One of my favorite parts about attending a conference like #ISTE2014 is having the chance to think deeply with brilliant peers.  Every conversation that I had — whether it took place in a diner, outside the Expo hall, in the backchannel of a session, or on a walk back to the condo that I shared with Philip Cummings and John Spencer — was a chance to wrestle with teaching and learning in today’s world.

What I loved the best, though, was working to share those conversations through Twitter.

Because Twitter is an intentionally restricted medium built on short messages, giving others a summary of the learning that I was doing required me to clarify and polish and condense the fundamental notions running through my head.  The results, I think, are clear and simple statements of my core beliefs.

Here are five of those statements that still have me thinking:

One of the things that I liked the LEAST about ISTE was listening to people tell me about their favorite digital tools simply because MOST of those conversations overlooked the simple truth that technology alone isn’t a motivator for kids:


On a similar note, I started thinking a lot about the kinds of people that we look to for leadership in today’s digital world.  Often, we celebrate the Techie, thinking that any person with a backpack full of digital tools HAS to know what matters in today’s classroom.  The simple truth is that I’d take a teaching geek over a tech geek any day:


Walking through the Expo Hall at ISTE is — in many ways — a frightening experience.  You are surrounded by hundreds of companies peddling their products, working to convince you that their features would revolutionize education.  What frustrated me was that 90% of the crap on display did nothing to give kids the chance to learn about, participate in, or improve the world around them:


Early on in my ISTE experience, I spent an hour or so sitting in a Commons Area with 10 or 15 other attendees.  During the entire time, NO ONE had a conversation.  Instead, they stared into screens, Tweeting or texting or Voxing or blogging or Instagramming.  That worried me:


If we aren’t talking about kids first and tech second, we’re wasting our time — and probably our district’s cash.  But I’m still shocked at how easy it is to get wrapped up in conversations about gadgets — especially when we are at a conference where people brag about being techies and gear heads and gadget freaks:


Any of this resonate with you?  What did ISTE leave you wondering about?


Related Radical Reads:

The Gadget Happy Classroom Fail

Change Depends on MORE than Shiny iGadgets

Technology is a Tool, NOT a Learning Outcome

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  • EileenForrest

    Your tweets are right on!!

    Bill, your comments resonate with me!  Like you I believe that our students need to be at the center of all conversations about education and in particular the use of technology.  I also agree that technology does not motivate our students, rather learning opportunities do.  

    In my experience, I have seen districts invest blindly in “technology” without really understanding the impact it can or should have on the learning process and consequently it doesn’t have the lasting impact that the school board and administrators are expecting.  I have seen expensive technology tools being used as nothing more than glorified worksheets and teachers using the tools in this manner are asked to present to other staff members.  The decision to invest in technology happens without considering the training and curriculum development that needs to happen so that teachers can use the tools effectively.  It is not fair to the teachers to simply put them in the position of having technology placed in their classrooms without the proper training or alignment to learning targets.  This short sightedness needs to be addressed because it is actually causing more harm than good when valuable instructional time is lost with frustrated teachers trying to use various and assorted technological tools due to building or district mandates.  Everyone loses in this scenario. It is time we wake up and make lasting improvements by investing in the supports that will allow our teachers to routinely and effectively use our expensive digital tools so that they align with what we want students to know and be able to do across content areas!