Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Lessons from ISTE in Denver, Colorado, June 2016

Spontaneity overtook me as I decided to attend ISTE in Denver, Colorado this year. Hearing numerous praises from friends who attended in previous years encouraged me to get excited about experiencing it for myself. 

I am entering my third year as a middle school Technology Club advisor, and there are numerous technologies I have wanted to learn about for the past few years. I have specifically desired to learn about electronic wearables and Arduino, and more recently, I have desired to learn about breakout/escape rooms, 360-degree virtual reality/Google Cardboard, and integrating technology more in my day-to-day lessons (essentially saving paper). Next year, my students will also be writing to pen pals in Oregon, so my pen pal teacher and I have been seeking out ways to utilize technology more often. 

Upon arriving at ISTE, I knew it was going to be overwhelming... and I especially knew I would not be able to experience everything! Over 16,000 educators registered for the conference. I decided to enrich my experience by signing up for a few paid workshops: designing breakout rooms, e-textiles, and making Arduino robots with recycled materials. I also had an idealistic list going on for concurrent sessions I wanted to attend (I turned out going to most of them until I got tired and headed out to the Denver Science Museum for half of the last day instead). 

Here are my biggest takeaways from attending ISTE: 

I had to learn to embrace my imperfections as well as the things I am not so good at. 

I tell everyone I am awful at dancing, which I pretty much am, but I am especially awful at sewing. Well, I am just inexperienced and caught on fairly quickly, but the e-textiles workshop was the second time I had ever attempted sewing. Gina Marcel and Katelin O'Hare from New York University led the workshop. We were given a LilyPad Arduino, LilyPad LEDs, conductive thread, and numerous materials to make our own dolls. I did a decent job in cutting out felt in designing my doll, which I spontaneously named Elodee, yet when I got to the sewing portion, it was arduous for me for a while. 

Eventually, I succeeded. Katelin, a master sewer, answered a few persistent questions of mine. I almost messed up because I bunched up quite a bit of conductive thread in the back, but it turned out working. I learned some strategies for teaching the middle school students about wearables this fall-- and they had a wonderful introductory presentation that pretty much covered all the logistics that will clear up many of the students' questions. 

The following morning (while adjusting to the altitude difference with the very best I could give), I participated in the workshop about making recycled robots with Arduino. Brian Huang from SparkFun Electronics led the workshop. Immediately, when I saw the Arduino sitting in front of me, fresh out of the box, I remembered how I tried to implement it when I started Technology Club. There were a few master Arduinoists (who are now high school sophomores) who were quite experienced in working with microcontrollers, but I remember sitting back, kind of dumbfounded. 

It was not the easiest thing I had ever done, but I can say I finally programmed an Arduino! I am encouraged to take things a step further, although I will read more about things before proceeding this next time. SparkFun has many wonderful resources on their website, and now I possess a bit more confidence to delve into them. 

I was also able to succeed in learning about Roger Wagner's Hyperduino, which was fairly easy. Roger Wagner is pretty much a legend because 13 1/2 years ago, I had to utilize HyperStudio in my Educational Technology course at Flagler College. Hyperduino is even cooler because it lets students push buttons and light up specific components of projects-- and more. There are numerous "personalities" the Hyperduino can take on, which is incredible! I was extremely proud of myself for learning about something and then being able to teach about it minutes later. 

As technological as I am, I do not use as much technology as I could in instruction. 

Attending two Google sessions got me pumped. One was officially a Google workshop while the other one introduced a lesson using Google's resources. The first session, hosted by Michelle Armstrong, was called "Choose Your Own Adventure with Google Forms". The second session, hosted by Sylvia Duckworth and Sandra Chow, was called "Virtually Amazing: VR in the Classroom". Both were fantastic sessions because the lessons can be implemented in ANY subject area. 

"Choose Your Own Adventure with Google Forms" was awesome because my students love reading these kinds of stories. Having them create those stories using Google Forms will be even better. This blog post describes how a fifth grade teacher implemented the lesson in her classroom, this example shows you how one of these adventures pans out, and this tutorial/explanation is pretty impressive. 

The VR session was wonderful because in just thirty minutes, I received a plethora of resources for my students to utilize virtual reality this fall (and have it enhance their educational experience rather than just use it for kicks). I learned a few ways in which people can take 360 photos for cardboard viewers as well, which is exciting because I want to take some photos for our pen pal class. Here is a blog post about how the session leaders used VR in the classroom setting. 

Another session that blew me away was about Smithsonian's new Learning Lab. ((I seriously mean NEW because it just debuted while I was at ISTE!)) With this website, you are able to step into the role of a museum curator and create categorized pages for your students. There are also features that enhance the students' experience above and beyond. 

Last, I had the opportunity to attend a BrainPop session and receive a six-month subscription (which I will love using in science class). BrainPop is about way more than the wonderful animated videos with Tim and Moby, which makes me excited to use the mapping and primary sources features just as much. 

I can make a breakout/escape room after all!

Really, they are not difficult to implement. I just needed to experience three of them this summer to get the point. One of the really cool aspects of ISTE was the Breakout EDU bus, where our group... nearly... broke out. I also participated in a workshop at ISTE about escape rooms and had the opportunity to participate in my first Breakout EDU-inspired room at EdCamp Magic in Orlando a month before. 

You have to figure out which kinds of locks you want to use (you don't have to use all the ones in the kit) and write a game with clues that challenges those solving the mystery. I have now played a breakout game with 30 people, 15 people, and 7 people, so I've seen the numerous ways in which a game can be organized. 

I think I will start with my eighth grade Technology Club members next month... 


Of course, I enjoyed connecting with numerous individuals as well. I met Dr. Ron Clark-- a role-model of mine for many years-- and many people from Twitter chats over time. I was like, "Um, I'm @love5thgrade..." in a soft voice, though I pressed on and had some awesome conversations beyond introductions! I also reunited with many friends. 


ISTE encouraged me quite a bit. I feel like I have grown substantially as an educator this summer because my students will be learning to embrace technology on a new level this coming year. I am excited to have my website debuting again soon, too, and sharing our adventures beyond our classroom setting. 

If you attended ISTE, what were your biggest take-aways? 


  1. Hi Victoria!
    One of my takeaways was that people want to be great at what they do. Some just take a different road than most. Whether it be to share tools or to be famous, they want to do their best.
    Thank you for sharing your takeaways.
    Do you have a specific unit you want to use with your students?

    1. Hi, Rodney! Thanks for responding. We met at Shannon's party. I agree with you; there are many educators out there who desire to strengthen themselves and be tremendous at what they do. My biggest goal when I decided to attend ISTE was to be a better Technology Club advisor, though I feel I am now going to be a more effective and knowledgeable educator as well in my fifth grade classroom. Although I've always embraced innovation, there were some new things I learned that I cannot wait to try with my students! ...Especially the Smithsonian Learning Lab and Choose Your Own Adventure ideas because they are easy to implement from the get-go. I think both those ideas can be used when I collaborate with my friend who teaches eighth grade Language Arts. I also now feel more passionate about Google Cardboard and think it will be an amazing way to learn Social Studies/geographical topics. =) - Victoria

  2. I love you takeaways from ISTE. All of them are so crucial for your growth as an educator! Keep on shining!

    1. You as well, Victoria! I cannot wait to read more on your weblog. =)