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[ISTE 2015 Recap] 5 Key Takeaways from the Edmentum Team

Thursday, July 23, 2015 -- Sarah Cornelius

We’ve had nearly a month to digest all of the great ideas, information, and inspirations that we absorbed at ISTE 2015. The conference was huge, consistently exciting, occasionally overwhelming, and always thought-provoking. Good thing that we brought a whole team to do our best at seeing and hearing everything! As a final recap of the conference, we want to take a shot at narrowing down all that we learned to a short list of five top takeaways.

1. Makerspaces are making an impact

The need for a more hands-on education model, with clear application to real-world, 21st century skills has been widely recognized and called for. So, it’s no surprise that makerspaces are becoming an increasingly hot topic. The maker movement in schools is all about giving students the chance to try, fail, and problem solve in a direct, applied manner. The best part? It’s not at all difficult to create a makerspace in your school or classroom! We have some great tips in this blog post. You can also check out this article from the School Library Journal for maker takeaway tips from ISTE 2015.

2. Data is everywhere—and we need to pay attention to it

At this point, we have all heard plenty about “big data.” Thanks to the multitude of devices, online programs, and apps we are all plugged into, data truly is ubiquitous. The education world is no exception. Data collection on students is plentiful and broad—from test scores to sensitive personal information—and it certainly received attention at ISTE 2015. Much of this data comes from online instructional and assessment programs and offers educators valuable insight into their students’ learning, which can be used to differentiate instruction effectively. Programs like Edmentum’s Sensei can be hugely helpful in making sense of this data and honing in on the most important metrics.

However, for all of the benefits that this student data can potentially offer, it also raises privacy concerns. Exactly what and how much student information is floating around the Internet? Who has access to it, and what are they doing with it? Where is the line between leveraging and exploiting student data? These are all important questions with complex answers. What did educators at ISTE have to say? EdSurge talked to nine teachers and administrators at the conference and shares their responses in this article. To learn more about this issue, you can also check out ISTE’s “9 tips for a robust discussion on student data privacy".

3. Gamification is a player

Learning as a game? The idea is gaining lots of traction in the world of edtech. Incorporating game elements into learning engages students and encourages practice and mastery with rewards. Many educators are seeing success with incorporating gamification into their classrooms, and they were excited to share what they have found at this year’s ISTE conference. Check out this article to learn more about gamification trends at ISTE 2015, or take a look at this blog post for more on how game elements are being utilized more and more in edtech.

4. Blended learning is here to stay

As the world becomes increasingly digital and students (along with everyone else) become more and more connected to devices, it’s natural that classrooms are becoming more digital as well. Online learning is being embraced as a means to provide personalized, targeted instruction and to offer students instructional models that allow them to learn on their own terms. The upshot? Blended learning is a trend that will be seen much more in the education world. This was thoroughly evident at ISTE 2015, where there were numerous sessions dedicated to blended learning, including the ambiguous topic of defining it and the equally challenging question of how best to implement it. The New Media Consortium (NMC) also used the conference as an opportunity to release its influential annual Horizon Report K-12 Edition, in which it named blended learning a key trend to watch.

5. Coding—it’s elementary!

Strong technology skills are a necessity in today’s work world, especially in high-demand and lucrative STEM fields. This being the case, more and more focus is being placed on teaching computing skills to the youngest learners. These skills are as broad as digital literacy, safe Internet practices, and introductory coding. By being exposed to computing curriculum early in their academic careers, students gain confidence in these important skills, laying a foundation for later academic and career success. Edutopia has a great article about the need for this curriculum.

At ISTE 2015, there were lots of methods and tools on display to teach coding effectively —and to remove the intimidation factor for educators. Edmentum was very excited to have our EducationCity U.K. team host one such session, where they discussed EducationCity’s new computing subject and best practices in implementing elementary computing curriculum from the U.K. that is transferrable to U.S. schools. You can learn more about EducationCity’s Computing module (and download some free activities!) here.

We were blown away by all of the innovative and inspiring educators who we met and the ideas we learned about at ISTE 2015. Of course, this list only scratches the surface of everything that we saw. Want a more in-depth look at what ISTE 2015 included? Check out ISTE’s EdTekHub for a full selection of articles, videos, and infographics recapping the conference!