My 5 Takeaways from the PBS Digital Innovator Summit and ISTE 2017!

Sunday, July 30, 2017
So I've had about a month to decompress after my time at the 2017 PBS Digital Innovator Summit leading into ISTE 2017! What a wonderful experience they both were. And while I learned a lot from both, it was such a whirlwind experience at times I didn't know if I was coming or going! Whether you were at #ISTE201 or #notatISTE2017, hopefully you will find some of my takeaways insightful.

1. Meeting New People: Good for Me and My PLN!

I think it is always so much fun to meet new people. My first connection was with a teacher from Atlanta who I met during my layover at the Atlanta Airport. We enjoyed some conversation while waiting and shared an Uber to our hotels when we landed in San Antonio. Since, I have enjoyed following her on Twitter. I was given the opportunity to be in the room with the other 51 PBS Digital Innovators, as well as almost all of their respective station reps, and let me tell you what a humbling experience that was! They are all doing amazing things in their schools, including using 3D printers to print prosthetic limbs for a child to using technology to connect hearing impaired students to the world, and so much more! I also met a lot of people at the ISTE sessions, as well. From just a chat with the person in the seat next to me to the many of presenters I met during the poster sessions. My PLN grew by around 100 people during these awesome events!

2. Coding Is Exploding!

I am not alone in my quest to spread coding in my district. There were a number of session about coding at the conference. I learned the most, though, at the Summit. On one of the days of the Summit, we had an EdCamp (see number 3 below) and one of the sessions was all about coding. So many of the other educators there are working hard to spread coding at their schools, too! One shared that he was a co-organizer of the Portland, Oregon ScratchEd Meetup. Later at ISTE, I found a poster session about ScratchEd Meetup, learned a little bit more about it, and have hopes of organizing one in my area. In the mean time, I aim to continue to spread the importance of coding to teachers in my district by showing them how to integrate coding into their curriculum.

3. EdCamp Is the Unconference!

I had always wanted to participate in an EdCamp and got the chance at the Summit. All of the Innovators and the attending stations reps wrote down topics of their particular interest. While a group was organizing the sessions based on our suggestions, we met Hadley Ferguson, founder of EdCamp, and she shared with us how the idea of EdCamp came to be a reality and the foundation of its principals. We got to choose from 21 sessions in all, from STEM/STEAM and gamifying the classroom to digital storytelling and connecting families and schools. I attended sessions on project-based learning, Scratch and coding in the classroom, and facilitating an EdCamp. It was so amazing because the sessions were so authentic and organic. Anyone who wanted to share could share, or you could sit back and just soak in what everyone else was saying. I'm planning on going to another EdCamp in August, and now I know what to expect, I can't wait!

4. Google Is ISTE Awesome! 

My school district is a GSuite district, and I have really jumped on the Google train because of how it helps me personally and as a teacher, as well as how it can be so easily utilized by students. As much as I love Google, I couldn't get into many of the Google sessions to save my life. Lines were so long, and even if I waited there was no guarantee I'd get in. It seems a lot of other ISTE attendees love Google just as much as I do!  But I still learned a lot from poster Sessions, the EdTech Coach Playground, the Google booth subdivision at the Expo, and a particularly awesome session, Geeking Out Over Google Classroom presented by Kasey Bell and Matt Miller. I got a lot of information about Google's new digital citizenship offerings for students, Be Internet Awesome (hence the heading), and adults, Digital Citizenship and Safety Course. And I so wanted one of those Google t-shirts, but apparently you have to be a trainer or innovator to get one of those . . .

5. Stay Connected, Not Lonely . . .

Biggest PBS Digital Innovator Summit/ISTE 2017 takeaway: teaching can be a lonely job. Most of us do not interact with other adults during the of bulk our days. While it is very fulfilling and empowering teaching children, the nature of the job can be somewhat isolating. Being a changemaker, an innovator, can be lonely as well. Taking risks in the classroom sometimes leads to other teachers' judgment. It is so important to connect with other educators that share your passion and interests, who will validate what you are doing and what you know is right for your students! And while having that person being in the next classroom is amazing, it's not always reality. Reach out to other changemakers on Twitter and other social media. Share your practices with others to get their feedback and encouragement. And don't forget to be approachable to the other changemakers out there and offer your support and encouragement to them, as well!

So there you have it, folks! My biggest takeaways weren't a new gadget, a fresh new app, or free swag, but remembering to stay connected to what makes a career in education and edtech worthwhile: OTHER TEACHERS! Please comment below to share what you learned at ISTE 2017!


  1. I'd love to hear more about your EdCamp experience. It sounds inspiring! A lot of my work revolves around helping educators see each other as resources (whether for ongoing peer coaching or even a quick "help!"). Seems an EdCamp model would be a great addition. Any advice for organizing?

    1. Mindy, I suggest attending an EdCamp first. I went to one in August organized by one of my state's teachers' associations, and you get such a diverse group of teachers . . . and such dynamic conversation because there is no presenter! Someone gets the convo going, and then all participants are encouraged to jump in. Sometimes its a large conversation with everyone listening, other times its a bunch of smaller conversations. But its always educators learning from other educators! I don't have a ton of advice right now on organizing one (because I actually haven't officially organized one yet), but my district is hosting a conference in June where 2 of the afternoon sessions on the last day of the conference will be EdCamp-style unsessions. We are considering using a Google Form to poll everyone's interests. Then while participants are eating lunch, we will quickly organize the suggestions into topics for "unsessions". I'll let you know how it goes!


Back to Top