What a blast it was in New Orleans! The advice before I went was to have a plan because it can be overwhelming and boy is that true! There is a real buzz of excitement, but with so many sessions in so many rooms all happening at the same time, it just feels like you miss out on so much! Thankfully we can catch up with many sessions online – including mine, which I got to present on the Sunday – and despite having some technical difficulties, I’ve re-recorded the session and it will be made available in the next day or so, so if you are part of the ISTE 22 attendees, virtual or not – the link is here:
One of the highlights was seeing my face pop up on the main stage screen every day mixed in with the likes of Zach King and National Award Winners. See if you spot me 😂
Getting to walk around the EXPO hall is in itself a day’s worth of time, and one of the absolute pleasures of the whole thing is to spot all the great teachers and influencers that we are inspired by every day on social media. Most of my faves I was able to snap a photo with!
The biggest inspiration from the whole thing is to share more joy in classrooms, and also share more in general, so I am making more of a commitment to post more content over the coming year. Having said that, now is Summer, so I’m going to throw down my initial top 5 takeaways from this year’s ISTELive 22 and perhaps I’ll do another reflection as I prepare for the new school year in late August.
5. Modular Blocks for coding and Robotics
Back in 2018, we invested in Makeblock’s neuron system, a cool modular magnetised block system that had ton’s of great sensors. It had it’s problems, but for whatever reason, they couldn’t make it work and it was discontinued at around the time of Covid. But this hasn’t put off many other cool edtech startups with their own systems. It also appears South Korea is leading the way with two products that caught my eye: MODI by LUXROBO and Ping Pong by RoboRisen. Ping Pong looked unique in that each of the main blocks contained all of the main sensors and motors, meaning you don’t have to connect lots of different blocks together. It also had loads of connectors, including a camera attachment – and overall it looked pretty cool.
LUXROBO had a bigger presence and was showing off a few different sets, but the MODI sets all looked a great upgrade to the modular block style, including a variety of sensors and a fairly strong connection between the blocks. Another great advantage of the MODI range is that it can be programmed in Scratch blocks, using an extension, and all the blocks can be attached to LEGO, which ramps up the creative possibilities!
4. Blooket and Gimkit reign supreme
Both Blooket and Gimkit were absent from the EXPO Hall (I assume because how small their teams are) Whereas Quizizz! Kahoot! and plenty of other smaller gamification tools were showing off their wares. There was certainly some great looking tools out there, particularly in the mathematics subject area, but I think anyone who is a fan of Blooket and Gimkit will have left perhaps a little underwhelmed. Whilst Kahoot! and Quizizz are branching out into other forms of assessments and presentation tools, there was little in terms of revolutionary gamification techniques. It seems Blooket and Gimkit are still are the ones to beat (although Pear Deck might have something to say in that arena: see below)
3 Coding Platforms for Gaming
Another great edtech tool that was absent is Scratch – who have their own conference coming up soon. But there are other great coding tools available and the industry leader for polished, publishable games is Epic Games and their Unreal Engine. A totally free resource – they have a great coding programme which is fairly easy to follow but can extend right up to grade 12. They also are promoting their creative sandbox version of Fortnite – Fortnite Creative, which has similar opportunities to produce creative environments in the way Minecraft Education Edition is. What is also exciting is that more and more teachers (and developers) are working with the programme to create engaging game based learning opportunities. Another app which is free and creates stunning scenes is TwinMotion, another tool which isn’t ridiculously difficult to use. I am excited to see how these develop in the coming years, and how that perhaps it might be out of reach to expect most teachers to use them in their day to day lessons, perhaps they would be willing to at least try some of the content with their class of the worlds created by some very enthusiastic and supportive educator-designers.
Another new tool that was presented in the Expo Hall was Construct. This was seemingly positioning itself inbetween Scratch and some of the script based game creating (like C++ or even Lua for Roblox). There is a cost to the use of it, but the games look industry quality, so I am eager to trial it and see if it something I would use regularly, or pay for.
2 AI and creativity
If you went to ISTE this year with a focus on AI, then the biggest glaring takeaway you would have is that AI is now a big player in the creative process. It even has its own area called generative AI, and this encapsulates the idea that AI is learning how to create something uniquely. Taryn Southern, a Youtube influencer and Filmmaker, shared on the mainstage how she used AI regularly and eventually produced a full studio music album with AI as a creative partner. Nancye Blair Black continued this important conversation by sharing some amazing resources (you can find them on her site) and really considering how AI isn’t perfect – or anywhere near really – in creating art of any kind, but it is certainly improving and it is something we should be wary of. At the end of the day it is heavily influenced by the data it learns from and we need to consider both ethically and equitably, are we happy with how AI is performing? I would definitely recommend catching these sessions if you haven’t had chance and have access.
1 Pear Deck brought their A game
The highlight for me at ISTE in terms of EdTech was the release of ‘Project Pear’ – a brand new feature coming to Pear Deck. I loved Flashcard Factory when they added this as feature to the original interactive presentation tools, but I think it flew under the radar. This new gamified experience though will be used in classrooms all around the world. I guarantee it!
It can be very hard to gamify the classroom but also encourage team work. Quizlet Live is a good example of this working, and there are similarities in the new game created by Pear Deck.
The student will be able to build their own avatar with accessories (a standard now for all gamified apps, a welcome one of course!) before they join a game hosted by the teacher. The system then randomly assigns students to teams of three, where whilst waiting they can choose the name or colour of their team.
Then the quiz starts, and in a similar fashion to Pear Deck slides, there are different question modes. Take for example, a multiple choice question, each team member can see where their team mates cursor is, and what selection they are making. The student can then send a preloaded message to the team, with sayings like ‘Follow Me’ or ‘ I’m not sure’, allowing the team chance to communicate in case they aren’t in the same room/together.
Other question modes include a text based answer, where at the end of the time, all the team’s different ideas are shown and the team then select the one they think is the correct version (great for checking spelling!). Another is a drawing slide – where all teammates draw on the canvas at the same time – making it very fun but also very challenging to produce anything that resembles what you want!
Alongside the quiz mode, there are other opportunities to win points in random events in between questions. In theory this gives everyone a chance to get back into the competition, but when we tried it out we ended up losing our lead (and a bunch of swag) after another team got a large amount of points on a lucky spin. It will be interesting to see how this dynamic plays out in schools, although it has already been tested in a variety of schools and had excellent feedback.
Also announced by Pear Deck at their impressive After Pearty, they are combining with Tutor organisation Tutor Me, and they also announced this week a collaboration with EiE, which on a personal level is fantastic, as I’ve used their design process for a number of years in the classroom already – can’t wait to see some of the content created!
Overall a wonderful experience – and I’ll reflect a little bit more after a much needed rest. (well not really a rest, we are off to the 50th Disney World Celebration!)