5 take-aways from my first #ISTE13 experience

Over 2 weeks have past since the conclusion of ISTE13, which is probably just enough time to shake the hangover from so many learning opportunities and insights into what was a epic 5 day experience. Exhausted and jet lagged, I’m happy to be back in Melbourne; but I have now decided it is time to make a concentrated effort to post about our study tour experiences at ISTE13 after our industry and school visits in San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver.

Experiencing the conference was simply mind blowing. The enormity and scale of the conference was confirmed with me yesterday when an email arrived from iste.org. In the email they revealed that ISTE13 embodied:

  • Over 13,000 participants
  • 74 countries represented by 1,855 international attendees
  • 373 Access ISTE participants (our new, one-day virtual conference)
  • Over 4,500 exhibitor personnel
  • 499 educational technology companies represented
  • Over 1,200 volunteers, and nearly 1,100 presenters
  • More than 50,000 tweets using the official #iste13 hashtag making it one of the top trends on Twitter during the conference
  • More than half a million pieces of digital content were created during ISTE 2013
  • 14,000 downloads and activations of the conference app with 178,000 opens and 18,000 hours of combined use


Before leaving the tour, I was given sound advice from the ACCE president Tony Brandenberg, who offered that the conference needs to be done in byte-sized pieces. These words could not have been truer. ISTE13 was an amazing learning opportunity for any one who was in attendance, in both a physical sense and digital sense. With so much to do and see, you do run the risk of feeling overwhelmed by the scale of the conference (particularly if you are a first timer like me). At the same time, it meant late nights and early mornings. It meant full on schedules during the day by running from place to place, and switching modes cognitively from listening, to sharing, to collaborating, to discussing. Nevertheless, I found ISTE13 to be both thought provoking and inspirational.

I came across this great blog post which summarises the top 10 conversations at ISTE13, which gives good insight into some of the themes that were emmerging from keynotes, sessions, and thougts from attendees.

Below is an attempt to summarise my 5 major takeaways from the ISTE13 experience



A refreshed view on Game Based Learning (GBL)

Jane McGonigal (@avantgame) is a designer of alternate reality games, and was the first keynote speaker at ISTE13 with “Learning is an Epic Win”. Jane alerted us to the fact that there are now 1 billion active gamers around the world, and provoked us into thinking about how games could be used to solve real world problems and engage students in meaningful learning. I particularly loved her point about the nature of games and failing, in that a lot of gamers spend their time failing to reach the next level or required target. Yet these gamers persist and continue to try and try again. Why would gamers spend time, energy and money to play games to only fail time and time again? It made me think about the motivations behind the dynamics of games, and how these can be utilised for educational experiences. Jane offered a list of 10 positive emotions that games evoke, which really summarise the engagement and potential that games offer. If we could find even just a small way to use games to leverage educational content to evoke even some of these emotions with our students, I think we could make a big difference.

Jane McGonigal communicating the wide impact of games globally.

10 positive emotions from gaming.

I must admit, going into this conference I looked upon GBL with a lot of scepticism. Jane’s thought provoking keynote offered a lot of genuine insight into why gamification does matter, what it is, and what it is not. At the moment I am reading Jane’s book, Reality Is Broken: How Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World and it is changing the way that I think about GBL. A small snippet and some reflections from Jane’s ISTE13  keynote can be found below:


Google Apps as a platform for e-portfolios

Of the many sessions that I attended, a favourite of mine would be Helen Barrett’s (@eportfolios) workshop Create Interactive E-Portfolios Using GoogleApps: Docs/Drive, Picasaweb, Blogger, Sites . This year we introduced a 1:1 laptop program in our senior years, with the aim of using Google Apps to allow students and teachers to connect, publish and collaborate. Helen’s session was very valuable for me at this point in time in order for us to take the next step with Google Apps with our students, as they are well on their way to familiarising themselves with Drive and using Documents. For the last few years we have already been placing the emphasis and importance for students to self-reflect, collect and manage evidence and reflections of their own learning with what we call “Personal Learning Folders”. I look forward this term to digitising these in a more efficient and effective way with our students in the form of an e-portfolio that can be viewed and celebrated by all students, teachers and even parents. Helen’s site is a terrific resource of her expertise with eportfolios.


The ISTE13 Iron Chef Challenge

One of the spotlighted sessions at ISTE13 was the Iron Chef challenge. A fellow compatriot on the tour (@rissL) and I decided to have a go at this, and we were very glad that we did.

The Iron Chef Challenge was organised by the Young Educator Network. The idea of the Iron Chef challenge was to collaborate together with a group of people to solve a problem. You can read about the intent of this idea and the process behind the scenes at Krister Moroder’s (@edtechcoachingblog post.

The problem came in the form of several ingredients which had to be used to form a creative solution. The solution was to be presented to a panel of judges and would be scored. @rissL and I teamed up with Michelle from Arkansas (@buckaress) and Lynda from Texas (@lswanner1) to form Team Naked Techs – “Keeping ideas simple and fresh, Jamie Oliver style!” (see the full list of teams here).

Our ingredients were:

  • $12,000
  • 500 students
  • A digital Citizenship program
  • A lack of shared vision with staff on how laptops are used

In our scenario we pretended that we would be applying our ingredients to a 1:1 laptop program that wasn’t going very well for students and teachers. We then had to come up with ways to solve the problem using only $12,000, our time, skills, and ideas.

We got to collaboration straight away. We decided to use Google Presentation for our slides. We set up a Google Doc to make notes of our ideas. We used Google Draw to make pictures of our dishes (solutions). Naturally we ran out of time in session but we could still work together later at night from our different hotels. We also drew on each other’s areas of expertise, abilities, and professional experiences.

The time came for us to present our idea (you can see all presentations here), and I’m proud to say that Team Naked Techs were declared joint winners along side Team Cruncheez! It was such a thrill to win the ISTE Iron Chef Challenge, and it was great to work together in a group of other like-minded individuals. I learnt a lot by listening to everyone else’s ideas about their problems and creative solutions.

As mentioned in @edtechcoaching‘s blog post – the words “Connect, Collaborate, Create” are served as a constant reminders of learning opportunities that should be offered to our students. But do we practise what we preach? The Iron Chef challenge was a creative way of getting the educators to experience these words in a real sense.


Best – keynote – ever!

Adam Bellow (@adambellow) is the founder of Educlipper and EduTecher. Hands down, this was the best keynote I have ever experienced. Adam was passionate, captivating and enthralling all at the same time. He was incredibly fast paced, enjoyable, and his use of visuals were extraordinary. At one point, I couldn’t take notes any more because I was just so captivated in what was happening.

Below are a series of tweets that I managed to blurt out in between being in total awe. These, for me, represent some of the most resounding points from Adam’s keynote.










I was humbled that I actually got to meet Adam in person a few days earlier at the ISTE Welcome Reception. He was nice enough to let me try on his fancy google glasses which he wore on stage when he delivered the keynote!


People Power

Adam Bellow is just one connection that ISTE13 has enabled for me. ISTE13 was a wonderful conversation starter and enabler of connections with so many other educators and like minded individuals. The little conversations here and there, the opportunity to come together in networks of people with a common cause, and being part of a massive movement in both a physical and digital sense has been awe-inspiring. I was challenged and engaged in many deep thoughts and conversations. For me, this reaffirmed Amanda Dykes’ (@amandacdykespoint that the most important thing in education today is people.



As I mentioned earlier, ISTE13 literally ran me off my feet but it was worth it in every sense. Evidence of my mental and physical exhaustion can be seen in this photo of myself and @rissL taken after Adam Bellow’s keynote to bring the conclusion of ISTE13 (note the swollen, puffy, panda eyes!):

Bring on ISTE14!

Some of the sessions at ISTE13 were recorded and can be seen here. The ISTE youtube channel has a collection of other videos that are also worth checking out.


One thought on “5 take-aways from my first #ISTE13 experience

  1. Pingback: An interview with Anthony Salcito for Daily Edventures | ReconfigurEd.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s