ISTE 2018 Kicks Off in Chicago For Educators and Ed-Tech Vendors

Contributing Writer

The annual conference of the International Society for Technology in Education kicking off this week helps to lay out the ed-tech agenda and landscape for the coming school year.

The event, held this year in Chicago, is expected to draw 22,000 educators and ed-tech vendors. Vendors will be looking to see how they fit into the latest trends in this space like entrepreneurial thinking in the classroom, or educators morphing their buildings into a “Google school,” or emoji-cizing student learning.

EdWeek Market Brief and Education Week will be on the ground, keeping an eye on how big developments from 2017-18 are showing up at the conference. For daily dispatches from ISTE and ongoing coverage of ed-tech news and trends, sign up here for the Digital Directions newsletter. 

On the social media front, educators aren’t necessarily deterred by Facebook and Twitter getting dragged before Congress earlier this year to explain their roles in (among other things) spreading fake news during the 2016 presidential campaign. On the ISTE agenda are aessions such as “Snap, Tweet, and Share: Transform Learning With Social Media” and “Students Won’t Stop Fact-Checking Me: Teach Kids to Read News Critically.

Big picture, the conference also offers a window into Google’s growing dominance of the K-12 market, with sessions on everything from integrating Chromebooks into kindergarten classrooms to “the Google you might not know about.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be ISTE without a dizzying array of “how-to” sessions, covering everything from starting a coding club to building a STEM lab to protecting student data.

As ever, the conference will feature a plethora of pitches by education company with products they say can help educators solve their biggest challenges, from differentiating classroom instruction (via an online platform called Front Row, for example) to getting high school students engaged in literature (by making them “YouTube stars”) to “rebooting” school-parent communications (with a new tool from Microsoft.)

And there will be plenty of discussion about how (and whether?) to bring edgy new technologies, from virtual reality to Amazon’s Alexa digital voice assistant, into the classroom.

One thing that will be different at ISTE this year is a fresh effort to increase transparency around the relationships between ed-tech vendors and school administrators and teachers. The issue appeared repeatedly in the headlines this school year, with the New York Times taking a critical look at teachers serving as company “brand ambassadors” and former Baltimore County, Md., superintendent Dallas Dance sentenced to 6 months in jail for not disclosing consulting work.

“If any [presenter] has a connection with a company, they have to disclose it, and we will show that connection on the session they’re leading,” ISTE CEO Richard Culatta said in a pre-conference interview. “It’s just being clean about when and where there are connections to the private sector. ”

ISTE itself is also launching a number of new initiatives, including new computer science standards for educators and Edtech Advisor, a new peer-ratings-and-feedback platform to help teachers find ed-tech tools that work.

“For a long time, we’ve left that up to chance and outdated research,” Culatta said.

This year will also debut the ISTE Student Hackathon, a two-day event in which hundreds of students will be working on the conference floor to design innovative solutions to real-world problems they’ve identified.

Ed Week Staff Writer Sarah Schwartz will be covering it all live–follow Sarah on Twitter, and say ‘Hi’ if you see her in a session!

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