Submitted by Kent Brewer, River East School Division, Manitoba
2016 ISTE Conference in Denver.
Head-spinning, mesmerizing, mentally draining, sometimes downright confusing and one of the most engaging and enlightening experiences an educator could have. That statement alone would lead some to inquire of the mental state of the person combining these words in the same sentence? However, if you’ve ever attended a conference with some 20,000 other like-minded people, you know what I’m trying to say. The experience of an ISTE conference is definitely worth the effort of attending as most Canadian educators are in their last week of school when the conference opens. Over 1200 sessions with close to 2500 presenters and an expo that included over 600 exhibitors had an interesting something for every level of our profession and from all aspects of education, including assessment.
At ISTE 2016 in Denver, a simple program search for assessment sessions revealed 267 results including some 22 presenters and 38 exhibitors. From that perspective it may seem a bit overwhelming and in reality there was so much more! There virtually seemed to be an underlying buzz of assessment. For the first time in the 3 years that I have attended this conference, there seemed not only be a willingness, but a genuine must for developers and companies alike to “take-it-up-a-notch” explaining the need for quality assessment in the search for the enhancement of education as we see it today. Don’t get me wrong, assessment chatter in the ISTE past was there, but it was never a genuine focus of technology conversations.
In the past, it was concerning when attending technology integration conferences that merely focused on the shiny new digital tool that afforded classrooms the way of the future and all of the “cool” things that could be accomplished with it. However, I would often think to myself, what about using the technology throughout the entire learning process? Where are the sessions on assessment of/for learning with the newest software and gadgets? In my mind, in the not so distant past, these types of conversations didn’t really exist within the grandeur of the digital world that has made its way into classrooms all over the world. Not so long ago, if you wanted to disengage a crowd of onlookers during a demo of some shiny new digital tool of education, all you had to do was ask, “How does this tool integrate into classroom assessment?”. Silence…
But alas, ISTE 2016 had taken a new path for me! It became apparent that “techie companies” are listening to the masses of educators that are transforming the way that education is delivered and hence not only the way that teachers are assessing the development of their students but the ways in which learners are reflecting on progress and redirecting focus to obtain goals. Most products and platforms alike are now “front and center” with a holistic approach to the entire process. This is raising the eyebrows of some educators that have long said powerful integration is based not only on creation, but feedback, reflection and assessment.
ISTE 2016 was not only a great snapshot of where #EdTech is today, but benchmarked just how far education has come over a relative short period of time. Most importantly, it was a reassurance of what an exciting time it is to be an educator! And not just any educator, but one that has a clear focus on the importance of effective assessment practice. Moving forward, the possibilities when teaching and learning alongside our students and colleagues are endless!
Added Bonus! – Time to meet up and have some great conversation with fellow CAfLN’er Ken O’Connor!