About a month ago, we were gathered for ISTE National Conference in Philadelphia with 20,369 attendees from all 50 states and 81 countries. There were 3,196 presenters, including 479 students and more than 500 exhibitors. All the new, upcoming, and breakthrough ed tech and 21st-century learning trends were on display. There were so many options – everything from 3-D printing to virtual reality to coding were there for administrators and teachers to try out, test, and see.
And as expected it was a connected conference – 123,479 tweets using #ISTE19, #ISTE2019, and #ISTEinPA were sent and Instagram stories were viewed 104,222 times, with messages such as how Ursuline School was super pumped to meet Mr. Robot. And TAG teacher David Lockett was happy to share the good news about Fable and Smart Buddies.
Post-Conference: What’s Next?
Whew! There was a lot. If you’re still spinning from all you took in at ISTE 2019, don’t fret. We’ve assembled a short list of five tips to get your new ideas and inspiration in order for the new school year.
- Rank the top concepts from the show you saw and loved. Based on them, identify two or three actionable ideas or tips that you can implement right away or in the coming school year.
- Follow up with speakers, companies, and new teacher friends you met at the conference. Follow them on social. Send thank yous and give shout-outs if appropriate. Build your network and cheer squad.
- Organize and digitally or physically file any resources you picked up from sessions and the exhibit hall. Have something you don’t want to actually keep but might want to look at later? Snap a picture or scan it and throw away the printed version.
- Share any items you might have picked up for your colleagues. Send links to sessions or videos you loved to co-teachers or coworkers.
- Save the date for next year’s conference by penciling in the dates, June 28-July 1, 2020, on your calendar.
Post-Conference: What You All Loved (or What You Might Have Missed)
Our favorite part of the conference was connecting with so many of the bold, innovative, and committed educators who popped by our booth. Thank you for coming by to chat and explore the hands-on, minds-on products we showcased. Here’s what you all loved and, if you didn’t stop by, a few highlights:
New from Pitsco – Teaching Everyone to Code
“You can’t be what you can’t see.” One of our biggest highlights of the ISTE conference was the official announcement of Smart Buddies, our newest coding solution. Developed with SmartGurlz and designed to help more children see themselves in STEM and increase workforce diversity.
The introduction of Smart Buddies comes at a time when data continues to show a lack of diversity within the STEM workforce and education:
- Women and minorities make up only 20 percent of the STEM workforce (Ernst & Young).
- While over a third of black, Latino, and Native American students enter college with an interest in studying STEM, only 16 percent go on to obtain bachelor’s degrees in these fields (National Science Foundation).
- By high school, only 9 percent of girls are interested in STEM (Junior Achievement).
Smart Buddies offer a diverse set of relatable characters, or buddies, who use self-balancing, programmable scooters called Siggys™ that are coded throughout a series of challenges. Smart Buddies combine imaginative yet real-life storytelling with coding, math, and more. Students practice social-emotional learning skills too. After all, you can’t be what you can’t see. Teachers can select the buddies that best represent their students, creating a more custom, personal, and relatable experience.
The introduction of this partnership was a big hit, and many teachers were excited about the possibilities Smart Buddies can offer to students!
A Simple Shift in Focus to Programming
As expected at a technology education conference, robotics and coding was front and center. Robotics and coding go hand in hand and are sometimes even used interchangeably, but each has its role. While some teachers were interested in the building and engineering aspects of robotics, others shifted their focus more toward coding and programming.
We were excited to have our partner Shape Robotics with us to show off Fable, a modular-based building system that focuses on coding. A chief advantage of Fable is the system’s design – due to how easy it is to use. Because it has strong magnetic joints that snap together, you can construct a wide range of varied robots in just a matter of a few minutes, which means less time spent building and more time coding. Basically it’s click, click, code. The block-based coding app and interface empowers students to get started quickly and begin to understand the relationships between coded actions and the robot’s functions even quicker. Not to mention, the Fable software helps students visually see and develop an understanding of the programmable blocks and the text-based environment that is used by today’s developers.
Many teachers commented on how simple it was to use Fable, with its range of lessons and activities for Grades 3-12, and how they could see it being utilized in their classrooms.
What You Want – Options and Flexibility
Mr. Robot is a fan favorite at most shows he attends. He sparked a lot of conversations about robotics in and out of the classroom. Advancing opportunities and adding flexible control options were big. In particular at this show, we chatted a lot about the addition of the new TETRIX® Tele-Op Control Module. The Tele-Op module enables you to program and implement a SONY PS4 DUALSHOCK 4 controller to a remote-controlled robot, giving you more flexibility.
Beyond Mr. Robot, many educators talked about building skills that grow with students and wanting to have a variety of solutions to choose from when searching for what to implement next.
With our newly formed robotics and coding continuum that spans Grades K-12, we have solutions that can lead your students into the workforce of the 21st century and beyond.
If you were at ISTE, we’d love to hear comments from you about what exciting things you saw, heard, and/or plan to put into action this coming year!