We get it: Taking in everything a conference's exhibit hall has to offer is a seemingly impossible, perhaps even Herculean, effort. This year's International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference was no exception, with what seemed to be the biggest crowd we've seen at the show packing Chicago's McCormick Place convention center.
For those who could and couldn't attend alike, we've compiled the following list of ed tech tools that jumped out at us. From robots for STEM and autism to increasingly interoperable platforms, these are five tools you'll want to keep an eye on.
Longtime readers are likely familiar with RoboKind's facially expressive robot Milo, designed to assist educators in teaching students with autism. But now, Milo has a new companion named Jett, and he's setting out to expand access to coding.
Jett and its corresponding, self-directed curriculum are designed to be accessible to teachers who have never taught programming before. The company hopes to address a need with the 70-75% rate at which people on the autism spectrum are unemployed or underemployed by offering an entry point to those skill sets. A female version of the Jett robot, as well as various skin tones, are also available, and the curriculum can be used with Milo, as well.
Speaking of robots and coding, Sphero — the company behind a handful of popular Star Wars droid toys — maintained its presence on the show floor with its STEM education products. The SPRK+robot and its accompanying app are designed to teach students to code with hands-on activities.
The spherical robot is durable, too, featuring a scratch-resistant, shock-resistant, waterproof polycarbonate exterior. An accelerometer and gyroscope make it a good match for physics lessons, and it also features programmable sensors and LED lights. Its app is compatible with smart devices and desktops.
Interoperability is increasingly important as schools and districts continue their digital transitions. Ideally, educators shouldn't have to manually upload data between multiple systems, and multiple sign-ons shouldn't be necessary. The divides between technology should, basically, be invisible for maximum benefit.
ClassLink is aiming to accomplish just that with OneSync, importing student information system and human resources user lists into Microsoft Active Directory, Google Directory and Office365/Azure. This, in effect, requires users to log in only once to access all platforms, and combined with ClassLink's Roster Server, it can further simplify these tasks by securely delivering class rosters to all digital resources.
At this year's show, differentiated learning facilitator Achieve3000 touted academic gains made by Chicago Public Schools students using its program. During the 2017-18 school year, data show that students using the platform in August 2017 started at only 1% “meeting or exceeding” and 6.1% “approaching” college and career readiness in August 2017, but those numbers had risen to 18% and 32.7% respectively by April 2018.
Literacy improvement was particularly impressive, with an average gain of 185 Lexile points cited at Richard Edwards Elementary, where over 90% of the school's 1,546 students are from low-income families, and 49% are English learners.
Amid the ongoing debate on letter grades and demonstrating mastery, student information system provider Alma touted its mastery-based transcript feature at this year's show. The feature allows high schools using standards-based, competency-based or mastery-based grading approaches to easily create transcripts that make sense for colleges.
The transcripts are organized in a way that demonstrates and tracks students' learning within existing college application review measures, and also calculates an overall class grade to appear on the transcript via a configurable calculation setting. Among the options are all standards graded within a class or just a specific set of standards.