Connected Learning at ISTE

 Posted by on July 15, 2013 at 9:54 am  No Responses »  Tagged with:  Categories:
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by: Deborah Fishman

If you’re looking for inspiration to spark your school’s use of technology in the classroom, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is a good place to find it. The annual conference features keynote presentations, technology demonstrations and expositions, affinity group meetings and more, with over 20,000 enthusiastic technology professionals in attendance. AVI CHAI awarded scholarships to ten Jewish day school administrators for this year’s conference, which took place from June 23-26 in San Antonio, Texas. Taking on the ISTE tagline, “Connected Learning. Connected World,” some of these AVI CHAI sponsored attendees have shared noteworthy conference take-aways and musings on the AVI CHAI Ed Tech Blog.

Here are a few:

Embody Principles of Technology Integration: What impressed Chaya Goldberg of Ramaz most was not any one-off keynote or tool, but rather the way the conference itself embodied principles of educational technology. For instance, it increased access to resources and communication amongst ed tech professionals. Instead of unidirectional lecturing, presenters encouraged attendees to interact using their phones and tablets during sessions, especially through the creation of back channels where the session content could be not just digested, but also discussed. Chaya concludes that this approach of “walking the walk” in embodying 21st century learning practices could be applied to have benefits for teachers as well: “At the ISTE conference, I learned that if a teacher is willing to cede some control, his/her message can reach deeper and farther and wider.”

Pedagogy Over Products: Jared Matas of the Jewish Community Day School of Boston discusses a session by fifth-grade teacher Julie Ramsay, who offers two approaches to the integration of technology into the classroom. One approach is to use new tools in the classroom toward preexisting goals and pedagogy, while the other is using technology to open up possibilities and ways of thinking that will really transform the classroom. This differentiation would suggest that educators need to think about the core goals and learning outcomes they wish to transmit, and then incorporate technology accordingly. Jared opines, “I hope more educators continue to be influenced by her ideas, choosing to prioritize pedagogy over products, and encouraging learners to use technology to become producers not just consumers.”

Play Hard, Fail Fast, and Keep Going: Dr. Eliezer Jones, Educational Technology Specialist at YU Institute for University-School Partnership, who facilitated a group reflections session amongst the AVI CHAI Sponsored participants, shares his thoughts on gamification and its potential for impact in the classroom. Eliezer identifies components of gaming which contribute to its popularity and which educators could apply to make learning more compelling as well He also points to the necessity of experimentation and near-certain failure which, when coupled with this support and encouragement, is actually part of what makes gaming so addictive. “They fail time and time again so that they can come back into the game better for it and continue to level up. In education, we simply do not afford enough opportunities for our students to level up and I wonder what impact that has on our student’s motivation to learn,” Eliezer states.

Cohort Connections: Michael Bitton of the Magen David Yeshivah High School comments on the importance of the experience of a cohort of day school educators at ISTE. Not only did this result in exciting networking at the conference and opportunities to reflect with peers, but it also built up his network of likeminded Jewish educators who will be continuing to think and work on important issues in Jewish day school education in the future. Tali Ben-Senior of The Epstein School also summarizes the ISTE opportunity as one where she could “network, learn and collaborate.”

All About Relationships: Michelle Andron of the Emek Hebrew Academy discusses the “Connected Learning” ISTE theme in the context of the importance of connecting. She reflects that relationships, specifically the power of relating to other people, can be the driver of inspiration and innovation, and thus a foundation for change. She concludes that an educators’ relationships with and engagement of their students should be at the core of their teaching in order for them to most profoundly impact them and catalyze their learning and development. “Students only care what you know when they know you care.”

Interestingly, these observations are not fixed upon the latest tools or newest fads. Instead, they get at some of the timeless components of being an effective educator, serving as an authentic role model, a visionary, and a lifelong learner. The thoughts represent deep reflection on how and why day school leaders are embarking on journeys in educational technology and as educators in general – a practice that will hopefully continue as the ISTE participants return to their day schools and classrooms.