My first ISTE was in 2011, and one of the things I found the most difficult to work with was the exhibit hall. It's just SO......Vast. Basically, you have everybody who is anybody in ED there with the exception of Apple. We all know they don't really have to be there. In 2014, I learned another trick though. Many of the smaller ed tech startups don't have a booth on the ISTE floor. It's expensive, and some of the great free tools out there don't have the revenue stream yet to really fit that in their budget. Hopefully, this blog post will help you wade through the overwhelming experiance that is the ISTE exhibit hall.
1. Take some time to walk the hall and see what's there- Call it getting the lay of the land. I always like taking some time to really just walk the hall because there is plenty out there that I did not know about. There is always cool new stuff to be found!
2. Don't get Sucked into Long Conversations- Let's be honest, the exhibitors are there to sell a product. They want to pull you in and show you all the "great" things they have to offer. If you let the ones you don't care about suck you in, you waste time for other things.
3. Avoid the Big Boys Like the Plague- Guess who is going to be right up front with the biggest booths.... The big textbook publishers and interactive whiteboard makers. They will promise you all kinds of raffles and swag to suck you in. Just remember they are some of the least innovative companies on the floor. They don't have to be because they know school districts will continue to purchase there curriculums in a box. I think we need to take a stand and leave those booths empty. Send a message that forces them to change. As for the whiteboard makers, I don't have as much hate for them, but they are products we have all seen. An interactive whiteboard is interactive whiteboard. To me the whiteboard maker to see is IPEVO, because they can turn your existing projectors into one for a very low cost. Really, the biggest thing to remember with both is that they are so big that I am sure they would be happy to send you rep in your local district if you are really interested. Don't waste your time.
4. Make sure you visit the back- Make sure you visit the back of the hall because they are usually the least expensive booths. That means some of the innovative startups like Tackk for example will be back here. Support their booth so they will keep coming back!
5. Look out for ISTE after dark events- Many of the companies on the floor host happy hours and special events after the conference ends. These are great ways to connect.
6. Complete the Book to a Point- When you register for ISTE, they give you a booklet with Raffles that many of the companies participate in. I say go for it because you never know, but I only go for the stuff I want. This booklet is time to be selfish. Don't waste your time trying to enter all of them.
7. Floor Presentations- There are loads of good presentations on the floor that you can participate in, but be careful. Some are glorified sales pitches which are painful to sit through. A good rule of thumb is to find the ones being done by actual educators. Google always does a great job with that, and Tackk, Edmodo, and Symbaloo will all have educators.
8. Look out for ones at ISTE, but not on the floor- There are a ton of really great companies that are at ISTE, and they choose to do a more viral marketing campaign then be on the floor. My list so far includes Touchcast, Remind, Celly, Plickers, Seesaw, Edcite, Padlet, Kaizena, and Class Dojo. I am sure there are many more. Look out for their viral efforts. A good place to find them might be the Bloggers Cafe. You can also hit them up on Twitter to see where they are at.
9. Look out for Ambassador Programs- Many of the companies have teacher and amabassador programs. The key to these is you have direct connection for questions and problems. You also will have a full after ISTE calendar if you join these next year.
10. Enough with the Moby pics- My kids love Moby to, but I get tired of the 900 pics on the Twitter feed. Save them for your kids back home. Just a personal soapbox for me
Companies on the Floor That are on My List
1. 3d Doodler- I have always wanted to try out one of these 3-D pens. Now I will!
2. Bird Brain Technologies- This is a great maker company that lets you build robots out of crafts. I want to meet Tom who has been awesome!
3. Class Craft- This is a really interesting app that combines Class Dojo and World of Warcraft. The founder is a teacher and I am super interested to meet him.
4. Common Sense Media- I am actually working this booth Tuesday morning, and they are awesome. Gives great digital citizenship curriculum and app reviews.
5. Edmodo- This crew always has fun, and I think we need to support them so they stay in the front with the "big boys"
6. Educannon- This group has a super innovative platform that lets you assess video with questions. I am very interested to meet them.
7. Ipevo- They are a favorite of mine because they make great products for a good price. Go by and see Alex and the gang. You won't be disappointed.
8. Kahoot!- I was so happy to see this crew on the exhibit list. They have taken many American classrooms by storm, so I am super excited to talk to them.
9. Little Bits- I have gotten into the Maker Movement in the past year, and this is a great little Maker tool. I am interested to go and play with some of these.
10. Nearpod- Another favorite of mine. These guys offer the power point on steroids, and they are about to announce a really cool partnership.
11. Osmo- These are great tools for the younger classrooms, and I am pumped to meet the team behind them.
12. Sphero- Another great Maker tool who I am excited to see on the floor. If your a Star Wars nerd, go ask them about Star Wars!
13. Squirrels- These guys have taken device streaming to a computer to a new level. They have a new product called Reflector student coming out which I am super interested to see.
14. Swivl- These are awesome! They are bases that you put a device in and it follows you. Go check this cool device out.
15. Symbaloo- Another one I am working, and I product I truly love. Come see my Symbaloo + Google Session for some deep insight!
16. Tackk- The final group who I am working for. These guys are just plain awesome people, and you can come by and discover an awesome multi-use tool.
17. Wonder Workshop- Another one that I want to play with. These guys have programmable robots!
Companies Not on the Floor To Connect With
1. Touchcast- This is by far one of my favorite tools. It's a free video editing Ipad app with EVERYTHING. They will be all over the conference at the many sessions about Touchcast including mine.
2. Remind- These guys have a class you can follow to see where they are and get some swag. They have an awesome team, and they are a must to connect with.
3. Plickers- If your buying student response remotes....stop!. Go find these guys. Jenn and the rest of the team have an awesome product!
4. Class Dojo- Another awesome team to meet. Jenna is great and would be happy to meet you.
5. Padlet- I love great multi-use tools, and this is one of them.
I was monitoring the tweets lately for a conference I am presenting at, and one person said they will never do a "60 apps in 60 min presentation" , or something to that effect. I have also heard many times it's not about the tool, but it's about the pedagogy. This has gotten me thinking lately, and from my perspective it has to be somewhere down the middle.
First, when you talk about devices in the classroom, I am not debating the fact that teachers have to teach in new ways with them. I am also not debating the fact that teachers need to learn about these new ways of teaching first. What I am saying is that pedagogy can be a deep dark black whole just as much as tools can. We all remember the college class we took that was deep in educational theory and pedagogy, but was little in actual things we could use in the classroom. I don't think any teacher is asking, "What would Marzanno do as they go about there day?" Pedagogy can not be used as something to beat teachers over the head with. By doing constant PD over new Pedagogy, and by constantly pushing new practices we build resentment with our teachers. We can't over initiative or over pedagogy our teachers.
I think people approach tools wrong. Is it right for teachers to be "Appaholics" and constantly be changing what they do and adding tools to their classroom? For sure it is. Are there teachers that become to obsessed with the app or tool and lose track of what really matters? For sure, but learning about tools is not all bad. First, tools are plain and simple more exciting than learning about pedagogy. It all goes back to our nature where we need a hook. I also go back to why I present "60 apps in 60 minutes" type of presentations. To me those presentations are all about creating a spark. To me, I used sessions like this to get an idea or a spark, and then I went and played with it till it fit me. The last thing that leads me down the tools are important path is, "How can I change the way I teach, if I have no resources to do it?" To me, the biggest things that hold teachers back is not knowing whats out there. If they don't know, they stay with the old fashioned.
Really, this goes all the way back to the need to personalize. We as coaches and developers need to offer both and in some ways need to toe the line between both. Some teachers need pedagogy, while others need that app of tool to spark that great idea. I think back to something like Plickers. I was never a data person because frankly having the time to analyze always became really tough. When I learned about the Plickers app, I immediately started to use it in my classroom. It truly improved my practice because it gave me easy immediate data to analyze. Really, I think we miss the boat on the debate. It's not about the pedagogy or the tool, it's about sparking the idea.
This week was exhausting. The district I am working with just had their major summer conference, and I ended up doing my Maker Space Presentation 24 times in 6 days. I could almost do it in my sleep. The one thing I took from the week though was the lack of knowledge about this topic that is so important. Every school should have some sort of "Maker Space:", and hopefully this blog will tell you why.
Well, the first thing is "What are Maker Spaces?" Maker Spaces are specialized places where kids can create and make. The concepts plain and simple, but it can mean so many different things in different schools and different grade levels. Anything that lets kids create can be maker. You could do it with simple things like household supplies, legos, and play-doh. You can also do complex electronics like 3-D printers, open source electronics, and robotics.
Kids need to be active. They need to be hands on. They need to learn skills for the future, and they need to be able to create. This can all happen with the maker movement. It starts with creation. Allowing kids to create is personalized learning. It teaches deeper skills, and they also learn higher order thinking skills like problem solving. Maker Spaces are also the easiest way to build skills for the future. In reality, most jobs look for critical thinking skills over everything else. They can teach the rest. On top of that, you can use the maker space to teach engineering and computer science skills which in the future is going to be part of most jobs.
For me, the most important part of the "Maker Space" is letting kids be active and hands on. I needed this almost more than anything when I was in school. I was the type of kid who was bored to tears in school. Almost every class was the sage on the stage teacher in the front. I needed something hands on. I also have a love for technology so this would have been great for me. I even wonder if my career would have been different had I had some of these opportunities. I could have easily been in computer science.
Please realize the importance of letting our kids create and make. The maker movement lets you fulfill the needs of the kids like me. If you are interested, I also have a maker space presentation which you can access by clicking this link. So get started! Let kids Make!