ISTE 2018 in Chicago

Once upon a time I learned that ISTE was coming to Chicago. Way back in February of 2016 I said, with the help of Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon, “I want to go to there” without even realizing that I could make it there.

A winding road indeed, but well worth the effort to take the journey. By the time I went through the submission process (the most complex one I have ever undertaken) I was feeling like completing just that portion alone was a win. When I found out my proposal was accepted for the conference it was a huge moment professionally. I describe ISTE as “the Super Bowl of EdTech conferences” and that was just from what I had heard from others…this would be both my first time attending and presenting at ISTE.


LEGO® Meet-Up


The first ever meet-up for the inaugural group of US LEGO® Master Educators was held the weekend before ISTE. It was a jam-packed couple days of connecting and sharing with other educators who share the same passion for using LEGO® in the classroom. Some of the highlights included getting to meet Mitch Resnick and hear him talk about the next generation of Scratch to be released (Scratch 3.0) as well as some general Lifelong Kindergarten Group philosophies. This was also my first experience with the “Build a Duck” activity and I was hooked! We were given six specific bricks and simply told to “build a duck” - that’s it. It was a powerful experience to go through with other seasoned LEGO® educators. In addition to the direct learning we did through structured activities and discussions there was also quite a bit of time to get to know each other. I was thrilled to meet Jeff Bradbury (@TeacherCast) in person after participating in weekly Twitter chats for a while. Even though it had been some time since I had done the chats, it was wonderful to get to tell Jeff in person how helpful he and his network had been in helping me establish my own virtual PLN. Since it cannot hurt to repeat it - thanks again for all that you do to help other educators, Jeff!


The meet-up had a lot of fun and learning take place. You can see in many of my photos that Brick the Adventure Guy was able to join me and get some great shots of all his ISTE adventures. Brick (not the real name for the minifigure in the collection he came from) travels with me from time to time, so you will see him share his story through images. We had a fun launch day with the news of the Master Educator group being shared on social media to kick off ISTE and then we continued to run into each other as we explored the Expo Hall that first day. The fantastic Mr. Bruce Nelson from Indiana even posed with me and Moby for a fun picture.

The time at ISTE was definitely a bit overwhelming. I did explore (with Brick) to locate the poster area prior to the day of my presentation. It was good to get the lay of the land and break down my ISTE experience into smaller chunks. Spending time checking out other poster sessions and exploring the Expo Hall took a huge block of time. Looking back I was glad that I did not try to overdo it on each day that I was there. Reading tips about the ISTE experience prior to the conference was definitely helpful. There are numerous opportunities for learning and it helps to prioritize what you want to see each day and even throughout the day itself.


Long time listener, first time caller

Presenting at ISTE the first time you attend ISTE…is an interesting experience, to say the least. The feeling of “overwhelmed” does not really fade away until after the fact. The presentation I had was tailor made for the poster session there and involved one of my favorite things to stand around and talk about/demonstrate: Makey Makey. The official title was Connecting Digital and Physical with Makey Makey and I tried to show just that in my setup. The giant poster Makey Makey was created for the purpose of this demonstration. One of the things I enjoy most about the basics of Makey Makey is that we can make the most benign things interactive.


In the case of this presentation the giant poster was connected to a Google Drive folder and the controls used on the Makey Makey were: up, down, left, right, space, “p” key, and “escape” key. Right there you may wonder about the “p” and “escape” as part of the plan. Those were remapped from two defaults on the front (mouse click) and back (“w” key) of the Makey Makey. Great excuse to teach folks about how to remap a unit - it’s easy and comes in handy.


All of the keys used in Google Drive allow you to navigate the folder and open/close out of videos. Why are there videos there, you ask? Because this was a demonstration of a simple “Inspiration Station” featuring short video recordings through Alice Keeler’s Webcam Record extension. What I loved was that teachers came by and did a sample recording on the spot then shifted over to see their video instantly available in the Drive folder that was controlled by the Makey Makey. There are so many ways to modify what was shared in my presentation and it was fun to see it come to life for the session. As if it wasn’t cool enough to be presenting my work at ISTE, Alice Keeler herself came by to try it out and help me give away 3 Makey Makey’s through Twitter. Huge thanks to Alice for stopping by and to Tom and Makey Makey for letting me give those away as part of my presentation!

“Makey” your own

Since Makey Makey Labz was moved over to Instructables you can find the directions for creating your own poster there. A separate post with more information may be added to my website as needed. You can download the PDF of the poster just as it was sent to Staples for printing as an 18x24. Makey Makey poster print was created by me (Jen Gilbert) in Adobe Illustrator with permission from Tom Heck of Makey Makey. You may use the image/poster print as-is, but any changes should be with their permission! Check it out:

Final Thoughts

While I enjoyed my time at ISTE it was an expensive endeavor. I am glad to have had the experience, but do not know that I would do it again without some costs covered. The fact that presenters have such a high cost to register still bothers me, and I would factor that in to any future plans.