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It is a privilege to be able to attend conferences, and I feel with that opportunity comes the responsibility to reflect and to share what I learned.

With 20,000+ attendees, the ISTE conference definitely qualifies as a mega-event, and now that I have attended four of these conferences, I have a (slightly better) grasp of how I "do" ISTE.

I've been able to share some key takeaways with my colleague Ashley, and I'm still sorting through my notes and other Tweets I curated, but here's a quick summary to explain my sketchnote and to help me document what happens next.
Takeaway #1:
Since reading Make It Stick in 2015, I've been so interested in the learning sciences, and now my interest has turned into a mild obsession. 😃 (Read more of the story here!) I was surprised that there weren't more sessions about this topic, but I found one presentation and added the presenter's book, Design Ed: Connecting Learning Science Research to Practice to my TBR list. I also learned about ISTE's new initiative called Course of Mind. It includes a podcast, blog, research, and coming-soon a course.

The other presentation related to learning was Dr. Scott McLeod's session and exploration of his 4 Shifts Protocol. (Here's a recent blog post about understanding one of the 4 domains: deeper learning.) He walked us through a couple scenarios, and we worked through a (re)design pivot to "up" the learning experience. I've looked at his 4 Shifts protocol several times, but his explanation and our practice during the session really opened my eyes. I can't wait to explore and implement his work! (And it added his book Harnessing Technology for Deeper Learning to my book pile, too.)
Analyzing the agency component of the #4shifts with @mcleod & @jgraber. Thinking about our own lessons, how would we answer these questions? 😳 #ISTE19 pic.twitter.com/OEYGFJz9Mx
— Kathryn Laster (@kklaster) June 24, 2019

Takeaway #2:
The other big idea on my mind is equity. ISTE definitely made progress this year with more diversity in their keynote speakers and the number of sessions with "Equity" or "Cultural Responsiveness" in their titles, but there is still a long way to go for all of us. (There was some Twitter backlash about some glaringly un-diverse panels.) I think it was also at the forefront of my mind because the week prior to the conference, I worked in districts with vastly disparate device "situations." (In one district, the high school has been 1:1 MacBooks for 5 years. The next day, I was in a district where teachers were hoping for Chromebook carts in the rooms...but they had heard that for the past two years.) I also caught some Twitter discussions about the expense of the conference...how many districts or schools have the funds to send teachers to these kinds of learning events? Travel to Philadelphia and conference fees definitely added up. $$$

I attended the session Constructing the Culturally Responsive Citizen: Moving Beyond #DigCit, and I loved that one of the session norms was to "Be Brave" -- to step outside your comfort zone and to be willing to have harder conversations. We went through scenarios to analyze what bias was present and how to respond. We also had thoughtful discussions about how we equip our students with the language and skills to navigate these sensitive situations. Powerful conversations.

Takeaways #3-4:
Take time for creativity! I've been interested in sketchnoting for at least 4 years now, so it's time I do more with it! Several of the featured speakers emphasized the importance of risk-taking and sharing your failures, so I'm on it! I've sketchnoted conference takeaways from TCEA and now 2 ISTE's and I plan to do more sketchnotes as reflections.

Great ideas for sharing failures. Mural of mistakes with chalk paint and wall of rejection. #ISTE19 pic.twitter.com/RfZ7U2omPP
— Kathryn Laster (@kklaster) June 25, 2019
I also enjoyed (more than I expected) our weekly podcast format, and I did almost all of the editing and "producing" of the episodes this year...but I know that can be better. I'm working on that, too! I attended one session about podcasting for students, and it gave me great ideas for our podcast, too. I'm ready to get more creative with our podcast. Stay tuned!

Connections
Like other conferences, the hallway conversations are often the best. Conferences like these often turn into reunions, and I also enjoy opportunities to expand my PLN. I also love supporting other #R10tech friends and strive to stop by their presentations.
Starting off #ISTE19 at the airport!! Reconnecting w/ friends & meeting new ones! #iste @iste pic.twitter.com/f5M1Fihl6M
— ૮ℓαµ∂เσ ƶαѵαℓα ʝ૨. (@ClaudioZavalaJr) June 23, 2019

Such a delight to catch up with my friend @EdTechMason at #iste19! What a great way to start my time in Philly! pic.twitter.com/QX7WBTfm0x
— Kathryn Laster (@kklaster) June 23, 2019
You know @knikole and I love a good #CoffeeEDU! Great start to the morning! Thanks, Kasey! @ShakeUpLearning #ISTE19 pic.twitter.com/x7aJQEtDop
— Kathryn Laster (@kklaster) June 25, 2019
— Leah Heerema, MSIT (@TechKnowLeah) June 24, 2019

— Kathryn Laster (@kklaster) June 25, 2019

— Kathryn Laster (@kklaster) June 25, 2019

Takeaway #5:
More about this news and process later, but I've spent about 6-months working on the ISTE Certified Educator process, and it was fun to be able to celebrate that accomplishment at this conference.
— Kathryn Laster (@kklaster) June 23, 2019

Thanks @ShakeUpLearning for hosting today’s #coffeeedU! Loved connecting with these METC educators. We’re all proud of our #ISTEcert! #iste19@mrscarolnelson @ncooper_edu pic.twitter.com/AQkXauZbLC
— Kathryn Laster (@kklaster) June 25, 2019

Bonus:
I'm a huge fan of the podcast Note to Self, and it was awesome to be able to hear Manoush share her Bored and Brilliant ideas (and other work).
Feeling a bit guilty about tweeting while @manoushz is telling us about phone use and the bored and brilliant project. So excited to hear her live though! #ISTE19 pic.twitter.com/8FY5nKT7Ee
— Kathryn Laster (@kklaster) June 24, 2019

Reflections for another day: I'm glad to see more conversations on topics such as teacher wellness, mental health issues, device distraction, and the importance of unplugging.

Attending a conference is a perfect example to apply John Dewey's quote:
We do not learn from experience... we learn from reflecting on experience.
Always learning!
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I enjoy January, the start of a new year, and new beginnings. During the past several years, I created resolutions, participated in happiness projects, wrote 18 goals for 2018, and distilled yearly themes to #oneword. (This year's word is heart, by the way.) As part of our work evaluations, we write and submit reflections on our past and future goals, and I really enjoy that process. (I wonder how many people like completing these reflections?) I'm currently working on a portfolio for a certification project, and the synthesis process is very fulfilling for me.

In spite of all of my thinking and reflecting, for the past several months, I feel that I lost my sense of direction, and I am zigging and zagging all over the place. I don't think I even realized I was at such a loss until I heard the discussion of "Defining Your Everest" during an interview with Dave Stuart on this podcast. Bottom line, I would like to distill my work into concise, focused goals.

It's not like I've never done something like this before... I discovered this quote in 2006, and it continues to be one of my favorites. It suited me perfectly as a math teacher, Student Council sponsor, instructional specialist, and now as a digital learning consultant.

A couple years ago, a friend even created this painting for me, and it's prominently hanging in my office.
Starting in 2012, my students and I created 6-word memoirs. I still love this focus sentence.
I love to help find solutions.
The sentence worked in my previous job because it was very "math-y," plus I was working at the campus level to solve problems. Now I find ways technology can solve problems.

I created a 5-word GPS for the 2014-15 school year (my last year on a campus). When I look at the words now, I see my focus was so much about building a community of learners and creating psychological safety in my class...and that is all still good to remember for my professional development sessions.

Last year, I took an online class (#ClassyGraphics) where an optional assignment was to create a manifesto, and I worked for weeks to choose the right words that described my values and beliefs.


Looking at all of these quotes, words, and reflections from past years helps me understand my values and priorities, but how can I be more concise? I see a lot of similarities in my words and ideas. What I like about the Everest Challenge is the teacher says every single day in his classes, his students are working on one or more of his 5-6 broad goals. During the podcast interview, Dave said he started writing his ideas on an index card, carried it around for days (weeks?) to refine and reflect on his words.

What is my work all about? Right now, I'm thinking something like, "I want to help others see how technology empowers us to learn, connect, collaborate, and create." Hmmm... Am I able to spend the majority of my time using technology for learning, connecting, collaborating, and creating? Is this focus fulfilling for me? Suggestions?

Still thinking and reflecting, and always learning. 

PS - With "Zigging and Zagging," I'm finally ending my alphabet blogging challenge. Talk about perseverance. It took way too long to finish 26 posts, but I'm glad I did it!
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Anyone who is around me for more than 5 minutes hears about my favorite educational book The New Pillars of Modern Teaching. The ideas in Gayle Allen's book truly transformed how I think about teaching and learning. (See this post for an overview.) So this reflection started as ponderings about YouTube, but as with most everything in my educational world, it's going to circle back to the New Pillars.

Last year, I read great advice for conference-going, which was to attend a session that was outside your comfort zone or area of interest. Find something that might push your thinking. For that reason, on the last day and the final session of ISTE 18, I found the session Teacher Reflection and Professional Growth Through Vlogging. The session description sounded interesting (except for the video part) but I didn't recognize the presenters' names. I ran into a former colleague in this session, and based on his enthusiasm (and the response in the room!) I learned that the presenters were "celebrities" in the TeacherTuber world! I had no idea that just like blogs, Twitter, and Instagram, there is an entire community of educators that share and support each other on YouTube. Check out CJ Reynolds' and Darin Nakakihara's channels to see their vlogs. Their presentation was dynamic and inspiring, and they spoke with enthusiasm about their community of learners and how they used video to learn, grow, reflect, and share.



As wonderful as their presentation was, I have not spent any additional time exploring YouTube and TeacherTubers. I am not interested (right now) in joining that community of learners. BUT because of my understanding of the New Pillars, I realize that's OK...that type of medium is not my learning preference. I also realize that vlogging might be a favorite platform for some of my session participants, so how can I provide more video as an option? Just like students in our classrooms, our preferences are not going to be the same as our students, so how can we accommodate for those differences? How can we design learning experiences that meet the needs of more of our learners?

In The New Pillars of Modern Teaching, Dr. Allen provides a brief self-assessment for us to determine our own learning preferences. She asks us to reflect on a favorite learning experience and break down the experience in terms of the four elements of powerful learning design: time, place, medium, and socialness.
  • Time: How much time did the experience take? Was it a short burst of time or a semester?
  • Place: Where did the learning occur? Face-to-face? In a university? Online? Synchronous?
  • Medium: What platforms were used? Audio, video, online, face-to-face?
  • Socialness: How much interaction occurred? Was it face-to-face or virtual?
I've reflected on my favorite learning experiences multiple times, and for our online book study, we ask participants to create a graphic to explain their preferences, so here's one of mine.


Now that I deeply understand my learning preferences, I know to look for learning opportunities that meet my needs as a learner. And because I realize my preferences differ from most others, I strive to include multiple elements in my sessions. I'm always looking for more ways to provide more choice, though! And for classroom teachers, what does this look like for classrooms where the curriculum is so tight and we have so many other spinning plates?

A couple of years ago, we interviewed Dr. Allen for our podcast, and here's a short clip of a suggestion from her.

In the book, Dr. Allen recognizes that teachers lack time to be able to do it all, and she frequently reminds us to start small. With learning design, she suggests to choose one of the four elements (like medium) and make a few tweaks. Her example above was part of a discussion about curation, but the idea applies to both of the pillars.

Understanding these elements of powerful learning design also align with the ISTE Educator standard of Designer. At first glance, The New Pillars doesn't look like a technology book, but if we are going to succeed in implementing the three pillars, technology must be part of the picture. This standard and indicator ask us to use technology to design experiences that take all of those learner preferences into consideration.



If interested, here's our entire episode with Dr. Allen.



So if a vlog and a YouTube community is not your cup of tea, I'm certain it is for someone you know. (Have any of your students declared they wanted to become a YouTuber? That's a thing!) Maybe you're extremely social and believe collaborative groups are the way to go, but is that true for all of your students or session participants? (oops!)

Have you reflected on your learning preferences? Do you use those preferences to design your own learning experiences? Would the learning preference self-assessment help your students or those you coach?

Reflecting on learning preferences and learning design...and always learning.
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Even though the conference was a couple months ago, I wanted to share a bit about this summer's ISTE Chicago experience.

I'm still processing and working through ideas, but here are a few key takeaways from my day 1:

Ken Shelton's Designing Culturally Relevant Learning Experiences session:
  • A something-to-think about quote was “If you don’t have the technology to hear from every student every day, that’s not an equitable classroom.” I'm wondering: how many of our districts practice this kind of "techquity?" (his word) Our districts are all over the place with access and use of devices. What can our team do to help facilitate more techquity in our region?
  • We tried several culturally relevant icebreaker activities during this presentation. One I adapted and played in several of my subsequent sessions this summer was Game of Phones. Click through the slides to see additional resources and ideas. The idea from this activity: most of our students use Snapchat or Instagram, so how can I take advantage of those platforms in the context of learning environments? Students use visuals and imagery, so why don’t we? (If our students don't have phones, use a computer to look up a relevant image.)
Tony Vincent's An Emoji Education:
  • I waited outside the room for an hour to ensure I had a seat in this session. I participated in two of Tony's online courses and learned so much from him, so I really wanted to meet him face-to-face. I appreciated my colleague Ashley for waiting with me, and we both wanted to see him present. And side-note: I know the long lines cause some grumbling, but that's part of the conference experience, and that's where great conversations happen, too.
    • Tony's session was fantastic and fun. He was engaging, the ideas were easy to implement and relevant, and he shared many tools and resources. 
    • One of my favorite moments of the session was that Tony recognized me in the audience...even though we had never met face-to-face! After I recovered from the excitement of his simple, "Oh hey, Kathryn," I reflected on the importance of names, acknowledging others, and making connections. How often do I call others by their names during my sessions or even in the hallways at work? (Not enough!) After this huge reminder, I worked during the rest of my summer sessions to learn as many names as possible, even if I was with the educators for only 1 hour. If I knew anyone in the audience, I wanted to make certain I said something to them personally. How many opportunities have I missed when working with teachers? I think I did a much better job when working with students, but this personal experience made me realize that "I see you" is just as important for adults.
    • As Ashley and I reflected that evening, we brought up the possibility/need of offering more online courses in our work. We both mentioned that a problem with online courses was the lack of community and collaboration...but then Ashley said WAIT, Tony created an amazing community of learners in his courses, so it can be done. I experienced it myself, as did apparently most people in the room and in line in the hallway. As soon as Tony started walking toward his presentation room, the energy seriously changed in the waiting area. When he mentioned #ClassyGraphics or #ClassyVideos during his session, the room erupted with applause! Tony created this terrific community of learners, all within the confines of an online platform, so it was a reminder of the power of virtual collaboration. So the big question for us is how can we replicate a similar sense of community for online courses we develop?
Revisiting my notes and reflections from ISTE day 1 has given me plenty of things to wonder about. My theme from this day (and probably the conference) was connections. It's so important to find ways to make connections with our students and the adults we serve. What can I do connect with others in more meaningful ways?
Wondering and learning...
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My teammates and I facilitate a session called Designing Instruction in the Digital Age, and as I updated my work this summer, I found it interesting how all of my "favorite instructional worlds" kept colliding.

Three summers ago, one version of this session was called Flipped Learning. The next summer, the session became Blended Instruction. We now take the foundations of the new pillars and add bits of thinking from differentiated instruction to create the current iteration of this session. Bottom line: it's all about voice and choice. (I know, that's almost a buzzword, but it's certainly my focus now!)

Here's what we say about voice:
Student voice includes creating content to demonstrate their learning and sharing their voice with others through discussions, backchannels and possibly social media.
Our definition of choice:
Student choice means students choose how they learn something, how they demonstrate their learning and, possibly, what they learn.
Here's one slide from the presentation, and I use exactly the same wording whenever I discuss differentiated instruction.
from Courageous Edventures, Jennie Magiera

In The New Pillars of Modern Teaching, the first pillar is design. Dr. Allen describes the four elements of powerful learning design as time, place, medium, and socialness. We want to provide voice and choice as we're designing instruction (or helping our students design their own learning experiences.)

In the professional learning sessions I facilitate, I feel like I'm doing a decent job with the choice part of the workshop or training. I provide a variety of mediums for participants to access the content. I typically allow time for educators time to pick-and-choose articles, tools, or resources to explore. For the voice part, I'm looking for additional ideas. We usually have a backchannel for the session, and we encourage participants to share their reflections using a common hashtag...but what else? What kind of voice and choice do educators need for their own professional learning?

I plan to ask these questions in upcoming sessions, and I hope I'll receive some audio clips to create a small podcast about this content. If you would like to try out the Anchor and record a message (that might be included here!) the instructions are below:
  • Download the Anchor app.
  • Search for Kathryn Laster.
  • Click on the episode and “send a message.”
  • Respond to any of the questions: What does voice or choice mean to you? What kind of voice and choice do educators need for their own professional learning? How do you provide voice and choice in your own classrooms? Include your name and role, and then share your ideas. (You have 1 minute.)
  • Type your name as the title and send.

Thinking a lot about voice and choice, and my journey of differentiated instruction, the new pillars, and now designing instruction in the digital age.
Always learning...
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A bit of voice and choice...

I update this blog sporadically, at best, and I know I never wake up in the middle of the night excited to write a blog post. This morning, I started brainstorming a bit and I thought that adding a little bit of audio might motivate me to become unstuck about my blogging.

I was working on an upcoming session about podcasting, and I wanted to try the Anchor app. The website declares, "It's the easiest way to start a podcast. Ever." I knew other educators used Anchor for their podcasts, so I wanted to include this tool in my session. I decided as a model, I could try Anchor for this blog post.

In our sessions, we share the importance of providing voice and choice: to allow students to access the content or to share their work through audio, video, or text or a variety of mediums. We provide a plethora of sources and allow participants time to explore the readings and tools of their choice. That's what led me to wonder: is there a way I can add a little bit of choice on this blog? Would this choice in platform help me become unstuck with my blogging efforts?

It took me a little bit of time to create a logo for Anchor, and it's not great, but if I wanted to create audio connected to my blog, at least I already had a name and colors. Since my colleagues and I already create our Digital Learning Radio podcast, I was at least somewhat familiar with the other podcast requirements.

We'll see how this works and how often I include a little bit of audio on the posts...but for now, this idea inspired me to jump out of bed on a summer Saturday morning. I'm a little less stuck now, and I am motivated to try something new, to explore new tools, and to share content in new ways.

Thanks for listening! 



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As I mentioned at the end of this post, my work team and I host a podcast called Digital Learning Radio. In our podcast, we discuss ideas for implementing technology, interview guests, and share some of our favorite things.

This year, we are working our way through the ISTE Educator Standards, and we're talking to leaders in the field as we take a deep-dive into each one of the standards. For Standard 4, Collaborator, we had the privilege of interviewing Gary Hirsch, who is a Portland artist, botjoy creator, and co-founder of On Your Feet. I shared how I discovered his work in this post about Joy Bots, but participating in this conversation with him was one of the highlights of my year!

As we were getting ready to publish this episode, my colleague Ashley asked if I would create a sketchnote to illustrate a portion of the interview. Gary talked a lot about letting going and the power of risk-taking, so even though I'm still working on my sketchnotes, I thought I could take a risk and share this one (in honor of the interview!)

Used for the thumbnail in the podcast excerpt
Listen to Gary discuss risk-taking:


Gary Hirsch - YouTube


I originally created this sketchnote for Gary's TEDx talk, which is all about the power of collaboration...and it's what prompted us to reach out to him to discuss ISTE Educator Standard 4.

After posting these sketches, I decided to really take a risk, so I sketched one of my favorite quotes from this episode. I also created a sketchnote of 5 of my favorite takeaways from our conversation.





Listen to the entire episode here, and enjoy.



Google Hangout with the DL Team and Gary Hirsh

I'm always learning...and thanks to this inspiring interview, I'm learning to take more risks!
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