Professor Garfield Goes to ISTE

As technology continues to become more intertwined in the K-5 classroom, teachers across the nation are looking for the next learning tool that will help their students succeed in the information age. During the 2016 International Society for Technology in Education Conference (ISTE), our Professor Garfield team was on the exhibition floor, reaching out to developers and teachers, spreading the word about Garfield. Below are thoughts from our team.

ISTE was a wonderful opportunity for our Professor Garfield team. Over 500 companies and 16,000 attendees traveled to Denver, Colorado to learn about the latest technological trends, tools and curriculum. During our time on the show floor, the team was taken aback by the sheer size of the conference. After talking to the attendees and developers, the team identified several trends in the education landscape.

Of the 500 companies with booths on the show floor, the main talking point was STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics). Unfortunately, the conversation about STEAM appears to be more concerned about using technology for technology’s sake. A lot of products on the show floor were merely using the technology to substitute tasks that could be completed without it. This is concerning because using technology as a substitution for paper does not benefit the student. Rather than focusing on solving the problem, the student must also exert some cognitive load to remember how to properly record their answer in the system or application. This emphasized the importance of understanding digital literacy and the necessity for a digital literacy curriculum.

While the majority of the booths were focused on STEAM, makerspaces on the show floor demonstrated how technology can be used in innovative ways to help students learn. Makerspaces are hands-on labs that encourage students to design and experiment with electronics, robotics, programming, 3D-printing, and more. This allows students to build new skills and learn how to collaborate with their teachers, parents and peers. Unfortunately, makerspaces appear to remain limited in their availability.

By the end of the conference, the team also learned about the hurdles of developing applications for students. Developers emphasized the necessity for establishing relationships with school districts and administrations. This not only allows the application’s brand to grow, but also helps the development of complex back end systems. Student participation can be another challenge to developers. Classcraft implements a team system where students rely on their group to complete assignments in order to level up. This holds the students accountable and forces them to work as a team.

Overall, the team gained a ton of valuable knowledge and established a lot of positive relationships with teachers from across the country. We are excited to use the knowledge gained from ISTE as we continue to move forward with Professor Garfield.