ISTE 2011 was held in Philadelphia from June 25-29. Alice and I traveled on the chartered ACTEM bus with 40 Maine technology educators. At the conference we were able to talk with many colleagues who we usually only connect to online. The conversations and collegial connections are certainly a highlight of attending this conference. The initial keynote was by Dr. John Medina who has published Brain Rules. Videos of all the keynotes are available here. While I didn't find Medina's message new (students need to learn basics and then build on them in a logical order, etc.), I think his rules make sense and contain ideas that we should be attending to in schools. I was reminded that there is very little that is known about the way the brain works and that teachers are often the experts about how to approach individual students.
One of my goals for attending the conference was to explore more uses for iPads, for teachers as well as students. I took my new iPad instead of my laptop and was able to use it for most everything I would have done on a laptop with a lot less weight to carry around. The best uses of an iPad at this point in time seem to be to use the apps for Pages, Keynote, etc. to place instructional materials on the iPad for students to use and of course the access to the Internet. There are a few apps that are designed for particular adaptive uses, but many of those being marketed are a return to skill & drill on a new machine.
I was please to hear about the upcoming mobile apps for Voicethread and I think using it on a mobile device for field trips would be a great addition to use of that site. I talked to a number of teachers who are using iPod touches in the classroom and I think that we would make use of those if we had access to them. They are smaller and more manageable than an iPad and there are apps for story creation, drawing and math practice that would be appealing to students. I'm not sure how that will fit in with our budgets at Rowe and YES.
I learned about "infographics"(e.g. http://www.coolinfographics.com/) from a session cotaught by Diane Laufenberg, social studies teacher at Science Learning Academy in Philadephia. I hope to follow up on the ideas of this session with student assignments at YHS next year. Like many other tools I have been exploring, infographics are a creative way for students to describe their learning in a subject area.