Seven Takeaways from ISTE17

I had a great time attending my third ISTE Convention June 25–28, in San Antonio, Texas. One thing I picked up the first time I attended was that any given room is packed with unbelievable intelligence and insight (more posts on the way that will share what I picked up from specific thought leaders). By asking questions and doing lots of listening, I learn a ton and get exposed to many viewpoints that I previously didn’t even know existed.

As I began reflecting on this year’s takeaways, I noticed that many pointed toward broad trends. This post offers my read on seven such trends.

Equity is Imperative

The Equity word was everywhere at this conference, in both words and actions. I’ve never heard so much discussion about Equity outside of a dedicated training on the topic. From the bathroom signage to the award winners and featured speakers, ISTE strongly signaled at an institutional level its commitment to equity and inclusion for members. And presenters and attendees made it clear time and again that Equity is essential when it comes to meeting the needs of the learners and communities we serve.

The trend here is moving from important conversations about diversity and inclusion to having important conversations that are diverse and inclusive. This is the real change we need to see.

The Future is Ubiquitous Access to Professional Learning

You would have been hard-pressed to look in any direction and not see someone live-streaming at ISTE17. While this convention brings together an enormous amount of people, cost and location mean that even more are unable to be there in person. In the past, I’ve been among those living vicariously through attendees thanks to sharing on the #notatiste hashtag but this year the broadcasters downright redefined what it means to be present. Even if you couldn’t be in the moment, the moments have been captured for posterity. I was at ISTE and yet in the coming weeks I will be attending a great deal more hours of learning than I was able to within the walls of the convention center.

I think it hints at a trend that will increasingly impact professional learning — from conferences to anywhere/anytime classroom observations — and will extend to classrooms as we think about students collaborating, sharing and presenting their learning to a broad and authentic audience.

Particular kudos are warranted for the #passthescopeEDU community. These educators approached their broadcasting with admirable professionalism and coordination. Thanks to Val Lewis for compiling their highlights from each day:

People Are Excited About Learning Spaces

A lot of the buzz on this topic is driven by vendors who are wisely capitalizing on the trend, so we see a dominant focus on products, such as so-called flexible furniture. I hope to see the conversations move from this aspect to more thoughtful considerations around RESOURCES, as well as deeper exploration around STRUCTURES and SYSTEMS that we implement in learning environments. This will lead us to conversations about how we can more intentionally and effectively utilize space to impact Teaching and Learning that prepares students for successful futures.

Voice Is Salient

From the posters and presentations to hallway conversations and even Student Voice t-shirts, it was clear that this is a red-hot topic. From what I personally observed, much of the dialogue right now is in the abstract and largely an echo chamber of intentionality (which is not a bad thing!). But people are clearly hungry for more concrete ideas. Even the best sharing around actionable ideas to execute in the here and now are likely mere glimmers that hint at the great work that will soon emerge. I anticipate that in 2018, 2019 and beyond, we will see more folks lighting the runway with How To Do It (and why to do it!) so that we can all begin to take flight.

Conversations and Poster Sessions Are Driving the Learning

I asked a lot of colleagues what was exciting, and people repeatedly shared that the best learning was gained at the poster sessions and through informal conversations with other attendees. I believe this will be a growing trend at conferences and anticipate the most successful conferences being those that actively and intentionally seek to foster opportunities that leverage learning through these powerful mediums built on human connectedness.

Watch Sarah’s full IGNITE talk!

Community (Not Video) Killed the Radio Star

a.k.a. There’s No “I” in L-E-A-R-N. Before Jad Abumrad’s opening keynote, Making IT Happen Award Winner Sarah Thomas offered an inspiring IGNITE Talk. She touched on the value, importance and what it means to be a Connected Educator. Sarah was on the biggest of stages in front of a live audience of thousands, with many thousand more watching on monitors around the building and around the world, and yet she deferred to others’ voices to make her points. Sarah was the one selected to give this talk because she is an expert! She possesses the words but chose instead to highlight others. As she said in one of her own post-ISTE reflection posts:

I…have a responsibility to hold the door open for others by amplifying their voices

I think that Sarah tapped into an emerging trend that will impact our community’s cults of personality: our most popular champions will be those who themselves prioritize championing others.

Digital Badge Credentials Are Inevitable

As one of the organizers of the 2017 Badge Summit on the day before ISTE and a consultant in this space, I’m admittedly biased. That said, it’s an objective observation that the interest in sessions on Badging was intense. Simply put, current recognitions of learning and achievement for both students and adults are inadequate and Digital Badge Credentials offer the opportunity to capture and tell the deeper, richer narratives of who we are as learners and achievers to colleges, peers and employers. The groundswell on this is getting louder and a tipping point is imminent.

What were your takeaways from ISTE17? As always, your response posts with your own ideas, additions and pushback are appreciated. If you liked this post, please click the heart to recommend it to others!




Singing along with the chorus is the easy part. The meat and potatoes are in the Verses. Educator, speaker, connector and risk-taker. @SenorG on the Twitter

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Noah Geisel

Noah Geisel

Singing along with the chorus is the easy part. The meat and potatoes are in the Verses. Educator, speaker, connector and risk-taker. @SenorG on the Twitter

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