Can't Let it Go: Sticky Ideas, Inspirations, and Implications from ISTE Live 2022 (Part 2)

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.

Did you miss part 1? Read it here!

ISTE 2022

ISTE always brings to light new ideas, ways to address complex challenges, and changes to some of the most utilized tools in education. While I tremendously enjoyed being pulled and stretched in all these new and exciting ways, one topic stood out:  Coaching.  Whether it be instructional, subject-specific, or technology- coaching in schools is still heavily underutilized and arguably undervalued.  While sitting in a packed room full of educators, coaches, educational leaders, and administrators, I watched a nervous coach take to the stage at her very first ISTE conference and demand our attention in the best of ways!  She started with some myths about coaching.  As a former coach myself, I felt myself giggling at some of the nuances that still seem to plague school coaches, and can’t help but think that the value of coaching still needs to be shouted from the rooftops!  

Before I do that, I want to share a few of my favorite takeaways that this lovely lady shared with me during her session:

  1. Always model the tools you wish to see your Ts using with students.  Who doesn’t like music? If you haven’t checked out this collaborative Jukebox– do! 
  2. Appointments feeling overwhelming? Use a booking system! Calendly syncs with your Google Calendar, allows for you to set boundaries and open blocks for 1:1 work- Pass out QR code stickers for teachers to put on computers or by their desk.
  3. 3 Amigos! Give choices in how Ts will learn from you.  Remember, this is just a bigger classroom- creating more diversity in learning styles. Do they prefer in person, virtual/on demand video, or simply a deliverable/resource pack/presentation?

She shared so many wonderful things about what she does for her educators, for her administrators, for her buildings, for herself- but what I was missing (and what I find to be often missing) was how her leadership empowers her to coach.  What were they doing to help make her more successful in her role?  The reasoning for coaching is imperative to the success of the role and will ultimately place a label on the initiative from the start. I challenge school leaders to think carefully through these decisions:

  1. What is the initiative/intent for a coach in your district/building?
  2. Will the leadership team be able to set measurable goals with the coach? What does the follow-through look like?
  3. Will the leadership team be able to empower the coach by standing behind the goals and expectations of the larger initiative?
  4. Is the district prepared to celebrate milestones and success of the coaching initiative? If so, what does that look like?
  5. Will there be outlets for the coach to be mentored?  Do they have connections to learn and grow in order to bring new learning back to the district?

At the core- coaches are teachers with a larger audience. They are trying to get all their “students” to mastery, but they can’t do it alone.  There is no amount of tech-tip Tuesdays or gimmicky newsletters that can transform a school.  Coaches need clear goals, support, and encouragement, as well as follow-through with metrics and expectations.

–Kelly York, Senior Director of Professional Development Operations

For about the last decade, K-12 educational institutions have been advocating for the inclusion of 21st-century skills in all grade levels and content areas. The concept of 21st-century skills, sometimes referred to as “soft skills,” are a set of knowledge, work habits, and character traits that are vitally important to students’ success as learners and citizens. Usually, these skills include the 4 C’s – a common educational term that refers to four specific skills of communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. While most educators agree these 4 C’s are incredibly important and should be incorporated into everyday learning opportunities, we don’t always explicitly say how to successfully teach and implement them.

One of my favorite sessions I attended at ISTE 22 was titled “Problem-Solving Educational Inequity,” presented by Dee Lanier and Ken Shelton. During this session, these educational leaders shared an idea that I just can’t stop thinking about. They said: We often use the language of the 4 C’s and expect students to learn these skills, but as educators we don’t necessarily teach them how. The inclusion of the 4 C’s should be “commitments instead of evaluations.” Here’s one example that was provided during the session.

From this example, when students are using the 4 C’s during problem solving rather than just thinking critically, they would commit to the specific act of thinking about and comparing their own opinion to research and the experiences of others. Rather than evaluating if students used critical thinking skills or not, there is now a deep understanding of how they might truly lean into thinking critically. Going forward, I plan to think more about this. I aim to reframe the way I talk about the 4 C’s and find more ways to commit to these lifelong skills in professional development. 

— Katie Bradford, Director of Professional Development

ISTE 2022

Image from “Problem-Solving Educational Inequity”

And… after more than 14,000 educators gathered in New Orleans attending sessions, connecting with friends and colleagues, learning in the hallways, sharing stories over meals, and having fun, it’s truly not surprising that many of us came home with an extra souvenir:  COVID19. While it was my least favorite take-away from any of the ISTEs I’ve attended, the experience of having COVID for the first time became a transformative experience because of the power of educators. Within minutes of sharing my positive test on social media, I was invited to join a not-so-exclusive Facebook group aptly named the ISTE Covid Club.

During the following 3 weeks post-ISTE, we had numerous conversation threads and topics. Some of the members of the group I knew, but many I did not.. Whether we were old friends or friends who just had not yet met, it did not stop us from connecting and supporting each other, sharing tips and tricks as we learned about COVID19 through our “hands on research.” Some members of the group were COVID veterans — not their first rodeo! Others, like me, were brand new infectees and had many questions. Together, we forged through. We commiserated together. We learned and grew our knowledge together. This lesson of the power of community is what I was gently reminded of both at ISTE and in the days after. Together we are better and stronger. The power of connecting and supporting each other transcends face to face conferences and is possible all year long. Thank you ISTE for all the valuable learning and connecting you inspire!

— Sherry Gick, Senior Director of Professional Development Programs