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#ISTE2015 Follow-Up: Where the Old is New

Having some chance to digest #ISTE2015 a little bit (and time to enjoy a bit more of the summer!), I thought I’d follow up with my impressions of the conference.

When I returned to my district, two people asked me what I thought of ISTE this year. (And yes, I am a little annoyed that the http://www.isteconference.org link now takes you to the ISTE2016 landing page already!)

The first thought that comes to mind when I think of #ISTE2015 is: Where the Old is New (or Finally Relevant)!  I have been to many ISTE conferences (and NECC conferences back in the day should you care to research) and I have found them to traditionally to have rare moments of greatness. But in the end, the emphasis was mostly on computers, not the learning. I would try to find sessions given by Alan November, David Thornburg, David Warlick, Jamie McKenzie and Bernie Dodge. The ideas they put forth are still VERY relevant.  And FINALLY taking hold.

While many sessions were very good this time around, this session was EXTREMELY interesting (and provocative):

I read a lot of Will Richardson‘s stuff these days. His standpoint (from a parent and taxpayer point of view) is that he would be willing to spend money on computers in the classroom if the students could have agency over the learning . BOOM!  The premise of the panel was to debate whether after all of this time, has the introduction to computers to the classroom been worth it?  What has changed since computers were introduced?

I have to admit that not much has changed in educational technology over the years. Sure, the devices have come a long way, but the ideas “worth spreading” are still basically the same and they are FINALLY making it to the masses.  I found myself turning to my colleagues more times than I care to admit and saying, “This isn’t new. We knew this a long time ago.” I must have heard, “it’s not about the technology, it’s about the learning” about 50 times during my four day stay at the PA Convention Center. But I’m convinced, while walking through the minefield they called the exhibitor’s room at the conference, that we are not all there yet.

During the panel I mentioned above, Will Richardson posited, “How would this convention change if the name was changed to, ‘ISLE: International Society for Learning Educators'”? Would we finally all focus on the learning? Would educators as a whole get the idea that it is JUST as important that keep learning?

The “Maker Movement” was in every nook and cranny of #ISTE2015. This is the notion where digital technology meets the classic do-it-yourself world of crafting and small scale construction.  3-D Printers reign supreme and provide the new angle to the familiar world of crafting things. One could argue that 3D printers will be in the homes of tomorrow. And since collaboration has been streamlined with the new technology, one does not have to work all by themselves anymore.

But again, much of this originated from earlier technology and work that has come before.   I immediately thought of Seymour Papert’s collaboration with Lego on Mindstorms. Children learned programming by building their own robots!

All in all, I felt #ISTE2015 was worth my time.I reconnected with several old friends and renewed friendships. I was inspired by the Jack Gallagher’s Keynote about his journey of letting go and letting his child (who has Autism Spectrum Disorder)  take charge of his own learning.

But as much as I enjoyed my time there, I can’t get a quote from Seymour Papert out of my head:

At some point it will be as ridiculous to have a world conference in computers and education as to have a world conference on pencils and education.

Papert. S. (1990, July). Perestroika and Epistemological Politics. Speech presented at the World Conference on Computers in Education. Sydney, Australia.