Monday, July 6, 2015

BPL at ISTE 2015

The International Society of Technology in Education conference was last week in Philadelphia. 20 thousand EdTech innovators in one space in an inspiring site. Add almost 4000 exhibitors and endless presentations and it is enough to make and geeky teacher turn blue.

There continues to be cool innovation in Ed Technology software - though my sense is the pace is slowing a bit. Some standouts:

Bretford Charging Lockers

With BYOD and the age of digital content, large backpacks full of textbooks are long gone. But tablets and smartphones have brought with them new challenges. Keeping them charged and secure can be tricky. This 21st century locker is great. Students can store computers, phones and tablets. Each locker has a charging port. Students can easily set the password so they can store their devices wherever they need on campus, just find an empty locker. 

This creates terrific opportunities for BYOD moments but also ensures secure storage for times when student devices are not what is needed.


If you have not heard of NewsELA  you must check them out. There is no better way to get all students accessing current events. NewsELA gives you current event news articles that you share with students. The difference from just sharing, say, New York Times links is that students can choose the same article at a variety of reading levels. If a student finds the highest level of the text too complicated, they can pick easier grading levels. This enables all students to participate in discussions revolving around current events.


PollsEverywhere is great... but Kahoot is set up specifically for education. It is a terrific way to build engagement at large all school meetings like Pick Me Ups and Kick Me Outs. Oh yeah... it is free! Another great one to check out for improving all school meetings is Mentimeter.

NetRef and Impero

BYOD creates immense possibility for technology fluency and access to information as students can utilize their own smart phone, tablet or computer. However, the risk has been that these devices do not have the ability to be integrated into classroom management and progression. NetRef solves this problem. By requiring their application to be installed on a student device as a condition for accessing the district WiFi, the student device instantly becomes incorporated into the academic environment. Advisors direct students to websites quickly and easily. They can track internet usage and shut down internet access at times when discussions or instruction is happening. Impero goes a few steps further, allowing (with the right wifi network) student devices to be monitored, but also enabling all school computers to be shut down at the end of the day and the ability to create a print budget for every student.

Both of these tools allow innovative teachers to integrate phones and student devices into the classroom, while satisfying concerns from parents and district folks.

Meet the Teacher

Big Picture Schools work hard to deeply engage parents, mentors and others in student learning. But the complexities of scheduling meetings with all of these folks can make the teacher need a personal assistant.  Meet The Teacher saves a huge chunk of time by easily coordinating meetings. There are other non-ed-specific apps that do this (often for free!) such as, and (my favorite),
But if you or your administrator would like something super easy to set up and easy for an administrator to oversee, then Meet The Teacher is the way to go.

Other interesting services products include Class Messenger, Google Keep, and Curriculet.

But the real change agent in EdTech is - space! No, not outer space. Agile and engaging classroom design. Many of these tools are very analog, but their emphasis represents a revelation. As Prakash Nair put it in his new book, Blueprint for Tomorrow:
Furnishings are one of the most important elements of good school design and are absolutely critical for creating a twenty-first-century learning environment. Yet it is also on of the most overlooked.
Judging from the ISTE conference this year... furniture and spatial design is the next wave of high tech. More on that in my next post.


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