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Tools of the Trade: ISTE 2015

By Rita Sorrentino

Although I was only able to attend ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) for one day, I came away with a wealth of ideas, inspiration, and innovation for teaching, learning, and leading in a connected world. With so many sessions, workshops and tryouts to choose from, it is easy to get overwhelmed. I made a tentative agenda of events, leaving time to explore the expo hall, peek at poster sessions, and chat with friends and colleagues along the way.  Here are a few of my takeaways:

Playing is learning

At ISTE big kids get to spend time in the playground, toy around with new ideas, and engage hands-on with the latest tools. Having time and space to explore through play is a crucial part of learning that sparks creativity and leads to connected learning and productivity. Along with the Early Learning Technologies Playground, the Mobile Learning Playground and the iPlayground, vendor booths in the Expo Hall afforded ISTE attendees many opportunities to see, play and plan for using tech to truly enhance learning.

The keynote speaker, Jack Gallagher, told a moving story about coming to terms with his son’s autism. You can access the keynote address here. Be prepared to laugh and cry. After many failed attempts to “fix” Liam, Gallagher asked the educational community to help him find a way to help his son.  Technology unleashed Liam’s imagination and he found his passion in writing scripts and creating animations. He gained confidence, supported other students in their projects, and is now excited about studying animation in college. And that’s cool, according to Gallagher.

New to me was the Padcaster, an accessory for the iPad that adds stability to the mobile device for filmmaking, podcasting and other content production. The aluminum case has holes for connecting a tripod, light, lenses, flash, and microphone. At $149, it is not for the casual iPad user, but for those who want to be hands-free for capturing video. Padcaster transforms the slippery and clunky iPad video production into a more sophisticated media creation. Lights, camera, action!  Start to finish with one tool. Now live from …

Playful assessment was a term that tickled my ears. Although I missed the session with BrainPOP’s Kevin Miklasz, I hope to follow up on his ideas about the value of play in assessments of student learning. A quick search led me to this webinar focusing on playful assessment tools, such as Make-a-Map, Sortify, SnapThought and other gamification suggestions. These formative assessment strategies can help students learn in ways that are familiar and meaningful to them. Let’s get our play on!

Tammy Worcester Tang certainly plays around with technology. Visit her site, Tammy’s Technology Tips for Teachers, for a wealth of creative and effective ways for using technology in the classroom. Of particular interest is the student notebook created with a spreadsheet. You can play around with the border of cells and create your own, or click here to access the template and save to your Google Drive.

Connecting is learning

The advent of social media reinforced the importance of learning through interaction. By sharing our purposes and our passions, we connect the dots between our home, school and social lives. We deepen our identity, clarify our interests, and seek support for learning and living. To fully participate and benefit from connected learning, both students and teachers need to emphasize the necessity of good digital citizenship and the continued development of digital literacies. What better way to connect students to their world than through writing notebooks and digital storytelling?

In Notebooks, Pens and Pixels: Tools of the Trade for Today’s Student Writers, first grade teacher Kristin Ziemke stressed the importance of providing authentic literacy experiences while pairing best practice with digital tools to begin developing students’ identity as writers and fostering digital citizenship. From notebook to blog, students use multiple modalities to think about what interests them, and acquire fluency in giving and receiving feedback. Dr. Troy Hicks and Penny Kittle joined the session virtually. Penny emphasized the need for balancing traditional and digital methods. Sometimes kids need both. She uses a strategy called “night writing” to encourage students to write about their world in a non-graded, non-compulsory invitation. In writing more each day, kids are better able to find the treads of their thinking. More writing, more joy! Troy Hicks reminded us of the seven elements of storytelling. We all have a story to tell. Use tools that help create stories but don’t let tech get in the way of telling your story.

I also attended The Many Faces of Digital Storytelling — Personal Narratives, Book Trailers and PSAs with Julie Jaeger. Using Public Service Announcements as a persuasive ‘Digital Story’ is a good fit for teens, helping them to see that their lives and talents matter to the world. Visit Digitales for ideas and resources for projects, tools, and guidelines.

In App Smashing Your Digital Story, Richard Colosi demonstrated what happens when you create content with a variety of apps and then publish it to the web. The key is to save your work to the camera roll on your device so it can be transferred to and enhanced by another app.  Students engage in collaboration, increase problem-solving skills and critical thinking. As they plan, create and share their work, they gain deeper understanding of content. Check out this app smashing literacy activity with Frog and Toad. More resources found here.

iste2016Learning never ends

While my one-day at ISTE came to an end, the learning certainly did not. By following the twitter hashtags, reading blogs, and accessing archived sessions, I have a wealth of material yet to explore – for playing around, for connecting with others and for ultimately learning until ISTE 2016.

Rita Sorrentino profileRita Sorrentino is a recently retired teacher from Overbrook Elementary School in Philadelphia. Rita is finding new pathways for working with teachers and students to use digital tools for reading writing, speaking and listening. She presented ‘Beyond Superheroes: Using Comics Across the Curriculum” at the PETE&C Conference in Hershey in February. Rita joined the Pennsylvania Writing Project in 2004 and the Philadelphia Writing Project in 1994.

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