It was as big as the bloggers foretold. There were even more people, presentations, and exhibits than I had prepared for. My feet were as tired as the veterans predicted. The annual ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference is the mecca of all things related to the use of technology in education. The conference came to a conclusion on June 29th. Even though I only was able to attend 2 days, I feel like I was exposed to much more than a “conference worth” of information.
A main personal objective was to inform myself of any and all important emerging and current technologies, companies, and practices in the world of education. To do this, I headed to the exposition hall, where businesses showed off the pride and joy that was their product. To walk into the exhibition hall was a daunting task. I had only the time in between the numerous lectures, presentations, and panel discussions which I could not afford to miss. The sheer size of the space was remarkable. Rows and rows of tables, displays, and interactive demo areas were there to greet/confuse the passerby. I took it as a challenge to effectively manage my time in this vast labyrinth of valuable information mixed with sales pitches. I needed to pass by what would suck up my time at the conference without missing what was truly exciting and significant. The following few paragraphs outline some of the most notable educational tools I learned about in the exhibition hall.
Two of the companies I was most excited to stop and talk with were Brain Pop and Study Island. These are both websites that provide educational content in fun and engaging ways. What I found particularly exciting was the new ways these companies were pumping up their online educational services. The week of ISTE11 marked the release of the “game up” button on Brain Pop. This is a button on the Brain Pop homepage that takes the user to a variety of educational games within the Brain Pop website. Until now, Brain Pop has relied on creative and funny animated videos and quizzes as their major tools to teach. They know that significant learning can also come through well designed games that can be both fun and educational for the child.
The people at Study Island were showing off the addition of “clickers” into their educational program. The meat of Study Island is gaming and answering questions, but now an educator has an incredibly effective and efficient way to assess students through the use of Study Island and what’s known as CPS clickers. These are small remote control devices that each student can use to respond to questions ether posed by the teacher or on a test sheet. This is engaging for the student and makes assessment and grading tremendously easier for the teacher. Though this is not brand new for Study Island, I was informed that a new feature, animated lessons, will make their way to Study Island in the fall.
A highlight of my time spent exploring was checking out a 3D enabled school projector made by a company called Promethean. Employees demonstrated it to me in one of the two RV’s which they had in the exposition hall. I was able to don some stylish glasses and see things like frogs, cells, and plants as an impressive 3D display. With a wand, a student or teacher can rotate the image, peel away layers one at a time, and even zoom inside the image to look around. This software is presented by a company that Promethean partners with called cyber science 3D.
The problem with many of the products at exposition hall is that they are as expensive as they are exciting. The technology can be fantastic, but a school district budget simply may not allow it. It was nice to see some companies that allowed you to “tech-up” your classroom without relying on the necessary purchasing of expensive equipment. One such company was eSchools. Through an eSchools subscription, an existing classroom (even if it has an antique chalkboard) can experience a digital explosion. Teachers, students, and parents will have access to an all in one online classroom resource. Communication is made easy and assignments and homework can be done 100% paperless. Students can store work on their account and receive updates and events from their teacher either through email or as a bulletin on their eSchools homepage. Parents stay updated too with access to their child’s account. Through eSchools, they can even get notified of important classroom information by way of a text message sent to their phone.
To have spent all your ISTE11 time in the exposition hall would have been tragic. You probably would have gotten enough free t-shirts to renounce doing laundry for a month or two, but the conference had so much to offer everywhere you look. Passing on it altogether, however, wouldn’t be good either. I was not only able to see and personally experience these new technologies and ideas, but I was able to talk to the people who know the most about them. In some cases, I even got a word in with the creator of the product. For details on what was mentioned, visit the following sites:

www.brainpop.com
www.studyisland.com
www.prometheanworld.com
www.eschools.us

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