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Photo via ISTE website

Today marks the opening of the expo hall at the International Society for Technology in Education conference. The BoardShare team is thrilled to be an exhibitor at this event for the first time, and we are eager to meet all of the attending educators.

Over the years, we have talked with numerous teachers, principals, and technology directors. Through these discussions, we have gathered a great deal of information about the challenges they face with education technology; these frustrations include technology integration and training, disappointing ed tech products, and managing district-wide technology concerns. There are a number of topics being discussed at the ISTE conference that directly relate to these conversations. We chose five ISTE conference sessions that address our clients’ education technology desires and frustrations most directly.

Panel: Coaching for education transformation (Monday, June 27, 4:15–5:15 pm. CCC 502)

Description: “Instructional technology coaching provides meaningful professional learning with just-in-time and relevant support. You'll learn about the challenges and successes of effective coaching.”

Our experience: If there’s one thing we’ve gathered from educators, it’s that training the staff on the technology they will be using is crucial. If they do not know how to effectively use the technology, they will end up either not using the product at all, or won’t know how to access the important features of the product. Training needs to be done early, and teachers need to be trained by someone who really understands the product.

Panel: Teachers know best! Is anyone listening? (Monday, June 27, 8:30–9:30 am. CCC 601)

Description: “This panel of teachers and ed tech company representatives will discuss the groundbreaking survey, Teachers Know Best: What Educators want from Digital Instructional Tools. The study found striking gaps in what teachers say they need in digital instruction tools, what works and doesn't work, and what companies are providing.”

Our experience: Time and time again, we’ve heard teachers discuss their hit-or-miss experiences with various digital instructional tools. Typically, the products they dislike were not designed with teachers in mind, or the product designers did not listen to teachers’ recommendations on how to improve the product. As an ed tech company, the greatest changes we make in our products stem from teachers’ suggestions. It’s crucial that ed tech companies produce products that are designed with teachers in mind. Check out the Teachers Know Best webpage for more info.

Research paper discussion: Digital instructional strategies and their role in the classroom (Monday, June 27, 11:00 am–12:00 pm. CCC 109, Table 6)

Description: “We describe current research on a new taxonomy of technology integration based on the goals of technology use as opposed to technology type. We describe patterns of use of these digital instructional strategies along with their relationships to opportunity to learn. We'll discuss implications for future research.”

Our experience: Finding the right education technology product is only half the battle. One of the major challenges teachers face is integrating this technology into the school. This Edutopia article quote sums up integration perfectly: “When technology integration is at its best, a child or a teacher doesn't stop to think that he or she is using a technology tool – it is second nature.” Teachers need to be excited and open to the idea of using technology in the classroom in order for them to feel comfortable enough to use it frequently.

Research paper discussion: The changing role of chief technology officer (Monday, June 27, 2:30–3:30 pm. CCC Mile High Ballroom 1D)

Description: “Chief technology officers are now expected to be a part of the instructional mission of the district. Learn from some of the best educators, CTOs, administrators and thought leaders about how the role has changed and how CTOs can best support emerging instructional trends.”

Our experience: We communicate frequently with chief technology officers, and have heard what this position entails. One of our customers describes the position as one that involves “wearing many different hats”. A CTO has to be an expert instructor for teachers, students, and administrators; they also have the responsibility of making good purchasing decisions that provide the best and most reliable technology for instruction in the 21st Century for all of the students and teachers, while working within a limited budget. It can be extremely difficult to find an effective and inexpensive education technology tool.

Lecture: Engagement through gamification: getting students to do anything you want (Wednesday, June 29, 1:15–2:15 pm. CCC 203)

ISTE Website Description: “Hoping to get students reading and writing more, we designed an engaging and competitive game that encouraged innovation, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking, in which students could voluntarily participate. The results were astounding. We'll show you how we designed, created and implemented an award-winning gamification program.”

Our experience: When technology is purchased for a school, one of the challenges teachers face is how to incorporate this technology into their lesson plans. We have heard many teachers say that they use their interactive whiteboard to play educational games with their students; they run through their lesson plans, and use the games at the end of the lesson to enhance learning. We recently published a blog on our site that discusses game-based learning, and the science behind the effectiveness of this method.

We’ve given a brief overview of some frequent frustrations we’ve heard from educators. We will be publishing a series of blog in July that discuss these problems more in-depth and provide resources and advice from some of our customers.