A Look Back at ISTE: Cool Tech, Hot Trends and Deep Dish

Image of ISTE Trade Show Entrance

Our experience at ISTE 2018, June 24-27 in Chicago, was beyond exciting. Dubbed “the epicenter of edtech,” ISTE is the place to see and experience the technologies, trends and inspirations that are shaping the future of education.

Our Skooler presence in the Microsoft Education booth gave us the chance to rub elbows with some of K-12 education’s top thinkers, visionaries and tech gurus. So, we thought we’d share a few of our favorite takeaways.

What We Saw

There were so many wonderful apps, platforms and technologies at ISTE, we can’t possibly touch on them all, but a few really stood out to us.

It was amazing to see all the new Microsoft partners and Apps for Learning on the App Wall in the Microsoft Education booth. We were particularly intrigued by Vidigami, a media management platform that lets kids, parents, teachers and other staff capture and archive school-related videos, photos and other digital media in a slick library system that makes it easy to share and collaborate. We love its potential for ongoing social sharing and can imagine how easy it would be to create a digital yearbook or collection of memories capture
d from a child’s school years.

Teachers are an incredibly innovative lot, and many are creating their own solutions to help them engage students in more effective learning. One of the highlights for us was when Andrew Fitzgerald – Franklin Classical Middle School band and orchestra teacher, professional learning specialist and Microsoft Power BI ninja – showed us an incredibly impressive Power BI dashboard he created that is focused on middle school music. He’s using it to track performance across all instruments, helping students understand how they are progressing in their skillsets at a level of extreme granularity, from how accurately a student is tuning their violin to how well the clarinet section hit their notes in that last concert.

We loved Chineasy, one of our neighbors in the Microsoft Education booth. ShaoLan Hsueh, a Taiwanese entrepreneur based in London, wanted to inspire her children to learn Chinese, so she developed a very cool app that helps young people learn to read and write Chinese through digital storybooks, games and videos. And it goes beyond language to develop better understanding of China and Chinese culture as well.

Immersive Reader in Virtual Reality was one of the popular tech applications among Microsoft’s impressive array of Learning Tools – free, education-specific add-in tools for the Microsoft Office applications we incorporate into Skooler. Immersive Reader was initially developed for students with dyslexia and was broadened to become a general learning aid for reading and writing. Immersive Reader customizes text, for example highlighting specific parts of speech or allowing students to read line by line or syllable by syllable. Teachers were loving the demo of the virtual reality experience – a new addition which provides an even deeper level of focused learning.

 

What We Heard 

We heard a lot about streamlining the tools teachers use. With so many great technologies and apps out there, it’s critical that teachers be able to reduce the time, noise and complexity of switching between applications – a subject that’s near and dear to our mission at Skooler!

We also heard educators tell us that Microsoft has made tremendous progress over the last couple years on their platform and tools for teaching and learning. This reaffirms our confidence that Skooler made the right platform choice, building exclusively within Microsoft Office 365 for Education!

In addition to the amazing array of technology in the App Wall, there was a lot of buzz about Microsoft’s Hack the Classroom event, both online and at the Museum of Science and Industry, where educators focused on creating personalized learning experiences to empower every student to find their own voice.

It all confirmed that we’re moving in the right direction with Skooler by bringing together the tools people love and want to use in an LMS that streamlines the workflow for teachers and enhances communication and collaboration among teachers, students and parents. 

What We Did

We had an incredibly fun time in the booth and were inspired by the positive response to Skooler. Teachers and school leaders were lining up to see our product demos, asking for more info and in one case even signing up on the spot to schedule their Skooler deployment before school starts this fall!

Now some of this credit goes to our stellar demo staff, most notably Sebastian, our founder Tor Ove’s eleven-year-old son, who joined us in the booth. The rising 6th grader delivered some of our most popular demos and drove home just how valuable it is for kids to engage in learning with the tools they’ll continue to use in their professional lives.

We were also excited to showcase our new Skooler Bot. Built within our Microsoft Teams implementation, the Skooler Bot takes advantage of the Microsoft Bot Framework and Azure Cognitive Services for interaction and data gathering. It enables students to quickly and easily find the answers to questions like “When is my next holiday?” or “When is my next math assignment due?” and teachers to ask “When is my next staff meeting?” or “Which of my students have assignments that are overdue?” The Skooler Bot aggregates information from across Skooler and Office 365 to respond to their queries, quickly and easily.

It even allows teachers to use the Bot to survey how their students are feeling that day or after an assignment or test, enabling them to identify potential social and emotional issues facing the class. We believe the Skooler Bot will be a huge time-saver and aid to teachers and students alike. Stay tuned for more this fall!

What We Loved

Of course, one of the enjoyable aspects of ISTE this year was its setting – the Windy City. The day we arrived it was Chicago’s 49th annual Pride Parade, which set the tone for a festive and inclusive week.

And there’s nothing like Chicago Deep Dish pizza at Gino’s East – stuffed with more cheese, meat and veggies than anyone can fathom until they sink their forks into its delicious, gooey goodness. There is a raging debate over the right way to have pizza in Chicago, but we feel confident we made the right choice. Needless to say, we ate our fair share. (And then some!)

But by far the best thing about our ISTE experience was the people. We talked to hundreds of educators, school leaders and IT directors over our three days in the ISTE booth, and we came back more energized and excited about all the great new capabilities we are working to deliver for back-to-school in September!

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