In June, I attended the ISTE2017 conference in San Antonio, Texas. ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) is a non-profit organization serving over 100,000 educational stakeholders. ISTE is at the forefront of educational technology, driving change and offering professional development throughout the year.
Creation over consumption
The focus in educational technology (edtech) is not on the tool itself; it’s what the tool enables its users to accomplish. A teaching goal is more effective if the instructor states what she wants the learners to be able to do. It’s not enough to say that the class will learn Microsoft Office Suite. That’s what’s referred to as learning technology for technology’s sake, which is redundant and pointless unless you identify what the learners will be able to produce with the tool.
The workshops and interactive demonstrations that I attended promoted the pedagogy of learning strategies. I attended workshops on Google Draw, Google Keep, Google Sheets, creating 3-D objects and animations, classroom feedback tools such as Quizziz and Kahoot, presentation platforms that included Nearpod and Google slides, video editing/creating tools WeVideo, Explain Everything, Adobe Spark, Flipgrid, audio recording tools including SoundTrap… Then there was Canva, Visual.ly, Padlet, etc. (To see a collection of these tools, access my Padlet link here)
The majority of these tools are OERs (Open Educational Resources), generally meaning free. Premium purchases are usually available for upgrading or unlocking more advanced features. One of the advantages of attending workshops at ISTE was that often the developers would hand out an extended premium access code, allowing the instructor to try out the tool for a much longer period of time.
Selecting just a few to use in the classroom
To be honest, the sheer number of edtech tools out there can be staggering. This past term I tried using Canva and Adobe Spark with my Stage 2 Language for the Workplace group, in addition to the Google Apps for Education that I use in my Google Classroom. When planning the course, I initially thought that this might be tech overload for them. It turned out not to be the case. The learners were using the tools provided in Canva to produce business cards, brochures, and menus. Adobe Spark was used to create short infomercials as part of a business project.
At the end of the course, instead of having the group write their course reflections, I asked them to use Adobe Spark to audio record what they learned and what their goals had been, and to also include images. The process of careful reflection and self evaluation meant that the learners needed to analyse their learning, and apply it in the production of the video. Because the video had to be under five minutes, they needed to be concise and clear.
They created. The edtech tools became secondary to the product – and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. When the learners, on their own, produced a Google Doc to organize the final class party (who would bring what food, which date would work best, etc) and shared it with me, that’s how I knew that they could apply what they learned, and that the tool is simply that – a mechanism for making something happen.
Why go to a tech conference?
Why did I go to ISTE2017? I knew that I would be able to connect in real life with the edtech community. I would be able to be a part of the discussion, such as the one I had at the Global Education Conference Network, but more important than that, I knew that I would be able to bring back this experience, in some way, to my colleagues in ELT across Canada.
What training, support, or professional development do we need to be able to deliver 21st Century learning to our students? How can we make the delivery of our courses/modules more impactful, more meaningful, and more relevant to our learners’ needs? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below!
Jen’s padlet: https://padlet.com/tv46819/ESLeduttechtools2016
Global Education Conference: http://www.globaleducationconference.com/
Webinar link for TESL ON members: