Sparks Created at ISTE13

Almost two hundred photographers gathered for the ISTE photo walk. (I'm the one waving the hat.) CC Larry S. Anderson, "Photo Walk Group Shot," June 23, 2013,

I’m just back from ISTE 2013.  The  mutual desire to innovate education drew upwards of 20,000 edtech gurus, classroom teachers, technology integrationists, app inventors, and would-be education visionaries to the San Antonio convention center. We shared ideas, made connections, and re-energized one another in preparation for the rapid changes our profession is undergoing. Now, with a heady mash-up of ideas, apps, and questions swirling willy-nilly through my head, I must make sense of what I’ve learned over the past week.
Most importantly, I must focus and nail down what I will implement both in my classes and for my own professional growth when school starts up again in August. If I don’t, as the old grind kicks in, I risk losing the spark I sought and found at ISTE.
1.     Nurture new relationships.

  • Several brave souls, including Mark Barnett of STEMivate, have launched maker spaces for kids in the past year – and several of us enjoyed Mark’s gracious tour of his space only a couple of blocks from ISTE. Through Skype and face-to-face connections like this one, I want my students to see how they can follow Mark’s lead and use found objects, stuff from the Dollar Store, media applications, programming basics, 3D printers, and robotics to translate their imaginations into really cool stuff.
  • At the EdTechWomen Dine event, sponsored by ISTE Unplugged, I encountered a broad spectrum of women who are changing the world through technology, from journalists to app builders to teacher leaders. It was an honor to learn from them in the short time we had together. I want to continue to work with this amazing group of inspirational women, and I want to show my students what it means to be connected with powerful, creative people in today’s world.

2.     Create a “commonplace book” as a way to record and aggregate ideas, and impressions, to provide for deeper thinking over time.

  • In his keynote on “Where Good Ideas Come From,” Steven Johnson reintroduced the idea of a “commonplace book,” where enlightened individuals of the past (John Milton, Henry David Thoreau, and such) collected notations from their reading and conversations. I love this idea, different from a journal or diary, of creating a physical document over time that allows us to experience a comingling of golden phrases and provocative ideas (and I would add images) that arrest us and stimulate our thinking.
  • The nubs of ideas “incubate,” according to Johnson, and rub elbows with other ideas in serendipitous fashion. The diversity of ideas is important, as it allows for creative connections that might not evolve otherwise.
  • Johnson recommended Devonthink (a web application for Macs) for powerful aggregating of such disparate notes and quotations all in one place. The mobile version, My Thoughts, is quite expensive, however. I wonder if Evernote could do the job as a less expensive substitute?

3. Gamify my class.

4.     Pursue global connections.

5. Master the design thinking process.

  • Listening to Diane Darrow and George Jemmott describe the design thinking model used at the Nueva School, I suddenly felt all the little pieces of the creative process I have been trying to figure out individually – brainstorming, feedback, prototyping – begin to fall into place and make sense.
  • With a clearer picture in mind of what constitutes the various phases of design – researching or the “deep dive,” focusing, generating ideas, making informed decisions, prototyping, building, and collaborating, though not necessarily in that order – I believe I can better guide my students as they become self-directed designers their own projects. In addition, I like how the process starts from a perspective of empathy and research to produce purposeful designs for others.
  • Darrow and Jemmott not only asked us to undertake the design process in a hands-on way that presenters at ISTE ironically rarely use, but they also articulated how apps like iCardSort, Popplet, QuickVoice, and Paper 53 (which I may appropriate for my commonplace books) actually enhance the productivity of the design process.
  • I know I won’t master the design process in the coming months, but I’m ready to sign on for the free course on design thinking from Stanford or the Design Thinking Institute at Nueva in June of 2014 to learn even more.

Too Ambitious Again?
I realize I’ve set out an ambitious program for myself – especially if I also want to flip parts of my curriculum.  But such is the nature of sparks. I will have to just wait and see which ones fizzle and which ones light up the sky.

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