpete’s review was very convincing.

    • http://2cents.davidwarlick.com David Warlick
      • http://ipadloyola.blogspot.com David Marcovitz

        But I can’t get the book in iBook for my iPad.

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