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

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