The ISTE Conference is quite the Learning Experience!!

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE®) is the premier nonprofit organization serving educators and education leaders committed to empowering connected learners in a connected world.ISTE serves more than 100,000 education stakeholders throughout the world.

You can come as a student, a teacher, a community organization, an administrator, or a IT person.

There are many ways to participate in the conference. The first time is like trying to catch a moving train if you don’t plan. Beginners, newbies, international participants and groups bringing knowledge. It is all good. Long ago when the Internet was planned for schools we hoped to Kickstart education through the use of technology. That is what ISTE does. There are bookstores, playgrounds, bloggers cafe, presentations, collaborations, you name it.

What I most prize about the conference is the personal networking . Because I have been working in IT so long I recognize people as they recognize me, and oh the conversations we have.


Why I attend? Collaboration, Communication and to Learn Creative Ways to Use Technology in Education

I would never miss an ISTE meeting. Fortunately I have attended every one that was available to me. The first time I went, I was all business , in high heels and a suit. I was so excited to meet and greet teachers from all over the US. I also met teachers from around the world. ISTE enabled me to do WSIS ( the world summit on the information society ) in both Switzerland and in Tunisia. I met the colleagues who invited me to speak , at an ISTE conference. The networking is powerful.

A lot of what goes on, is invisible to participants, there are dinners, special groupings, strategic meetings and personal learning network gatherings. Gatherings at dining places, runs, and tours happen.

We would be as many people in a hotel room as legal, because we never were in the room anyway and we ate lightly , some of us bringing peanut butter and crackers and soft drinks. One DC delegation drove to the New Orleans Conference. People think of creative ways to get to ISTE.


Back in the day, I had only 4 computers in my class and that was an extraordinary amount as many teachers were learning to teach using a book that gave examples of the use of one computer in a classroom. I never fell for that example.I gave up my fancy car to buy my own computers as the schools were slow in adopting technology back then.

NASA, National Geographic and other services such as NSTA had some free software. Oh, and Fablevision allowed me to pay for my software a little at a time. Fable vision had different approaches to education.

I was influenced by MECC . MECC developed hundreds of microcomputer educational programs,[1] many converted from the time-sharing original;[6] by 1979 some MECC programs for the Apple II could be downloaded from the timesharing system.[2][11] MECC distributed The Oregon Trail and others in its library to Minnesota schools for free, and charged others $10 to $20 for diskettes, each containing several programs.[6] By July 1981 it had 29 software packages available. Projector slides, student worksheets, and other resources for teachers accompanied the software.[15]

Other teachers and I learned to program ( you call it coding) and we started to integrate the use of technology into the classroom. Arlington County invested in MECC and so I had copies of the soft to use in my classroom. It was exciting!!

At the first ISTE conferences , I used to sit and get in the exhibit hall and punch all of the tickets to get free things .Later in my ISTE life, I did workshops for NASA, and the National Geographic Kidsnetwork and  Earthwatch sharing demonstrations. It was hard work but worth it.


Learning is always a big part of the conference , whether it be by workshop, pre-workshop or sessions. Now there are playgrounds, IGNITE sessions, and posters.Sometimes you get to preview products with conference vendors.

We think about social justice and digital equity. A powerful keynote brought us to the vision.In the Soledad O’Brian keynote, this year, she talked about digital equity and social justice but more than that, she demonstrated with clips, the power of technology in many wonderful ways. Here is the keynote.

Technology is a tool , she said, a means to an end and not – an end itself.

She shared several clips and examples of excellence in the use of technology but we were all captivated by the use of Google Cardboard, You can make your own if you need to ( the viewer).

The keynote this morning was ” Insight into Autism: A Father’s Perspective” by Jack Gallagher. It was a moving declaration of love to his son Liam , and a lesson to most of us about believing in a student,  a portrayal of the difficulties of a parent trying to understand and help a child, his son Liam.

I cried. I hate it when the speaker can go right to my heart and make me blink tears before I know they are coming. That was what he did. It was an amazing keynote. I met some teachers I know in the audience and we hugged and cried again. Teaching is a passion , learning and helping students is what we do.

Bonnie Bracey Sutton

Virtual Field Trips and Global Collaborations in Education , Always Awesome!!


Last night, I was glancing at the news. The news was that education is finally doing virtual field trips. Say W H A T?

I thought , where has that reporter been and why did that reporter miss the many ways in the history of the use of technology that educators have used the technology in collaborative ways?There are new ESRI projects that are GIS centered. I am loving this new iteration of technology use. See here.


The Power of Mapping
A geographic information system (GIS) lets us visualize, question, analyze, and interpret data to understand relationships, patterns, and trends. But I digress..remind me to tell you about story mapping.


I had a Lumaphone. I , as a teacher paid the phone bill and we connected in black and white…around the world. It was similar to the connection shown on the virtual field trip showcased on television, and it was project focused. It was cool beans at the time. We were pioneers in the use of it. People were impressed. We are talking 1993.


Think Lumaphone, think CUSEEME. When we first initiated these projects, we got a lot of push back. The Washington Post humiliated those of us who tried CUSEEME.

CU-SeeMe was originally written by Tim Dorcey of the Information Technology department at Cornell University.[1] It was first developed for the Macintosh in 1992 and later for the Windows platform in 1994. Originally it was video-only with audio added in 1994 for the Macintosh and 1995 for Windows. CU-SeeMe’s audio came from Maven, an audio-only client developed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

CU-SeeMe was introduced to the public on April 26, 1993 as part of an NSF funded education project called the Global Schoolhouse.


“It is Not About the Technology” tells about the Global SchoolNet’s Global SchoolHouse Project using the first multi-point Internet-based video conferencing to connect schools in the United States and with schools worldwide. By sending video and audio signals over the Internet using CU-SeeMe software, students were able to see and hear each other while they worked on collaborative assignments. As part of the program they interacted with special guests, such as Vice President Al Gore, the anthropologist Jane Goodall, Senator Dianne Feinstein and surgeon general C. Everett Koop.

The Global Schoolhouse project was centered around children, the faces of which you’ll see throughout this book. Larry Duffy of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory – was a very early user of CU-SeeMe. One day he popped into the CU-SeeMe reflector the GSH school-children were using. The kids explained what GSH was, how Larry could optimize his setup, and in general charmed him. Larry, the rocket scientist taught by high-school kids, is turn became a CU-SeeMe booster, setting up a reflector dedicated for the GSH, and having many interactions with the kids, and some notables as well. Steven Adams, also of JPL, became a “scientist-on-tap” for the GSH kids four hours a week.

Global Schoolnet has morphed into several other projects.IMG_0091

Global Schoolnet took me to Russia on behalf of the Eurasia Foundation. Talk about open doors to discovery!!Global SchoolNet’s mission is to support 21st century, brain-friendly learning, and improve academic performance through content-driven collaboration.  it engages educators and students in brain-friendly e-learning projects worldwide to develop science, math, literacy and communication skills, foster teamwork, civic responsibility and collaboration, encourage workforce preparedness and create multi-cultural understanding.1836866_10152188341376327_1972478766_o-2


In 1994 WXYC used CU-SeeMe to simulcast its signal to the net and so became the world’s first internetradio.

On Thanksgiving morning in 1995, World News Now was the first television program to be broadcast live on the Internet, using a CU-SeeMe interface. Victor Dorff, a producer of WNN at the time, arranged to have the show simulcast on the Internet daily for a six-month trial period. CU-SeeMe was also used in a taped interview segment in which anchor Kevin Newman and Global Schoolhouse director and founder Dr. Yvonne Marie Andres discussed the future of computers in communication.

There were other projects:

Integrated Curriculum Projects
” Under the Microscope “television productions, Challenger Center .


I believe the Kidsnetwork projects were the most awesome as they were ecology and environmentally based.
“Solar Energy” Kidsnetwork, “What is in Our Water “Kidsnetwork, ” Hello” Kidsnetwork. ” What are we eating?” Kidsnetwork.” Acid Rain.” Kidsnetwork. “Trash”, 1988-through 1995.. Student work featured in various magazines, such as Scientific American, and Apple Magazine.
“Moonbase America”, ” Touching the Future”, ” Marsville”. “Mars City Alpha ” These were all national programs. We presented our models to the IEEE group and shared experiences with Moonbase America on a national teleconference.

As Young Astronaut Chapter Leader our teams had commendation from President Bush in 1992. Some of us participated in Challenger Center Faculty meetings in Arizona, Hawaii, Seattle. Challenger Learning Centers gave students the chance to become astronauts and engineers and solve real-world problems as they shared the thrill of discovery on missions through the Solar System.

Using space simulation and role-playing strategies, students bring their classroom studies to life and cultivate the skills needed for future success. Learning Centers reached into communities around the globe, engaging more than 400,000 middle school-age students and 40,000 educators each year.

CyberED , the truck, taking technology to the streets.

Enterprise and Empowerment Zones.. We taught the community and its families.



The spread of technology and communication projects was greatly assisted by Vice President Gore, who saw an opportunity for technology to be disseminated into schools. The picture above is from the tour of  a CyberEd Bus that toured the US sharing technology initiatives in empowerment and zones. We had a presentation station that linked directly with a NASA center and we and the audience communicated the use of technology at NASA.


Many of us , digital pioneers worked hard and long to put collaborative technology to use. I think the first collaborative field trips I did were with NASA. I did not know that we were using Supercomputing but we did to speak to astronauts and to other centers. It was an absolute delight to be involved.Once, my class and I visited the White House ( as Young Astronauts) and we spoke to an astronaut in space  . President George Bush and 8 astronauts were our collaborators. The children were understanding about the little lapse in time..we were experienced collaborators. The kids were excited about the hats the astronauts gave them and getting their autographs.

NASA also allowed us to collaborate with Rovers. NASA still have rover collaborations and contests. The most recent might be here.

I don’t have a picture of the students that I taught working with Astronauts and with Russian Cosmonauts but it happened. We virtually communicated with rovers in Canada. The students loved their involvement , learning and the collaboration. We had also done Marsvile. What a hoot!!

The Canadian National Marsville Program (CNM) is a unique program derived from the Challenger Learning Center’s Marsville program. The goal of CNM is to simulate habitation of the “Red Planet.” Students prepare for their adventure by studying space exploration and the planet Mars and then apply their knowledge as they create mission patches, design and build models of human life-support systems, construct Martian habitats and share their findings with other students from across Canada.

Each year the students’ mission patches are mounted on a special poster that is available to all participants.

Participating students work in teams. The primary task of each team is to design and build a model of one of nine different life-support systems. Life-support systems include; air, communications, energy, food, health and recreation, temperature, transportation, waste and water. Life-support systems are chosen by the teacher and students, and can be based on curriculum requirements.

Marsville Activities Still Going Strong in Canada


Marsville Rover
Over a three month period, starting on January 28 and running to late April, student teams work cooperatively to clarify the requirements for their life-support systems, brainstorm solutions and construct working models. Students are able to share their results and challenge teams across Canada using Team Blogs.

Early education pioneers did Rover challenges with classes, some International, and some collaborations within the Challenger Centers. I was a Challenger Fellow and we explored the new technologies in the centers and at the schools.National Challenger STEM Innovation Center
Challenger Center pioneered STEM education more than 27 years ago and continue to be a leader in STEM today.

In writing this article I simply was responding to the concerns that other educators had about the time line of virtual field trips and global collaborations. I have not included all of the groups that I know. reminded me of the 27 year history of her group.

Earth watch also had virtual and real field trips. Participants shared from the field to other schools. I hope that others will add to this list. Thank you.

The girls in my classroom worked as hard as the boys did and we learned together,

Teacher training allows dissemination of ideas to girls and boys.