I had the opportunity to attend the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Annual Conference and Exposition this week. With almost 13,000 attendees and more than 10,000 backchannel tweets (via #ISTE11 ), ISTE is the largest #edtech  event in the United States. Primarily a K-12 event, ISTE felt quite a bit like the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference . With endless amounts of technology sessions, engaging keynotes, blogger cafes, and "social butterfly" lounges, ISTE was the place to be for teachers, administrators, and ed tech leaders. The exhibit hall featured several big name technology/learning companies, including: Canon, Microsoft, Google, Adobe, HP, Pearson, Dell, Blackboard and SunGard. Notably absent, as usual, was everyone's favorite fruit company. Seriously Apple...why don't you attend these type of events?
Why did I attend ISTE?
Education and technology at the K-12 realm is fascinating to learn about for someone who spends most of their time thinking about higher education. Some of the themes and issues at the higher education level were as present at ISTE as they would be at any higher education event. I frequently heard people talking about the need to utilize technology in the classroom, how students should be taught in ways that maximize their learning, and that the sage on the stage model of education doesn't work any better in the fourth grade as it does in the college classroom.
The iPad was easily the most-spotted piece of hardware at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. It seemed like everyone's favorite smartphone was the iPhone 4. It's too bad that Apple doesn't do more at events like ISTE as they are a crowd favorite. I did have the chance to demo HP's webOS-powered TouchPad. HP is going head-to-head with iOS and Android with their new tablet. The interface is quite nice and the hardware was decent. However, it still didn't feel magical...yet. Since the unit I was using was a pre-launch demo, my hope is that HP makes the interface a bit faster. It's just missing a bit of zip.
There were three stories that stood out to me at ISTE: mobile in the classroom, corporate activism, and the Flipped Classroom.
Several teachers that I spoke with talked about needing to allow students to use their phones in educationally relevant ways as opposed to simply banning devices in the classrooms. Ed Madison , a graduate teaching fellow at the University of Oregon, told me that "we don't remove pens from classrooms out of fear that students might doodle or scribble down ideas...Why would we remove the tool when we just have to figure out ways to use it that allows for learning."
One of the more inspirational sessions that I attended at ISTE was about the Adobe Youth Voices  project. Students in underserved communities were given access to software that allowed for them to create some amazing multimedia projects . Corporate advocacy in education can be extremely transformative when it's about empowering students and giving back to communities.
The Flipped Classroom  concept reminded me of what's being done in higher education to change the traditional pedagogical tactics that are pervasive in a lot of university classrooms. "Flipping" the classroom at the K-12 level will mean that students that go to college will have a greater expectation of how their courses will be taught. ISTE made me want to go back to high school because the kids of today are going to be the college students of tomorrow. They are going to use technology and expect us to do the same.
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Disclosure: My attendance at #ISTE11 was supported by the Adobe Education Team .