I have just returned from having attended the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference in Atlanta, Ga. I have to say that, once again, this conference did not disappoint. In fact, having attended this conference has reinvigorated my hope for a higher level of technology integration in the classroom.
Although this conference is similar to other conferences in offering breakout sessions, hands-on workshops, and vendor exhibits, it does offer something more. First, many of the attendees, participants, and presenters come from all around the world. It was announced that 70 countries were represented this year. Second, the conference provides areas where students and teachers have the opportunity to share their technology-enriched projects and proposals to attendees, often on a one-to-one basis.
One of the first projects that I learned about dealt with robotics. With this project, a group of home-schooled students designed and built a large mobile robot with the capability to kick a large ball. As I visited with one of the parents/home school teacher, I learned several things that were unique to this project. As in the case of many other student-built robots, this robot was designed for competition. Originally designed to fling a Frisbee, this robot has undergone different changes. The second rendition of this robot tossed a football. The most current rendition was the ball-kicking robot that I saw rolling around a corridor. The one thing that I found most interesting about this robot is that it was built from scratch and not from a kit as most robots that I have seen. Parts for this robot were purchased from a hardware store, taken from a treadmill, or salvaged from a junkyard.
I later spoke to a middle school-aged girl from Cancun, Mexico. She explained that she and her fellow classmates shared a concern for the survival of the sea turtles of the area. It seems that the sea turtles faced two major issues--pollution and encroachment by humans. This young lady explained that her and her classmates’ proposal called for the building of a green, sustainable educational and research facility. It seemed clear to the students that the general public needed to be made aware of the plight of the endangered turtles. Moreover, this facility would also function to educate the public on the need to eliminate the pollution.
A third project that made an impact on me was developed by a group of elementary students from Virginia. This group of students came to the realization that many physically challenged students were not able to play musical instruments. They decided to create their own instrument. The final product resembled a trash can lying on its side. One end of the instrument was covered, creating a drum. The other end was covered with about a dozen small peddles protruding about six inches. Anyone wanting to play the instrument could either beat on the drum or press the different peddles to produce various musical block sounds. These children were very excited to share that one of their classmates was able to use the newly created instrument to produce music.
Without a doubt, the most impressive project presented to me was the simplest of all. I was greeted by a six-year-old boy from Mexico. As he approached me, dressed in a suit and tie, he held out a tablet. He then started to show me an instructional video on the process of uploading a video to YouTube. The video was very well designed and easy to follow. His narration as the video played only added to the depth of the presentation. I asked him if he knew how to upload videos by himself. To my surprise, he not only answered my question, but went on to explain the software that he used to create the video.
Speaking and learning from these students was my favorite part of this conference. I walked away feeling very impressed with what I had observed and heard. I have no doubt that this was just a minute fraction of what is occurring in classrooms across the globe.
Rest assured, technology is increasing in our classrooms, project by project.