PHILADELPHIA — The 2019 installment of the annual International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference wound down Wednesday afternoon as attendees filed into Hall A at Philadelphia's Pennsylvania Convention Center for a final round of keynotes.
ISTE Board of Directors President Bill Bass introduced a conversation with film director, editor and presenter Sady Paulson and assistive technology professional Mark Coppin. The duo have been collaborating for 15 years since Coppin worked to line up an assistive tech solution for Paulson at a camp helping students with disabilities participate in adaptive art, photography and videography activities. Paulson wanted to try video editing and “she just went wild.” She eventually went on to earn her degree in cinematography from Full Sail University.
#inspired by Sady Paulson— Rosemary Jane (@Rosemary_Edu) June 26, 2019
"I love all my technology tools.
Switch control gives me access to my world... Technology lets anyone do anything they love."
Abilities... Unlimited possibilities. #ISTE19 #CPSandMe #CPS_BLA #Keynote https://t.co/FS6DuHf0Wi pic.twitter.com/IpHEizbCpO
Next up, Michael Bonner talked about when he took 20 North Carolina students to California courtesy of Ellen DeGeneres for a hands-on learning opportunity creating a music video with artists Big Sean, Ice Cube, Migos, Ty Dolla Sign and Lin Manuel Miranda.
Now a 4th-grade teacher at the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Bonner focused on how, despite technological advancements, progress for students is still slow. This is because of the disconnect between equality and equity, the latter of which provides the resources needed for success dependent upon context.
But being better may require liberation rather than either of those options — a removal of the barriers all together rather than the provision of resources to rise above them, he said.
Fantastic last day at #iste19 with keynote speaker Michael Bonner! Added his new book "Get Up or Give Up: How I Almost Gave Up On Teaching" to my list of summer reads #BPatriotProud #BHSfaculty @MichaelBonner_ pic.twitter.com/nypHItzU3T— Dario Vazquez (@DarioBVazquez) June 26, 2019
"You can't demand withdrawal from someone you have never invested in,” he said.
Connecting the world through tech
Last up was 2018 National Teacher of the Year Mandy Manning, who teaches English to refugee and immigrant students at the Newcomer Center at Joel E. Ferris High School in Spokane, Washington. The world, she said, is ever-expanding, and as it becomes larger, people actually grow closer together. Through tech, we are more connected than ever before. But despite that, people can still feel extremely disconnected from one another.
Nearly 10% of all U.S. students are English language learners, and 71 million people worldwide are on the move, she said. Homelessness in the U.S. has also increased significantly, and many students in this population are English learners or have disabilities. In addition to the changing demographics, the top 1% earn more than the bottom 50% of people, which impacts access to WiFi, transportation and other education needs.
This should make us question our morality, Manning said. “This is the landscape for our students. This is what they have to navigate every day.”
We need to be change agents as teachers, and we need to help students become global citizens! @MandyRheaWrites Mandy Manning (2018 Teacher of the Year) #ISTE19 #ISTEturns40 @iste pic.twitter.com/MLN0sPCmXf— ????????. ???????????????????????????? ????. ℝ???????????????????? (@RedcayResources) June 26, 2019
A Gallup poll found only 43% of U.S. students feel hopeful about their future, a 4% decrease from 2017, and 36% said they feel stuck, the teacher said, adding that 23% reported feeling actively disengaged and 21% are discouraged. Lack of hope leads to a lack of resilience, and when students are not resilient, they cannot learn or connect to one another, she added.
As technological connections grow, meaningful human interactions diminish and people increasingly feel isolated and alone, she said. As a result, hate is on the rise — from bullying to shootings — and there is a consistent message that people must live in fear, she said.
“We are seeing students in an unprecedented level taking all of this on by themselves," Manning said, but also noted the Parkland students' activism and student efforts on climate change in particular. "Young people are finding their voices and using them."
Teachers, she said, are tasked with using technology to help students build connections, ensuring they have compassion and empathy. “We as educators give students the tools and the skills and ultimately the belief in themselves,” she said.
Raspberry Pi offers affordable gateway to physical computing
Another session saw University Liggett School (Michigan) Technology Integrator and Makerspace Director Nicholas Provenzano lead a discussion on using Raspberry Pi computers to introduce students to coding and the process of building a machine. Raspberry Pi is a credit-card-sized computer that provides an affordable entry point for introducing students to coding.
Provenzano mentioned that the Raspberry Pi 4 just came out, but that it's extremely different from the previous versions. It's now USB-C powered, has two 4K HDMI Mini ports and two USB 3.0 ports. The nonprofit offers three levels of RAM: 1GB ($35), 2GB ($45) or 4GB ($55).
You can still get a Raspberry Pi 3 for $35, though. Spec-wise, it matches a lot of low-end computers, Provenzano said, also advising that educators opt for Pi 3 because, generally, the projects students work on don't require dual monitors or USB 3.0.
Provenzano also noted that “you have to work hard to fry a Raspberry Pi.” They’re durable and will last a while. As educators know, however, it's not so much a matter of the hardware in use as it is how it's being used in the classroom.
As such, the panelists shared some of their favorite lessons or projects. Jennifer Lynn, a Moscow Middle School (Idaho) computer science teacher, said her students, after receiving introductions to coding concepts and the Python programming language, start with simple things like making an LED flash. They then move on to adding multiple lights or a buzzer, or even creating basic programs.
“They love [creating] the Shakespearean insult generators,” she said, adding that when they advance far enough, they build a robot, designing the chassis and controllers from a box of parts. Ultimately, these activities instill critical thinking, problem-solving processes and reflection skills, requiring students to consider what they did, how they did it, and how they collaborated with classmates.
With students, Jigar Patel, Tuscarora Intermediate Unit 11 (Pennsylvania) Instructional Media and Communications Specialist, said he starts with an introduction on how electronics work and building a basic LED. They start in the Scratch programming language and then move to how similar it is to write code in Python. His mainstay, however, is a “whoopie cushion” project, where students build a program and machine that makes farting sounds when a button is pressed.
Patel also does professional development sessions for teachers in his makerspace. His main focus in that role, he said, is helping educators find resources and become comfortable with introducing these concepts in the classroom. He added that he also embraces the idea of failing forward with students, having them learn that it might not work the first time, but that they can learn from that experience and engage in problem-solving to improve upon what they did.
Additional project ideas are available on the Raspberry Pi website.
Navigating effective school safety practices and data privacy laws
How can school leaders protect their students’ data privacy while also collecting the information necessary to keep them out of harm’s way? How can educators balance effective monitoring while avoiding a prison-like environment in schools?
Sometimes the best practices and policies are rooted in a thorough understanding of the law and in full transparency with stakeholders, as detailed in a panel featuring Future of Privacy Forum Director of Education Policy Amelia Vance, Louisiana Department of Education Ed Tech Director Kim Nesmith, and Utah Board of Education Student Data Privacy Trainer Greg Cox.
Keep an eye out in the coming days for a full recap.
Bridging the digital equity gap
In a highly digitized world that pivots around connectedness, online learning can prove to be a challenge for students who do not have the correct equipment or internet access. As more educators integrate digital learning into their curriculum, how can schools bridge the digital equity gap?
A session led by Parkland School District (Pennsylvania) Assistant to the Superintendent for Operations Tracy Smith, Instructional Technology Coach Lauren Will, Coordinator of Education Technology J.R. Renna and Technology Integration Specialist Samantha Edwards featured discussion of how districts and schools can ensure all students have access to modern online learning tools.
Keep an eye out in the coming days for a full recap.