Connecting and learning at the ISTE2017 Conference

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,, 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:

Global Education Conference:

Webinar link for TESL ON members:

Post written by Jen Artan. Currently teaching Literacy at TVDSB, Jen enjoys exploring technology as a teaching tool with her learners. Jen divides her time as a TESL Ontario Webinar Administrator, the TESL London Communications Chair, and a current PBLA practitioner. She’s also quite good at Scrabble.


5 thoughts on “Connecting and learning at the ISTE2017 Conference”

  1. Hey Jen,

    Thank you for leading the way on the tech journey at our workplace. If it were not for your guidance, my edutech path would be rocky. I have learned a lot over the last few years, and am thankful that you have “tech sense”. Though it is strictly voluntary on your part, you are clearly leading this process in our workplace, and our workplace is better for it. There are a few of us that embrace online learning, and we benefit, but mostly the learners benefit. There is an effort required but the cost/benefit ratio is good and the results are stellar.

    Thanks for going way beyond powerpoint:) Language for the workplace classes are more interesting because of edutech.


  2. Thanks for taking the time to reply. In many edtech conferences, I feel that adult non-credit ESL/ELL is overlooked. While edtech is exploding in K-12 and higher ed, there is a vacuum when it comes to our learners, and I don’t think that’s okay. We need a solid consortium of ELL instructors representing our learners and finding ways to make learning more meaningful and relevant in *our* classrooms. That’s why I do it.

    And I’m serious about ISTE2018 in Chicago. I would LOVE to go with a group of like minded instructors. Let’s keep pushing; our learners deserve it.

  3. Thank you for all this information, especially the links. I totally agree with your comments above. There needs to be more cohesion and collaboration within our sector, as well as communication and connection to sectors outside of ours. It seems our profession is seperate from mainstream education. Perhaps by connecting with other organizational/educational groups teachers can become more valued and credible, students can feel included within the community thereby transitioning to higher levels of education or work more smoothly. Inclusion is important on so many levels.

  4. Maria – thanks for your comment. There is so much that crosses over from mainstream education into our field that to ignore what goes on in that sector is just burying our heads in the sand.

    I also just got back from the incredible PB4T conference held by the OTF (Ontario Teacher’s Federation) through my union OSSTF. Another incredible experience with knowledgable presenters and some though-provoking keynotes. To be honest, I felt like I was undercover, not being a “real” teacher, something of the Pinnochio of the group. While the focus was K-12, everything I encountered could be applied to our adult ELL audience. In fact, what I found at ISTE was very much occurring at PB4T, namely that adult learning principles are overwhelmingly being applied to children and youth, that the line between pedagogy and andragogy is gradually fading away.

    What’s important is that ESL/LINC instructors keep an eye on what is happening in the K-12 and higher education sectors. You’re right about inclusion – we just need to make our voice heard and have a presence in the mainstream events.

    1. I totally agree! I often found ideas for lesson planning on websites not specific to ESL/ELL, but are easily applied to our learners. Both abroad and in Canada, I found it useful. “Teachers Beyond borders”! (…not just geographical ones?)

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