Friday, July 1, 2011

ISTE Insights from Troublemakers

I've just arrived home from ISTE11 which was held in Philadelphia, PA this year. My experiences are probably much different than most of the other 20,000 educators in attendance as I travel with a group of my 5th grade students. For the last nine years, I've had the opportunity to bring a group of students to present their big technology project for the year. We count it as an honor to be invited to travel and share our experiences. However, even though we do attend the conference every day and attend sessions and workshops, having students with you changes your perspective on what you are seeing and learning. We always have great discussion and debates about how we can adapt and change our learning practices based on our new insights and learning. Yes, they are 11 year-olds and their insights are priceless.

The highlight of each ISTE for me is to see my students present their project (This year they shared our collaboratively produced, student-driven journal). Yes, THEY do all of the presenting. They begin working on their presentation and public speaking skills in February. They design and create the look of their display. Knowing that many of the students that attend each year are students who have overcome great obstacles to find personal and academic success is fulfilling. Hearing all of the comments from the 400+ visitors to their presentations is gratifying for me because they see the value in what my students have to say. My students exude confidence and enthusiasm for their topic because it is THEIR project...not mine. 

My students soak up all of the praise, the questions, the encouragement that visitors to their Student Showcase offer. At the end of their presentation day, after they've had time to reflect on their day, we all share how we've grown as people due to this experience. My students shared that they realize how important their presentation was to all of the students who had teachers attend their session. They said that because of them, other students from around the world may have the opportunity to do collaborative projects, create new projects to support their learning, and design their own learning path.

They were thinking about other students. They proudly wore the "Troublemaker" ribbons on their ISTE badges and explained to anyone who asked that they were troublemakers because they want education to change and they weren't afraid to fight for it. They know the importance of learning supported technology and the power of students making decisions about how and what they learn.

So I want to thank all of you who came by and lent your ear to their presentation. That day my students grew up. Through your words of encouragement, praise, and challenge, my students are more driven than ever to change the face of education. After all, it's their education. Don't all of our students need a voice in the direction that it goes?


  1. I was very moved by your description about how the #ISTE11 presentation was a defining moment in the lives of your students. Your students are very lucky to have you! I wish we could gather all of the student-centered teachers into one would be like an endless ISTE.

  2. I missed ISTE11 but if I had gone, I sure hope I would not have missed your student showcase. What a huge impact you must have on the daily lives of your students and by allowing them these few moments of glory by having them teach the adults at ISTE, you've marked your place in their hearts forever. Cheers!

  3. Sue and Lee,

    Thank you so much for your encouraging words.Isn't is amazing how students (even those still in elementary school) understand the importance of student-centered, collaborative learning when so many educators miss it? My students enjoyed their presentation so much, when they finished they asked what time they would be presenting the next day. They were disappointed when I told them that we were finished for this conference. Thanks again!

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  5. Julie, thank you so much for sharing your experiences with your students. Conner was so excited to share his projects, and I can't wait to use his Moundville VoiceThread with my students next year.