• Shari Stein

"Curiouser and Curiouser"


Last week, I felt like Alice falling through a tunnel, and into a wonderland of technology at my first ISTE Conference. Along with thousands of educators, I attended ISTE19. My top priority was to share Best Practices for Digital Citizenship and learn what other educators are doing to inspire their students to use technology responsibly. My mission was successful and greatly enhanced by finding that the technology options showcased at ISTE19 have overwhelmingly positive uses and do not contribute to the scary issues that our digcit lessons address.


Building robots, coding, 3D printing, collaborating with students in their own schools and around the world, creating and projecting on interactive smart boards, -- these are amazing 21st Century tools that enhance our education and do not threaten to usurp our lives.

Like Alice, the more I saw, the more curious I became, as if I was looking through "the largest telescope" (Lewis 1865).

Here are five key takeaways:


#1 Technology in education is much more than screen time debates, smartphone rules, and social media addiction. Walking through the Expo was mesmerizing with engaging displays of tech for the classroom. In digcit, we worry about students’ safety, honesty, sharing and habits. Sure, many students will spend hours coding or building robots, some excessively. Is that the compulsion that stresses teachers and parents? Which parents or teachers worry when they have to tell a student to take a break from learning, inventing and innovating? If we put these tools in appropriate places throughout our curricula, we will find students are captivated, not addicted.


#2 Technology in education helps teachers create, organize and grade so they can spend more time on what matters, including having more face time with students. The Sessions, Posters, Snapshots, Playgrounds, and Expo included just about everything teachers and administrators need to streamline school communication, operations and paperwork. This specific tech field is riddled with repetition and competition. Combing through the resources, their FAQs and components leads to better schools, not device-addiction.


#3 Teachers as Digital Leaders do not have to be experts, but do have to be open, aware and accepting. If we do bring some of these exciting, efficient, and efficacious tools into our classrooms, we will engage our students. During my first years as an English teacher, 30 years ago, too many teachers feared sharing our tests and worksheets. We created our own or purchased ready-made lesson plans and locked our filing cabinets. Our current Internet-driven age has made communal work fruitful and easy. The App Smackdown, hackathons, and unconferences give us great opportunities to join forces and share.


#4 Growing up online is a fact of life for most school age children. We must balance the guidance and rules we provide with opportunity and freedom. The Liv Bits was a highlight for me and will continue to inspire my on and offlline experiences. I signed up for the librarian breakfast to network despite being skeptical of the keynote speaker. I thought Olivia might be just another tween Internet influencer. Instead, as Olivia and her mom spoke, it was obvious that they truly do Spark Change and inspire us with hope, stories and action. I learned a new word, refulgent, and a new appreciation for “heartbeeps.” Olivia reminds us that schools offer students a circle of support they might not otherwise have. Her selfie videos are viral because she shows us that it is “better to love each other than judge each other” and to do this “through a lens of action.”


#5 It Takes a Village. ISTE19, for me, was largely about communities of educators who prioritize sharing tools and best practices. The sessions and Expo encouraged In and Outside of the box Collaborations. We need to use every school day and the plethora of tech and non-tech resources to engage our students in forward thinking and lifelong learning. This means plugging in for value-added purposes.


Organizations like ISTE provide us with tools and ideas we need to help our students develop 21st Century skills and create their own stakes in the 4th Industrial Revolution. Olivia actually sums up the goal and the outcome of attending ISTE and one of the goals of classroom teachers - to find “moments that change your thinking forever.”


Carroll, Lewis. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland -- Chapter II, www.cs.cmu.edu/~rgs/alice-II.html.


“EdTech Conference 2019: Philadelphia, June 23-26.” ISTE, June 2019, conference.iste.org/2019/.


“Refulgent.” Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, www.dictionary.com/browse/refulgent.


Schwab, Klaus. “The Fourth Industrial Revolution.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 25 May 2018, www.britannica.com/topic/The-Fourth-Industrial-Revolution-2119734.


Van Ledtje, Olivia. “The LivBits.” The LivBits, 2019, www.thelivbits.com/.