ISTE 2019 Recap

Summary of my favorite finds and ideas from ISTE 2019.

It is hard to believe that it has been almost a month since the amazing ed-tech-a-palooza celebration known as the International Society of Technology in Education Conference or ISTE. There was so much to see and do this year that it has taken me a while to try to boil it all down into a recap. I have so many notes, flyers, and resources that it will probably take me until ISTE 2020 to really process everything. Good news, I have lots to explore for my next 30 tech tools in 30 days series coming this November. But, for you, my loyal readers, I will try to narrow down all that information into my finds and ideas from ISTE 2019.

Old Favorites. New Tricks.

I typically spend a good chunk of my ISTE time in the expo hall checking out my favorite tools and looking for new ones to explore. It is great to reconnect with some of my favorite go-to tools and see what new things they have in the works. I love being able to talk to both the developers in making these tools possible and the educators who are leading the way in the classroom. These are some of my most valuable conversations. Here is what some of my old favorites are up to.

Michael Cohen at the Adobe Booth
Michael Cohen at the Adobe Booth
  • Adobe Spark – Adobe’s booth is my first stop every year. This year was no exception. Not only got to meet the amazing Michael Cohen (aka The Tech Rabbi) and hear how he uses Adobe Illustrator to teach creativity and Math, I also got to talk to one of the developers of my favorite, favorite, favorite, tools – Adobe Spark. Animations are now available as part of Spark Post apps. (Coming soon to the web). Students can also now collaborate on a Spark project.  If you are not yet using Adobe Spark, then these should give you a reason to give it a try. Also, check out Camp Adobe for some amazing learning opportunities. You can read more about my feelings on Adobe Spark on some of my past posts – Spark Post, Spark Video, Spark Pages.
  • 3D Bear – One of the darlings of ISTE 2018 was 3D Bear an augmented reality app. Well, they have had a great year and showcased a lot of ideas at their booth. If you have not played around with 3D Bear, go check out the free trial and start creating. They have lesson plans and challenges that will help get your students creating in AR. Tons of fun. And I’m not just saying that because they have a dancing unicorn that you can play with.

    NASA Learning Labs
    NASA Learning Labs
  • NASA –  NASA was everywhere at ISTE this year. In their playground, they featured new lessons and activities from the STEM Innovation Lab. My favorite was the Eclipse Soundscape. An app that allows you to experience the solar eclipse through visuals, audio, and other sensory displays.  On the expo floor, they had more resources such as their materials that let students learn about all the amazing things going on on the International Space Station. You can find a ton of resources on the STEM on the Station website.
  • Bird Brain Technologies – Finch 2.0 is coming! I repeat Finch 2.0 is coming!! Learn more on their website and see what makes the Finch 2.0 a cool new addition to the Bird Brain family.
  • – Everyone’s favorite ed tech review and digital literacy site brings you a curated list of their 50 favorite EdTech tools of all time. This one is well worth the browsing time.
  • Flipgrid – Flipgrid fever infecting the ISTE crowd. Shortly after the conference, Flipgrid announced a new Augmented Reality feature. The new FlipgridAR app update lets you add Flipgrid to everything!

New Finds

In addtion to exploring my old favorites, I collected a list of new finds that I want to explore further. They are everything from new STEM activities to new technology. My list is long but here are the first ones I’m going to dig into.

  • Stitching the Loop – Free curriculum for students to explore computer science through e-textiles.
  • Wildcards – A new programmable expandable circuit board and an inexpensive and easy to use tool to help students explore electronics, computer science, and engineering. Designed by a team of electrical engineering dads.
  • 826 Digital – Free mini-lessons, lessons and other resources to ignite a love of writing in your students.
  • –  Streaming audio service for students. On-demand access to podcasts, audiobooks, and music for PK – 6th grade.
  • Creator Bot Mini Bot – I would love to get my hands on this little bot. It is an Arduino powered robot kit that has everything you need to create a robot.
  • Get Media L.I.T. –  A new graphic novel series by Weird Enough Productions that helps students explore media literacy, social-emotional learning, and 21st-century skills.
  • Synth – This one is a new-to-me tool. You can create 256-second podcasts and share them with the world.
  • Science Journal by Google – Turn your device into a scientific tool through this app. It takes advantage of the sensors built into our devices phone and allows your students to collect data.

New Ideas

So, what are the hot topic ideas on the horizon of ed tech? There were several topics and ideas that stood out this year. From the playgrounds to the Mainstage, people were talking about creativity, computational thinking, and innovation. I left the conference with some new learning goals of my own. My top three: artificial intelligence, Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality. Google has experiments and activities for you to get started with AI. And I’m ready to start building with CoSpaces and Merge Cube. 64832451_10220359185996876_5431999139598565376_o

Whew! That is just the tip of the ed tech iceberg when it comes to new ideas from ISTE. Even with all of these new tools, my MOST favorite part of the conference was connecting with all of the amazing educators from around the globe. I get to see some of my education heroes and meet many new ones. I’m looking forward to all of the new collaborations and conversations that will fill the time until we all meet again in Anaheim at ISTE 2020.

Big thank you to all the folks who worked hard to make ISTE possible. And thank you Philadelphia! I had never been to Philly before. I got my first “real” Philly Cheesesteak and saw pieces of our history. It was a winning trip all around!


Were you at ISTE in Philly this year? What were your big takeaways? I’d love to hear from you!

ICE 2018 – Highlights

HotPinkTech’s highlights from the 2018 Illinois Computing Educators conference. #ICE18

The end of February is one of my favorite times of the year. No, not because of the unpredictable weather, it’s because of ICE. Not the hard water kind of ice, the Tech kind of ICE. The Illinois Computing Educators kind of ICE! The best kind of ICE.

ICE 2018 ran from Feb 26 – 28 and brought together educators, students, and vendors from across the state of Illinois and beyond. I love this conference. Every year, ICE is my chance to see old friends, meet new ones, learn about new tools and talk to and learn from inspiring educators. It is a place where I get to recharge my ed tech batteries. It is amazing. This year was even better. Three days instead of two and a brand new shiny venue. Amazing times two.

Let’s take a look at my highlight reel.


Gillian King-Cargile and me sporting our STEM Read pride.

This year I had the pleasure of doing three presentations. Two snapshot sessions (really like this format) and one breakout. Monday, I focused on personalized PD and the Illinois OER website (IOER). On Wednesday, my partner in crime, Gillian King-Cargile (@gkingcargile), and I spread some STEM Read cheer. We had a great time telling everyone about the program and how they could bring it to their students. It was great to hear stories from teachers who have been to our field trips or who have used our resources in their classrooms. Thank you everyone for sharing your stories!

You can view the slide from all three presentations on the ICE Conference Resource Symbaloo or here in my Google Drive.

My favorite presentation of the week was from the very funny and energetic, Steve Dembo. His presentation, The Viral Video Effect: Storytelling for the YouTube Generation, made my day. It was packed full of ideas for integrating video into all classrooms. Even the littles. He shared video inspiration from favorite viral videos and discussed how to recreate the magic in your classroom. His message – don’t over complicate video production. Have fun with your students and show joy! Amen to that, Steve! He also shared what will become my new go to site for all things digital storytelling – The Digital storytelling DS106 assignment bank. Find it here – This is a huge list of video assignments. Check it out. I know I am going to dig in.

Shout Outs – Friends and Favorites

One of my favorite parts of ICE is that I get to reconnect with so many of my educator friends across the state. It is like homecoming week. This year was no different. I also get to see what some of my favorite ed tech products and services are up to. Here is a quick list of shout outs to a few of my favorite products and services. If they are new to you, I strongly suggest you follow the links and check them out.

zSpace, BrainPOP, CG Cookie, Common Sense Media
Love them! zSpace, BrainPOP, CG Cookie, Common Sense Media
  • zSpace – I first encountered zSpace a couple years ago (before they had a bus). This is a twist on AR/VR that is truly interactive and collaborative (which I love!). There is also a growing bank of learning resources.
  • BrainPOP – If you are not using all of the games, videos and resources on BrainPOP, stop what you are doing and go check it out. Go do it now. I’ll wait….
  • CG Cookie – CG Cookie is an online art education platform. Through their courses, you can learn 3D production, game design, clay sculpturing and more. Pricing is reasonable for access to all the amazing content.
  • Common Sense Media – Common Sense Media has valuable ratings, reviews and resources for parents, educators, and advocates. They are one of my first stops when I’m researching a new app or game. I also LOVE their Digital Citizenship curriculum. It is fantastic! If you have not explored their FREE resources, you need to.
  • IlliniCloud – They are not pictured, but I need to give them a shout out. IlliniCloud is a co-op of school across Illinois focused on providing tech solutions for K-12 districts. They always have cool projects in the works, such as eSports but I’ll get to that shortly.

New Tools to Explore

ICE is where all the latest and greatest ed tech struts their stuff. I always come home with new tools to explore and this year was no different. Here is my list of tools that I will be digging into over the next few weeks.

  • Empatico & Participate – I’m listing these two together because they shared booth space and are some how related. However, they each have very different purposes. Empatico is a free tool for teachers that will help them connect their classroom to other classrooms around the world. Looks like a virtual pen-pal program with tons more interaction. Empatico is supported by the KIND Foundation (yes, the healthy snack bar company). Participate on the other hand, is focused on teacher PD and learning communities.
  • Nearpod – OK, so I’m a little late to the Nearpod party but it sounds like the party is still going strong. If you are new to Nearpod, like me, it is a platform for developing and managing interactive lessons across multiple devices. It includes a wide variety of content from both internal developers and 3rd party content providers such as Flocabulary, iCivics, PhET, and more. I was really excited to see their new college and career materials that even include virtual field trips to college campuses. Nearpod is definitely on my list of tools to explore in depth.
  • Bloxels – OK, now this one looks like a blast and I may need to invest in a kit. When I walked by the booth it looked like a simple black board with little cubes to create pixel art. That caught my attention so I decided to stop. What this is, is a kit that allows students to create their own video games. They create their art using the boards, snap a picture, and use the app to create their game. (See the image below.) This looks like a super easy way to do game development and one I’m excited to try.
Bloxels - How it works.
Bloxels – How it works.

The Buzz – The rise of the gamer!

Every year at ICE there is something that is creating a buzz. This year, you could not go anywhere without hearing about playful learning, gaming, and eSports. From board games to video games, the art of playing is hot right now.

Sample of games from Red Raccoon Games.
Sample of games from Red Raccoon Games.

In the Playful Learning Space (read more about it here), Red Raccoon Games, from Bloomington-Normal, IL, had a fantastic selection of board games that you could stop and play. I played a spirited round of Codenames, with a couple cool teachers and talked about all the ways you could use it in the classroom. They had everything from Settlers of Catan to Happy Salmon there for you to play and discuss.

I’ve added quite a few games to my wish list.

eSports made a big splash this year. The eSports session on Monday kicked things off with a few high school teams playing some head to head League of Legends. We heard from Illinois coaches and students about what they are doing with their eSports clubs. We even heard from one student who has an eSports college scholarship. Wow! There were several other eSports sessions and a gaming center set up in the Playful Learning Space. The push is to get schools out there to register their club on the IHSA Emerging Sports website to make eSports a recognized sport in Illinois.

eSports teams talk about their experiences and play League of Legends.

For all you young gamers out there…this is your time. Grab it by the controllers and have a blast!

So, we say good bye ICE 2018 and all the old and new friends we connected with along the way. As always, it was a fantastic conference. I loved the new venue and longer time we spent together. Well done, ICE planning committee. Well done!

Now we start the countdown to ISTE 2018 in Chicago, baby!! See you all again in June!

Speaking ISTE

ISTE 2017 – Recap

It’s been almost two weeks since I boarded the plane for my first visit to San Antonio and my third trip to the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference. Two weeks and I’m still trying to unpack – both figuratively and literally. Since I don’t feel like dealing with the suitcase still sitting on my bedroom floor or the bag of swag in my office, I thought it might be helpful to try to unpack some of my key takeaways from the conference. I don’t know about you, but I love conferences. They are my chance to explore new tech, hear inspirational stories, and connect with amazing people. ISTE 2017 did not disappoint. Let’s role the highlight reel.

I’ll admit, I spent a good chunk of my time on the Expo floor – no, I was not just there for the swag. (However, that is why literal unpacking is taking forever!) I was there to play and learn. There were so many new and old favorite tools to explore. Here a few of my most favorites.

Expo Hall

Flipgrid – I’m a little late to the Flipgrid party but excited to join. Not sure why I have not been using this one yet. Flipgrid allows you to easily create video discussion communities. I love the potential of this tool for creating community and learner engagement. The past two semesters I taught an online undergraduate class. My biggest complaint about that course was that I didn’t really get to know my students. I see Flipgrid as the tool to help me fix that problem. I’m also looking forward to using it as part of my overall professional development strategies for the NIU STEAM Works PD program for the 2017-2018 school year.

UL Xplorelab UL is joining the STEM education game and creating some amazing looking, free modules and simulations. In their booth, they showcased their portable electrical power module. In this module, middle school students use inquiry to explore battery power and the concept of thermal runaway. The modules includes an interactive video, a testing simulation, classroom experiments and challenges. Very well done. I’m looking forward to the next module on fire safety.

Rob Schwartz – Building a Creative Culture

Adobe –  I have always been a big fan of the Adobe tools. As a professional photographer, Photoshop was my go-to editing software. Over the past couple of years, I have fallen in love with their new suite of free Adobe Spark apps. Adobe Spark has become my favorite tool for digital storytelling. So, needless to say, I had to stop by the Adobe booth to gush a bit. While there I was able to catch Rob Schwartz‘s presentation, Building a Creative Culture. It was packed full of ideas, resources, and inspiration for bringing out the creativity in your students.

There were way too many to discuss here but I do want to give a shout out to a few of the other exhibitors where I founds great resources and even better conversations.

  • BirdBrain Technologies – Robotics. (Bought my first Hummingbird Kit. Yay!)
  • STEMJobs – Free and subscription based resources, including a free STEM Type Quiz, for helping students find their STEM career path.
  • IPevo – Great source for easy to use, affordable tech for the classroom. They have been a longtime supporter of Edcamp Northern Illinois. It was great to connect with them on the expo floor.
  • Symbaloo – An e-hoarder’s dream! Easy, visual way to organize all your links. I’ve been using it for a while but Symbaloo is adding on to their learning paths features.
  • Girls Who Code –  Founder Reshma Saujani was the final keynote. She was so inspiring. I’m going to encourage my 17 year old HS senior to start a club in her school.
  • Classcraft – They were showing off some new, powerful features for gamifying your classroom.

Speaking of Gamification… I had the pleasure of presenting with the amazing Kristi Sutter on Hot Tips for Using Games in the Classroom.

Getting ready for our presentation!




We had a great crowd and it was a lot of fun. We created a Padlet filled with Games and Gamification tools for our attendees. It is open so feel free to add your favorites!

Overall, ISTE was amazing! I haven’t even mentioned all of the incredible educators. It is always great to see some of my higher ed colleagues from across the state. Not to mention all of the new educators I added to my PLN. I even had a few fan girl moments as I met educator rock stars, Kathy Schrock, Vicki Davis, and Scott McLeod. AMAZING!

Kathy Schrock Selfie!!

Well, now that I have started to unpack the ideas in my head, it might be time to sort through that suitcase. I know that as I start going through all of the hand outs and business cards, more ideas might shake loose and thoughts unfold. As they detangle, I’ll be sure to share.

Thank you everyone at ISTE for such an amazing week of PD, PLN, and EdTech! Can’t wait until Chicago next year!

Were you at ISTE this year or did your follow the #s? Share your thoughts, ideas, and favorite finds. I’d love to hear about what you learned.