Education/News/July 2017/ISTE 2017

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Learning about digital equity, teacher professional development and evaluation at the International Society for Technology in Education Conference 2017[edit]

Author: Nichole Saad

Summary: At the end of June, Nichole participated in the International Society for Technology in Education Conference bringing back useful insights about digital equity, teacher education, and evaluation

Imagine a place where more than 30,000 educators, administrators, developers and policy makers gather to learn about and discuss all things Ed Tech. That is what the International Society for Technology in Education annual conference is like. The conference is a colossus with one foot standing on the foundation of schools and classrooms and the other foot standing on the foundation of technology development and distribution. Presenters and exhibitors range from classroom teachers to software executives. Workshops from Google and Microsoft were the most popular, with entry lines snaking around corners and down staircases with hundreds of people waiting in line. Attending this conference was a great opportunity to learn about needs and trends, and to network with important actors in the education technology space. In this article I will summarize what I learned.

Digital Equity

One of the “Learning Networks” of the ISTE is “digital equity.” The network describes its role as, “we...challenge the status quo concerning the “haves and have nots” of access while providing consistent information and actionable resources to better help school leaders make equitable decision concerning technology infrastructure and digital learning.” One of the speakers at the ISTE conference on the topic of Digital Equity was Darryl Adams, who solved a challenge in his school district, one of the poorest in the US, by putting Wifi routers on school buses and parking them in neighborhoods where students didn’t have access to the internet at home. He raised money to give each student a tablet so they could continue to learn at home. This intervention brought their graduation rate from 70% to over 80%[1] . The creativity demonstrated by this project is something we can gain inspiration from. Many of us live in areas where there is a digital divide between rich and poor. We want to reach all people, not just people who can afford access. How can we think creatively about how to reach those people with a Wikipedia Education Program?

Teacher Professional Development

Another theme from the sessions I attended was teacher learning, and how to recognize it. I was quite inspired by a session on digital badges and how those can document and legitimize professional development that teachers go through online. Three big points I took away from the conversation about badges and micro-credentials fall under the question, “How do you incentivize micro-credentials?” The ideas were:

  • base it on what matters to your community and with your budget
  • use micro-credentials to “unlock” opportunities
  • think about language used to describe accomplishments

Another important point is that badges are not an award, it is a recognition of skills and achievement. The design of the micro-credential program needs to be acutely aware of that fact. Finally, it is important to build and prototype, iterate, and get feedback before rolling out. User experience cannot be overlooked.

Micro-credentialing is a trend that is gaining momentum, though I do not think it is yet a global trend. There are countries where ministries of education would not be convinced of the legitimacy of a badge, so therefore any program that wants to recognize teacher learning on a global scale would need to think deeply about how to do that equitably. I think we can explore this idea more in the education program, once we have the capacity to do so.


Lastly, I was able to attend an informative session on Rapid Cycle Evaluations that I found quite inspiring. The presenters developed a platform for helping schools and educators evaluate their educational technology interventions rapidly, so that they can make quick, data driven decisions. The platform requires you to create an account and log in. Then it takes you through a series of prompts, and guides your evaluation through helping you choose research questions and evidence to analyzing your data and summarizing your findings. While the platform is only in English right now and is geared more towards US educators, I think some of you might find it very useful. Certainly in the future, I think we could have a more hands on approach to evaluation, like the kind this platform provides.

I certainly was inspired by attending ISTE 2017, and I continue to participate in its various “learning networks”