#ISTE19 Top Ten

As a music teacher, have you ever considered attending the ISTE conference? ISTE stands for the International Society for Technology in Education. While I have attended my state technology conference several times, this was my first time at ISTE. It did not disappoint! Held at the Philadelphia Convention Center, the conference boasted 1,900 sessions and over 16,000 attendees. There were some great take-aways for educators – even music educators! I could not possibly recap everything from the conference in one blog post, so instead I will try to highlight my top ten. Here they are, in no particular order.

#ISTE Top Ten

1. Google Innovator Members

Google Innovator Academy, #LON19

The highlight of ISTE for me was meeting four members of my Google Innovator Cohort! What a great group of humans! They were easy to get along with, fun to talk to, and inspiring in what they do. We shared meals, attended sessions and events, and even went to the Google Mixer together. Such a great time! It has both put me at ease for this week’s Innovator Academy and made me that much more exited for it to get here. Keep an eye on this space for more #GoogleEI updates over the next few months.

2. Escape Rooms

One of the first sessions I attended was about creating an escape room experience in the classroom. The presenters, Eric Guise and Nick Johnson, explained various digital and “in-person” challenges that could be used with students and we experimented with some at our tables. They encouraged starting with a story or narrative and using it to introduce a new unit. Next year I’ll be opening a new middle school, teaching students coming from several other middle schools. I think an escape room could be a fun way to start the year, getting to know each other and the new band room!

3. App Smash Challenge

Kris Armijo, a fellow #LON19 cohort member, presented a great session at the Google Playground, called the App Smash Challenge. Kris showed how she app smashes a Google Drawing game board and many other tech tools to create a choice-filled learning experience for students. The students work at their own pace, moving through the game board to learn new material, practice skills, and reflect on their progress. This might be a fun way for students to work on scale studies in band or even units in guitar class. I am excited for the possibilities. 

App Smash Challenge - Kris Armijo
App Smash Challenge

4. Flipgrid Live

After missing Flipgrid Live last year, I knew there was no way I would miss it again! Flipgrid did not disappoint. They held the event at Franklin Music Hall in Philadelphia and featured inspiration, innovation, and excitement. One update I am most excited about is Flipgrid AR, where all video QR codes now link to augmented reality videos! They will be so much fun to print and share. Even more updates will be released in August and I can’t wait! Check out the Flipgrid blog for more info: http://blog.flipgrid.com/news/flipgridlive2019

5. FBCAL Meet-Up

Attending conferences is valuable for the information learned in sessions, and the connections made! Last summer I was a contributing author to the book, “Fueled By Coffee and Love, The Refill,” compiles by Mari Venturino. This summer I helped to edit volume three. Mari hosted a FBCAL author coffee one morning that was fantastic! It was the nicest group of people, all with great stories to share. The original FBCAL book was Mari’s Google Innovator project, and I love that she has continued it to create three volumes with more surprises to come.

FBCAL Authors
FBCAL Authors

6. Riding the Wakelet Wave

I discovered Wakelet earlier this year as it’s making its way into the ed-tech world. The best description of Wakelet I’ve heard is Padlet meets Pinterest. It’s a curation tool for links, videos, documents, pictures, and more! Collections can be curated by one person and shared with others, or multiple people can contribute to one collection. Kathi Kersznowski presented an informative session, “Wake Up! Top 10 Ways to Boost Productivity and Creativity with Wakelet” with suggestions like newsletters, sub plans, reading logs and more.


Music educator Shawna Longo presented a great session about STEAM Labs, along with Christine Lion-Bailey. They not only discussed how to set up a STEAM Lab but also what it is and why it’s important. Both presenters stressed that STEAM activities should incorporate all the arts – visual art, music, theater, dance, and digital media. STEAM should also be standards based, pulling standards from both the arts and non-arts content. Incorporating the arts in this way gives students new ways of seeing, thinking, and learning.

The STEAM Process

8 & 9. Playgrounds and Poster Sessions

One nice thing about ISTE is the variety of session types. Not everything is a “sit and get” experience. I presented at the Arts and Technology Playground. The Playground was a large space with multiple tables for hands-on learning and short spark presentations. I presented a spark session, which was fun. Another great location was the poster displays. There were two different poster presentations about coding in music. It blew my mind! I had no idea the things you could do. Catie Dwinal and  Megan Endicott showcased a Dash robot playing a xylophone, Specdrums, Osmo, and more. I highly recommend checking it out.

10. Music Teachers at ISTE

This year at ISTE there was one session specifically for music teachers, “The Google Infused Bandroom,” presented by Stephen Keys. Throughout the session Stephen talked about several ways to incorporate technology in the band room or any other music room. The information provided was useful and being in a room with other like-minded music teachers couldn’t be beat. In talking with other music teachers, we need to make things like this happen more. Next year there shouldn’t be one session for music teachers, there should be several! ISTE needs to be a place where music teachers not only want to be, but feel they need to be. I’ve already thought about sessions proposals and truly hope others will do the same.

Music Teachers at ISTE
Awesome music teachers at ISTE!

So what began as me saying this would be the year to attend ISTE because of its proximity, timing, etc., the truth is I can’t imagine NOT attending next year! Between the people, sessions, learning, connecting, and collaborating it can’t be beat. I cannot wait to see what next year in Anaheim brings!

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