Reflections on ISTE 2016

I have just returned from the 2016 ISTE Conference in Denver Colorado. Like every ISTE conference, I return both exhausted and exhilarated. I had a personal milestone at ISTE, becoming the Chair for the Independent School Educator’s Network; I am both excited and a little overwhelmed about the prospects of the new year. Looking back at ISTE, here are a few of the highlights.

Amazon Inspire

gallery-1467038201-amazon-inspire-landscapeAmazon announced the beta launch of its teacher platform, Amazon Inspire. It will be a free marketplace for teachers to access lesson plans, worksheets, and a variety of instructional materials. This is Amazon’s first serious step into the education market and I’m curious to see how it evolves. I signed up for early access, and you can to using this link.

Google Rolls out even more Tools

Google highlighted some very cool tools. One that especially caught my eye is Google Cast; this is a Chrome extensions that will allow users to project their screen wirelessly from one Chrome browser to another. It’s still in beta form, but holds a lot of promise. Google has also double downed on their programming tool Pencil. They have provided a lot of free tools to make programming with Pencil much easier and some tools to help you get started coding music, games, and art. It’s a great tool to bring coding into your classroom.

Microsoft Doubles Down on OneNote & MineCraft

Microsoft_OneNote_2013_logo.svgMicrosoft is putting a lot of weight behind OneNote (its powerful note-taking tool); paired with a Surface or other touch-based computer, it’s a great resource in the classroom. While I’m a great fan, I still see it reserved solely for older students (think High School and College) power users. It’s interface will intimidate beginners and it’s far too complex for elementary and all but the most advanced middle-schoolers. MineCraft was literally everywhere. One of my goals for the next year is to become more proficient in this tool so that I can bring it into my classroom.

Makerspaces are having a Moment

My good friend Vinnie Vrotny has been a makerspace advocate far before they were “a thing.” He put together and hosted our Makerspace Playground, highlighting cool activities and learning spaces that encourage exploration and creativity. Various themes on makerspaces and tinkering were omnipresent on the exhibitor floor as well as in various sessions.

ISTE is always an exciting time for educators, we get to see what’s coming and what has been going on at other schools around the world. I’m excited to watch these new tools unfold over the next year and then reflect on them again next year after ISTE 2017 in San Antonio.

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