Friday, June 30, 2017

Why Higher Education Faculty Should Attend ISTE

I’ve been a K-12 educator for over 27 years. Four years ago I made the transition to higher education. I was surprised to find the conference I got the most from as a K-12 educator wasn’t even on the radar of most higher education instructors and professors. I’ve just finished attending the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) annual conference and I wanted to take this opportunity to outline some of the benefits to higher education.


1. Technology isn’t going away. I used to DVR the Regis & Kelly show and was very amused when I would hear Regis Philbin say, “This computer thing is just a fad.” Unfortunately, the “computer thing” is not going away, instead it is evolving. One thing we know for sure in education is that there are always changes. With technology, the change cycle is accelerated. Coming to a conference like ISTE allows us to keep up to date with the new tools and discern for ourselves the usefulness or not to the learning process.

2. We are all learners. Many higher education professionals look at themselves as experts in their field, and rightly so. However, even “experts” need to be learners. ISTE puts everyone who attends on the same level – learners. Students, teachers, professors, vendors and big name experts like Angela Maiers and Jim Knight have an equal opportunity to attend sessions as well as present sessions. There are various formats (snapshots, research, poster sessions, interactive lectures, bring your own device, etc.) that allow each person to personalize their own path in the conference. I find this is one of many areas ISTE is attempting to “walk the talk” in providing personalized professional learning.

3. Today’s K-12 students are tomorrow’s higher education students. Yes. The students being exposed to all of the innovative uses of technology in K-12 classrooms today will demand that and more of higher education in the near future. Will we be ready? Attending the ISTE conference helps higher education professionals adopt a future-focused stance. Our country and possibly even the world is watching how we will prepare our students to contribute to the American way of life and the global economy.

4. Connections with other higher education professionals. I was really impressed with the number of sessions offered specifically for higher education instructors and professors as opposed to last year’s ISTE conference. Every year there is more offered. In addition, I attended a meeting of only higher education professionals who belong to ISTE’s Teacher Educator Professional Learning Network. (TEN) I was impressed with the number of people who attended this meeting, it was standing room only, and the passion of the people who shared during that meeting. We discussed issues that were specifically important to higher education. I left that meeting hopeful for the future of higher education.
 
5. Learning is most important. Reading through the descriptions of the sessions you get the sense that the ISTE conference is really a learning conference, that just happens to have a focus on technology. In this way, ISTE gets it right. Learning comes first, and always should! Technology is a tool that allows the learning process to bloom, to thrive. But the most important part is always the learning, not the technology.

One way higher education professionals can learn and grow at the ISTE conference is by presenting at the conference. I was fortunate enough to present this year and gained so much from that experience. I encourage you to consider presenting at next year’s ISTE conference in Chicago! Higher education professionals have much to share with other educators. Let’s be an active part of this learning ecosystem.

I’m sure there are many more benefits that I’ve not highlighted here. This list is what was foremost on my mind as I leave this year’s ISTE conference.

One last thought: Technology is a vehicle for learning, a tool to help us connect new concepts and ideas as well as connect to people. Join the adventure!