Jennifer Lotze, Instructional Technology Coordinator

Programs, Products, and Personalized Learning at ISTE, Oh My!


This week we have a guest blog post from Jennifer Lotze, the Instructional Technology Coordinator for the Hudson School District in Wisconsin, who shares her biggest takeaways from the 2017 ISTE Conference & Expo. Jennifer had the unique perspective of being both an attendee and a presenter at this year's event, which is recognized globally as the most comprehensive educational technology conference in the world.


During the last week of June over 20,000 educators joined together in San Antonio to learn about emerging and current technologies that can be used to enhance the lives of the students we work with. The ISTE conference is focused on the purposeful integration of technology within the classroom environment. Tools shared range from network infrastructure to software programs that support learning. If it’s tech related- you will see it at ISTE.



This is the third year that I have had the privilege of attending ISTE and my first year as a presenter. When asked to provide the highlights from the conference I immediately felt lost in my thoughts. ISTE is like the superbowl of conferences! But after some reflection on the 15 pages of notes I had I realized that there were specific topics that really stood out.

Personalized Learning has been a hot topic in education for the last several years, but presenters did an amazing job making the task of creating a personalized learning environment significantly less overwhelming. Luis Perez and Kathleen McClaskey really focused on developing the learner profile and the personalized learning backpack. They also used a tool called Mentimeter. Mentimeter allows teachers to get a quick pulse on the learning acquired by students. This tool is free and allows students to share their learning using any device they have access to. (A flip phone might not get the job done… Keep that in mind as you integrate this tool into your classroom.) Many sessions shared simple tools that make assessing student learning an easy task.

Additionally, many presenters also shared how Universal Design for Learning truly supports the foundation of Personalized Learning. When designing learning experiences for students it is extremely important to provide multiple means of representation, action/expression, and engagement. These guidelines allow for all learners to not only access the curriculum, but also engage in ways that are not possible in a traditional I teach- you learn classroom. By increasing access to content, teachers can begin to engage students in the learning journey.

During my session I shared tools that can be used on Chromebooks to support diverse learners as they access the curriculum. I shared that technology is not always about giving students more tools for their toolbox. It’s really about teaching students to make the best use of the tools they currently have access to. We started with the simplest tool that students are using on a regular basis: Google Search. I typically get an eye roll or two from techies when I explain that we are going to learn how to complete a Google Search. However, after we get started techies become engaged by the functionality built into a Google Search. For example, there is a small microphone in the right corner of the search box. This microphone allows users to use voice activation to complete their Search. This task is cool, but the cool factor is increased when participants noticed that when they talked to Google, Google talked back. And even better… as you ask additional questions, Google continues to answer.

For example:
To Google: Who is Abraham Lincoln?
Google Reads the Paragraph:



To Google: When did he die?
Google Responds: Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 15, 1865.

This process will continue until you stop asking questions. For many individuals typing and obtaining information can be challenging, but using voice activation and Google Search students can quickly get the information they need when they need it.

As we continued to dive deeper into Google Search I shared a tool called Custom Search. Custom Search allows teachers to create Google Searches that return results only from targeted sites. As teachers we always have a list of reputable sites that will provide all of the information on the topics we have assigned. However, we don’t typically give these sites out until a student starts to struggle. Teachers can now create a Custom Search within three minutes and share the link to the search page easily. This allows students easy access to credible information.





Once we went through the exciting features within Google Search we transitioned to talking about accessing the content from websites that come as a result of a Google Search. This task can be really challenging for struggling learners. There are many tools (both free and paid) that are available to support learners. We no longer live in a world where listening to an audiobook is considered assistive technology, and students don’t look different when they have headphones in their ears while completing work on their device.

With all the options available, it is important that students use the tool that has a voice that is easy for them understand. A tool that I used with my students is called Read&Write for Google Chrome™. Read&Write for Google Chrome is a paid application that has several features that are available for free including text-to-speech. This application is extremely robust and more importantly… free for teachers! The text-to-speech functionality can read selected text from websites. I especially love that it highlights the words being read aloud.


We live in a time where assistive technology is readily accessible for all learners and is built into the devices students are using. ISTE did an amazing job sharing the amazing tools and resources available to support all types of learners. We are so lucky to live in a world where the tools that used to be good for one student are now good for all students. See you next year ISTE!

Comments

john123 10/10/2017 06:54:15
nice article

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