"EdTech & ISTE: A Teacher's Trusted Side-Kicks" - A Guest Blog by Dean Kephart

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We who teach are well aware of the fact that EdTech has become the most trusted teaching/learning tool a teacher has these days. No, it doesn’t solve all the problems of better learning, but it sure can help. But, how do we use it best in the classroom, and outside, too? Finding that answer is no simple task.

To improve our skills, it makes sense to talk and share and learn with other Edtech teachers. Some of the best are found at annual conferences, like the well-known International Society for Technolgy in Education (ISTE). They are still going strong. 16,00o+ teachers strong and from everywhere recently convened in Philadelphia (AKA The City of Brotherly Love). They shared EdTech tips and tricks and tales of what works with other like-minded, global seekers of better teaching and learning. It just makes sense!


Short of having been there ourselves, we are fortunate to have this Guest Blog on the recent ISTE Conference courtesy of long-time colleague Dean Kephart, former Direct of Marketing at MECC, later Senior Group Manager at Target for K12 project funding, and now Executive Director of Minnesota Distinctive Schools. Dean knows sound EdTech when he sees and hears it. Here’s his report on ISTE 2015.

Welcome and thanks to Dean Kephart!



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“It has been over a month now since I traveled to Philly and attended the ISTE Conference. It has been quite a few years since I have attended, so I was anxious to see if and how the landscape has changed.  I think the last time I was there I was a member of the amazing MECC team, back in the 90’s.  Since that time, in my philanthropy role at Target, I have kept my pulse on education technology, but more from the perspective of funding programs that leverage technology to improve student growth in elementary reading.


BlendedLearningI was pleased to see that ‘Blended Learning’ is now the norm. The days of the computer lab are over and today most students are equipped with a tablet, smart phone or laptop. Even better, this is true at all ages. These changes were very prevalent at ISTE, with speakers from around the world showing what they have learned and what they are still learning.Click on the graphic at the right for more information on Blended Learning from Edutopia.org


I was particularly interested in these ISTE presentations as the public charter school that I am helping to open this fall will have one-to-one computing, starting in kindergarten. Our plan is to encourage teachers to individualize instruction and capitalize on blended learning. We don’t have 1:1 access for every student all day. We do share our tablets throughout the day to ensure all students have blended learning time. Our students realize 1 and 1/2year’s of growth for each year of instruction.  What helps that happen is the effective and appropriate use of technology. I saw and heard a lot of those stories at ISTE.


2011-01-29_lego-robotics_lewis-0041Many ISTE presentations showed that robotics is hitting its stride. I will challenge my teachers to look for ways to introduce robotics on our campuses.  The student excitement and skill development of designing, building, programming and executing a robot radiated from many sessions. It could also be seen on the trade show floor, demonstrated by both teachers and kids. It appeared that Lego™ is still well ahead of the pack.  Click on the graphic at the left for  more information.


Lego ™ is a trusted brand for constructed play and has been successful in earning the trust of teachers.  I had to wait in a long line to get to get a closer look. It was worth it. They, and others, make robotics much easier to bring into the classroom. It’s almost turnkey. Just plug and go! I was gratified to see that nearly all these ideas require a rethink of the traditional classroom. The technology I witnessed in action at ISTE thrives within this model.  That is something we dreamed about at MECC for years.  It’s here now, at last, and it works.


Kathy SchrockThe famed EdTech teacher Kathy Schrock did an amazing job of outlining new trends. Click on the graphic at the right to learn more about Kathy Schrock.  She talked about wearable technology  and that fact that it is beginning to enter the mainstream.  What caught my attention was the inclusion of mindware technology within the wearable space.  For example, your shirt will someday measure your attention level and let you teacher know how much you are engaging in the instruction automatically. The fault may not entirely lie with the student.


GardnerlearningStylesAnother “Wow!” I am also looking forward to trying electro-vibration screens.  Soon, touch-screens may be replaced by an interface that lets you actually feel what you are viewing.  Imagine your students looking at an image of a pineapple and actually being able to feel the surface of the fruit.  Tactile learners will be in heaven. At long last we are beginning to address Howard Gardner’s call better meeting the needs of multiple intelligences. Different paths for different learners. Click on the graphic at the left for more information on Gardner’s work.


Skype TranslatorFinally, I was really blown away with speech-to-speech translators.  Skype™ translator, which is available now, allows a Spanish speaking student to speak in their native tongue and talk to a non-Spanish speaking person, translating the dialogue in nearly real time! This will have such a transformational impact on my new school, as 35% of the students do not speak English at home.  What a blessing this could be for ELL teachers, in the classroom and at parent/teacher meetings. Click on the graphic at the right to learn more.


My visit to ISTE convinced me that EdTech has finally become every teacher’s trusted side-kick and every student’s personal mentor and needed tool box.


It’s a great time to be in education! Student and teacher…”
Thanks for your overview, Dean. It helps us keep our vision in mind! RE@L is committed to EdTEch and the Professional Networking that makes it work!

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Tom King & Dale LaFrenz

Dr. Tom King has served for over 40 years as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Saint Thomas in the School of Education. The Saturn School of Tomorrow, formerly a St. Paul Public School, and his visionary response to educational reform, was a lighthouse on the frontier of school change. Tom was an experienced high school teacher of mathematics, a school administrator, and Director of Technology for the St. Paul MN Public Schools. He is also a member of the RE@L Team. Dr. Dale LaFrenz is Chairman of RE@L and one of the founders of MECC Software who brought “Oregon Trail” to millions of K12 kids everywhere. He has written extensively on the history and evolution of Ed Tech. His work in forging new paths for MECC’S “edutainment" software was instrumental in connecting school-markets, kids, teachers and consumer-markets/kids/parents, and now serves as the new launching pad for RE@L apps and software.