Thursday, June 30, 2011

ISTE Thoughts and Takeaways, Part 1

 Three and a half days with brain food and inspiration around every corner... student and teacher showcases, lectures, sessions, bring your own laptop sessions, vendors, playground areas, discussion areas, friends, networking, and very little sleep... that would be my take on the ISTE 2011 Conference this year. To call this a technology conference would actually be only partially correct. I am pleased to see that student/teacher learning is at the heart of this conference.

Keynote speakers were not all self-proclaimed technology experts, instead we heard from Dr. John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist and the author of Brain Rules.  My biggest takeaways from his talk:  We know that "every brain is wired differently from every other brain and learns differently... according to its wiring." He admits that there is much we know about the human brain, but much we do not know. When asked if he could design a classroom based on what he knows of the human brain, he was quite clear. Exercise increases brain power (Brain Rule #1). Medina suggests that aerobic activity we at the center of what we do. He went so far as to say that schools should have uniforms and those uniforms should be gym clothes.

As I reflect on my own classroom, which I dearly miss, I remember taking power walks with the students once or twice a day, taking frequent stretch breaks, dancing to learn the times tables, and, yes, the Cha Cha Slide became part of our daily ritual. According to Medina, this helps, but isn't enough. The day would be one huge aerobic class with pockets of learning, instead the inverse is true. Is this practical?  Probably not. But the point that exercise increases brain power is one point that cannot be overlooked. For more about his insightful Brain Rules, check out his website, linked above. It is research combined with anecdotes, making it a very interesting read. He has this is in audiobook form and he reads it to you... it's almost worth getting just to hear him read it. ;)

Time to do more mental digesting before I continue writing. I need to take my own advice, the advice that I give folks taking courses or working through trainings with me, don't expect to "get" everything all at once. This was an incredible buffet from which to sample. I need to sift through my learning, decide what to keep, what to try, what to put on a shelf for later, and so on.

One last bit that I want to share for now... I took all conference notes on various devices, my iPhone, iPad, and laptop, depending on what was charged up and the time, using EVERNOTE.  This is an application that can be downloaded for Windows, Mac, and iOS operating systems and, here's the awesome part, it syncs across devices! That means when I took and saved notes on my iPhone and went to my laptop, the notes were there! All ISTE notes were arranged into one notebook (or folder) and each session got it's own page. AMAZING! I did learn that I could take notes with my LiveScribe pen and sync those to Evernote as well! (More on that later.)