Can't Let it Go: Sticky Ideas, Inspirations, and Implications from ISTE Live 2022 (Part 1)

Written by the Five Star Professional Development Leadership team

According to ISTELive 22 by the Numbers, more than 14,000 people gathered in person in New Orleans to learn and grow at this conference. I was one of those attendees thrilled to be back in person, attending with members of our Five Star Professional Development team, after two years of a virtual only conference. (Even better, ISTE 22 was my 10th consecutive ISTE conference!) It was a wonderful sight to see and be a part of the throng of educators in full speed conference mode: attending sessions, connecting with friends and colleagues, learning in the hallways, sharing stories over meals, and having fun! It’s no surprise that this was a wonderful reminder of the power of in-person learning and the importance of connecting and supporting each other.

— Sherry Gick, Senior Director of Professional Development Programs

Together, we’d like to highlight some of the ideas and inspirations that have stuck with us and continue to resonate more than a month later.

One of my favorite spots for learning at ISTE is the vendor hall.  I am always inspired by new ideas and tools, released updates on some favorites, and the energy coming from thousands of passionate educators excited to find new things to try in their classrooms.  (The daily morning New Orleans beignets and coffee made it even more delightful!)  This year, several major exhibitors took a different approach and created intimate learning experiences in the adjoining hall spaces.  The Google for Education team designed a creative opportunity with their Adaptive Learning room that showcased the power of student potential with a Chromebook and newly released tools like Screencast and Practice Sets.  With the latest AI-driven technology built into Google’s adaptive learning tools, students are encouraged to explore their personal potential by being active navigators in their own learning process. 

As I moved through the structured learning stations, I was struck by the time-saving options for teachers and the ways that lessons can be uniquely adapted to help every student achieve their personal best.  This session was one that exemplified how Artificial Intelligence doesn’t replace educators but can amplify them to be more efficient, effective, and better meet the needs of individual learners. 

— Lisa Cutshall, VP of Professional Development

This was my first ISTE, and two sessions in particular are still impacting my thoughts and making me eager to dive into some more learning. The first was the Tuesday morning mainstage keynote: Is Civil Discourse Dead? Moderator Mary Jo Madda facilitated a discussion between the highly lauded Drs. Robert P. George and Cornel West. These two brilliant minds hold very different views and beliefs, yet they have an endearing and strong friendship that transcends these potential conflicts. As they modeled respectful and engaging discourse, they explored a variety of difficulties facing educators as they strive to help students become critical thinkers and positive contributors to society. I gave a silent “heck yes!” when Dr. George explained that we must read the best that is available to us on both sides of an issue. The quality of our thoughts and beliefs is only as strong as the information we consume, and we owe it to our students to help them learn how to find high quality resources and research for opposing sides of any controversy. We owe it to our students to put the greatest thoughts of all time in front of them. We owe it to our students to teach them how to think critically about these ideas so that they can synthesize the information to form their own beliefs while still respecting and having empathy for those who may come to a different conclusion with the same information. (Side note: Could these two PLEASE start a podcast?)

The second session that’s still playing in my brain is, in many ways, connected to the first. The Future of Education with LeVar Burton made my inner child squeal (yes, he sang the Reading Rainbow theme song) while also encouraging my mind to entertain some complex thoughts. He shared that he cannot believe we can be any more divided than we were in 1865. I’m paraphrasing because my mind was trying to take everything in and I couldn’t keep up with his exact words, but he continued: We have two more major divisive issues – guns and women’s reproductive rights. We never fully dealt with or overcame the trauma of slavery. And now we’re adding two more traumatic issues. The pandemic has taught us to sit in the discomfort. We need empathy in public discourse. If you can get to compassion, empathy is just a heartbeat away. And that’s why we need storytelling.

As a stage performer and former English teacher, it was balm to a tired spirit to sit in a room full of people celebrating the transformative power of stories on public discourse. And at a time when social media, endless news cycles, and information fatigue had me questioning if there was hope for humanity to move forward together, these two sessions were welcome reminders that compassion and collaboration are still very possible.

Molly Rupert, Director of Professional Development

Read Part 2 Here!