Chicago was destined to be the largest ISTE crowd yet. The Midwestern charm mixed with a heavy fun-loving Irish population set the stage for a welcoming education event in the Windy City. Chicago represents education actively and you can't turn a street corner without bumping into a college, library or museum. Next to Lake Michigan ISTE 2018 was more like an ocean of participants, exhibitors and ideas. Chi-Town was an absolute treat to visit and ISTE 2018 the best learning experience yet for teachers!
Microsoft and Google dominated the entrance to the Exhibitor's Hall and it felt comforting to see the big fish supporting the event even stronger this year! Surrounding these big fish were "Partners' who provided many rich EdTech applications linked to their respective big fish's mission. One wonderful example was Lifeliqe joining the Microsoft STEM area and sharing their vision of a future without textbooks involving interactive 3D, AR, VR, and MR content for learners. Soundtrap (recently acquired by Spotify) were frequently spotted in the Google ecosystem sharing the future of collaborative music and podcasting creation. It is obvious for both of the big fish that partners make the world go around and that they are actively encouraging smaller companies to thrive with their guidance in the education space.
With Martin from Lifeliqe
Moving past the big fish presented visitors with a sea of exhibitors each trying to be as inviting, colorful and as genuinely helpful as possible. I was particularly happy to meet the team from SAM Labs, SXSWedu, and WeVideo. Regardless of the booth this year I found it impossible to find alone time with any exhibitor. There were always multiple teachers looking to learn more about the services and get hands-on experience. Sphero always has a booth that makes you stop and engage. The teacher bait this year in the ISTE tackle box included the use of cars, motorcycles, virtual reality campers, HUGE high definition displays and even an entire School of the Future tour from Powerschool! The exhibit hall was bountiful with its learning opportunities and everyone left at the end of each day with sore feet rather than sore bottoms.
Outside of the exhibit hall in the weeds was a thriving communication zone from the ground floor to ISTE Central which acted as the heart of the event site. Music greeted the 24,000+ coffee seeking teachers each morning in the lobby and there were sessions in every single available space that started days before the official first keynote on Sunday night. Certifications, hands-on training, poster sessions and playgrounds were seeing hundreds of interested teachers each hour. Apple held a playground that had crowds waiting for their 9am opening. Just feet away the Collaborative Classroom playground allowed teachers to discuss Sustainable Development Goals education and Skype outreach benefits for students and communities. I originally felt disappointed that I didn't take more advantage of the opportunity to present some of the things I do in EdTech, but after the days of learning and meeting new and old friends, I'm glad I just used that extra time to relax a bit. Though the conference hall closed nightly that didn't stop teachers from continuing the professional and social development well into the nights.
Apple EDU's Playground at ISTE 2018
The nocturnal among us were treated a wide range of night events. ISTE Karaoke usually is the highlight but this year Soundtrap and WeVideo encouraged two young staffers to plan the most epic nightclub VIP event ever. Over 120 teachers were treated to a private nightclub event in Chicago and the event communicated a message of success and thanks at the same time. A long-running CanAm celebration was put on by MindShare Learning at Buddy Guy's Legends Blues Club and after a night of celebrating all things EdTech and innovation in Canadian and American classrooms, Buddy Guy actually showed up and played the night away! Finally, Microsoft Education held their Hack the Classroom the way Microsoft always does.... Big and Empowering! After renting out the Museum of Science and Industry for the evening live guests were treated to the biannual EdTech update, a reception among American space artifacts and the great company of intelligent and risk-taking professionals that share similar career and life goals.
PowerSchool Reception - Museum of Science and Industry
The schools of thousands of teachers had every opportunity to find direct contact with EdTech companies, hands-on learning sessions, extended social networks, free swag for themselves and students and to see the wonderful and inviting city of Chicago! ISTE membership fees are huge especially when converting the currencies to lesser economies. I'm not saying they should go any higher but I can say that I am fully aware now about where each and every one of my registration pennies are going. The ISTE organizing committee is doing a wonderful job choosing Keynote Speakers like Andy Weir and organizing everything right down to shuttle systems, schedules and food provision. I'm proud to be a Canadian ISTE member! See you all again in 2020 Disney! My son's birthday and wedding anniversary happen during ISTE annually :)
I'm an experienced Global Minecraft Mentor, Published Educational Researcher, Microsoft Innovative Educator Fellow, Apple Distinguished Educator, TeachSDGs Ambassador and grade 6-12 technology teacher. @BBTNB