ISTE 11: Days 2 & 3

In reverse chronological order, and sort of bullet-y.  tl;dr version: some interesting controversy among computer science people, good food, still meh.

  • Rode home on the train with a colleague, early, skipped the keynote by Chris Lehmann, even though I’m sure it was fab.  I was conferenced out.
  • Wandered around Reading Terminal Market with said colleague.  She got sushi.
  • Attended a session on recruiting and retaining girls in technology and other stem fields.  It was pretty interesting, covering some ground about gender and stereotypes that I hadn’t seen others bring up before in similar kinds of sessions at ISTE.
  • Wandered around the playground area, where I saw the following:

  • I also saw a robotics team–mostly boys–and they named their robot a girl’s name–sigh.
  • Found the VEX booth and talked to them for a while.  They had the classroom competition set up.  I talked to them a little about our competition teams and how I’m adding a middle school team.  Then I asked if C (and some variations) were the only languages you could use on the robots.  As it turns about, they have a “brain” that’s basically Linux and that can accept any language.  It’s illegal for competition, but I’d love to get my hands on one and see if I could tie it into my existing curriculum that uses Python.
  • Wandered around the Exhibitor area.  Talked to some Google people.  Saw waaaaay too many Interactive Whiteboards.  And while some of them clearly do some cool things, they’re no longer game changers.  Five years from now, I think, they’ll be almost as pointless as overhead projectors.  Tablets are the next big thing.  I stopped by the BrainPop booth.  I love their animations, and they’ve added games.  Turns out we just got a subscription–pretty fun.
  • Wandering around the Exhibitor area made me feel a little ill.  Education is seen primarily as a market, as a way to make money.  Very few of the vendors, to me, seem to be interested in really improving education or teaching or learning.
  • Attended a breakfast for computer science teachers.  We heard two talks, one by David Gagnon from the University of Wisconsin, who discussed games and learning.  And then we heard from a woman and her students and how they use Scratch.  Both talks were good, through watching the Twitter feed, I was a little disturbed that someone (don’t know who exactly) said they didn’t know anything about computer games–and they teach computer science.  Wow. Just wow.
  • Last night, I ended the evening at an NCWIT event, for which I was very late, but I still got to talk to a couple of people.  I missed the drawing for Engineer Barbie.  Bummer.
  • Prior to that, I went to a cocktail hour sponsored by LearnBoost, which I found out from my friend Audrey Watters, a writer/journalist who I try to run into and talk to as much as possible. LearnBoost is a very cool application, btw, and one of the few vendors out there who seem to really listen to what educators want.  Check it out!
  • I needed that cocktail hour because just before that, I was at a Computational Thinking session where fights nearly broke out.  The CS teachers questions the goal of the curriculum, and saw it as pushing out computer science as its own class.  The presenters really didn’t have an answer for them, which was telling.  Discussion was somewhat heated.
  • And that whole issue–CS vs. “Technology”–was something that had continued (with the same actors) from the CS SIG meeting.  I heard stories of whole programs being wiped out as administrators invested more time and money in courses on using applications.  Fascinating stuff, and I got the feeling that not everyone in the group agreed and kind of wanted the controversy to go away.  I’ll have more on that another day.
  • Preceding that, I was at a pleasant meeting of teachers from Independent Schools. No controversies here.  Just sharing information.

At various points, I hung out in the Bloggers’ Cafe, chatting with various people, including Jenn Orr and her colleague and whoever was within earshot.  I also spent time in the Market, eating at Pearl’s Oyster Bar (so yummy), getting Thai takeout, getting BBQ chicken, and getting a couple of cannolis from Termini Brothers (also yummy).  I lost my power cord to my phone, but I bought a new one at Radio Shack.  Basically, I wasn’t terribly impressed.  I learned a few things, but it didn’t thrill me.  I don’t think I’ll make the trek to San Diego for next year’s.  I want to learn, to have interesting conversations, and not be talked at or, worse, sold to.


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