ISTE Disappointments

That’s really an odd title to type in following the other glowing posts that I’ve written recently.  However, there were a couple of things that didn’t quite go over the top for me.

I enjoyed Mario Armstrong’s initial session.  It was entertaining and high energy.  The concept of fighting the monsters and advice from all quarters was ingenious.  There was a great deal of support when he took on the “Locked Net Monster”.  Those of us in the audience applauded the stand against censorship and the rules that cell phones and portable devices are not available in a number of schools.  Yet, despite this, wireless network access was not available in the vendor area.  I found that a real disappointment.  Where better to have access to the facts and websites and downloads of demo software or to see products in action than online?  You’ve got to believe that the majority of people had iPads or iPods or laptops and could have taken advantage of connectivity.  I think I would have spent even more time at the exhibits had I been connected.

Backchannelling is becoming a way of life and we’ve seen and heard speakers who encourage it in their presentations.  It’s an opportunity for the audience to provide some interactivity in the way things are going during a presentation.  It’s powerful when used properly.  Its use and the use of laptops in the classroom/lecture hall has been hugely contested and debated in educational circles.  Those of us in support of the concept talk about the benefit which can be derived from taking a presenter’s thoughts and scaffolding into better things.  Thing went downhill starting with the backchannel during the opening keynote.  A message that should have been a call to action to the 15-20k attendees instead became a mud throwing contest by those who came expecting a stand up comic.  How many times do we hear the comments “It’s not about the tools; it’s about the message”?  The backchannel, from some camps, was about the style and tools and ignored one of the most important contemporary messages that all educators should be dealing with in classrooms.  Unfortunately, it spilled over to other presenters.  In a couple of chats before presentations, I know that some folks were nervous about what would happen in their backchannel.  If there ever was an opportunity to talk about banning the concept, I saw it there.

The third disappointment for me was some of the messages from the vendor hall.  The message, in many stations, was that “if you buy my technology, it’s so easy to engage and increase student achievement”.  Could a message be so incorrect in this day and age?  Teaching is one of the most difficult jobs that you’ll ever have.  I checked in at the PLP Network booth and shared my thoughts with Sheryl.  Instead of the message that others were deliverying, hers could well be “join us for a year and work your butt off and become a better teacher”.  I guess that it just hurt to see “good teaching” downgraded to a 5 minute sound bite and a T-Shirt if you stuck it out.

Despite the above, most everything else was superlative and I walked away so much the richer for it.  As I finish off this entry, I realize that I’ve learned even from these three areas of disappointment.  They will help focus on my attendance at events in the future.  Content rich settings like this offer so many other alternatives.


3 thoughts on “ISTE Disappointments

  1. Speaking to your third point. I represent Sweet Search, a search engine for students. So, yes, I am one of the lowly vendors. I hope that I never gave the impression that any technology could make teaching a snap. It is difficult to pitch any product without feeling a little preachy and I try my hardest not to give off that used car salesman creepy vibe. I’m sure it sounds cliche to say this but some of my best friends are teachers and school administrators, their spouses as well (and I’ve met many more at conferences like these). I’ve seen and heard what a struggle it is to teach, how one student can destroy the classroom environment and prevent learning, how people think it’s a cushy 9 to 3 gig, etc. etc. And I’ve seen how soul-crushing it can be, when a new teacher bursting with enthusiasm is met by a less than helpful administration. I wouldn’t ever dare suggest that the job is easy or could be a cinch if all students had iPads or smartboards or used Sweetsearch.

    Still, as much as I don’t love harassing people, cornering them in the aisle or smiling so hard they just have to stop and listen, (do they feel sorry for me?) . I do feel good knowing that the tools I present to them, (which are free by the way, can be useful to students. They won’t suddenly become A+ students but they may find the search results they’re looking for a lot more quickly or a subject guide I’ve written for findingDulcinea and come away feeling like they a little closer to their goal. That’s my hope, at least. And if you ever feel like a vendor is being condescending, just tell her what it is you’re looking for and what might really help your students. Maybe she or we can help.


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