ISTE: A Reflection

ISTE: A Reflection

With ISTE behind us, it’s fun to reflect on the event that was. I think my ISTE style is unique; I don’t attend sessions. The older I get, the less I can sit still. For me, ISTE is about making new connections or building on relationships with people I learn with online throughout the year. My PD comes from the conversations I get to have with these edu-rockstars. And while I was able to meet some amazing people at ISTE and have a ton of awesome experiences, my Poster session with my former students will be something I’ll never forget. It was the highlight of my ISTE.

Paisley and Alanis killed it. They never cease to amaze me. I’ve become, over time, a staunch advocate for giving up control of the classroom to students. It wasn’t easy at first, it scared me, but it was the best thing I’ve ever done as an educator and our poster session reaffirmed that yet again.

Alanis, Paisley, and I met about three weeks before ISTE. We went over the topic we were to present on, Passion-Based Learning, but ultimately I left them in charge of everything; this was their chance to let teachers know why we need to level up the educational status quo. I didn’t know what our booth was going to look like, nor what they had prepared, until a few hours before we were set to present. When they unveiled their creation “The Death of Traditional Learning” and turned our booth into a crime scene…. wow. For two hours, our booth was packed with people who wanted to know what madness we were talking about. After, these people left fired up to bring Passion-Based Learning to their school. As the teacher, I told those who came by the booth: “I can tell how to implement Passion-Based Learning, but talk to my kids. They can tell you why you should implement it.”

So, in that spirit, I’ll let Alanis bring home our ISTE 2015 experience:


Early last spring, Mr. Aviles had approached me about presenting at ISTE 2015 during the summer. Seeing that the only thing I had planned for the summer was sleeping until noon, I said “why not?”. I visited the official ISTE website and scanned Google for information about the convention, yet, I still did not know what to fully expect. Sure, I knew that it was a meeting ground for teachers to connect and share ideas, but I did not really understand what that meant. How big would it be? What would these teachers be asking me? Is anyone famous going? What am I even supposed to be doing? All these questions clouded my mind as our presentation day (June 30th) grew closer.

Our presentation was titled “The Death of Traditional Learning” and we set it up as if it were a crime scene. Our whole scheme was to show the death of traditional learning and the birth of Passion-Based Learning. We wanted to show teachers that students can do amazing things if they are allowed to apply what they love to their education. Passion-Based Learning is about giving students control of their education and letting them succeed in their own way. During the presentation, we talked about our technology-based English class as well as the Be About It Projects that we completed sophomore year and the crowd funding campaign experience we had as we tried to redesign our classroom.

The best things about ISTE was definitely how interested other teachers were in what we were doing. While Mr. Aviles would tell us that people would Tweet him about all the cool things we did, it never really set in how progressive we really were. Seeing real life people who wanted to emulate what we created was beyond awesome. It proved that we were making a loud change in the education world. I was being asked how others can recreate our Be About It Projects and how they can become more of a 21st Century teacher. Though I don’t really know if teachers are going to take the advice we gave them, it’s satisfying to know that someone, somewhere, might get a better educational experience because of what we preached. I mean, I had a gentleman from China ask to record me speaking about Passion-Based Learning in the hopes of convincing his school board to consider changing their curriculum. Another teacher took my picture and wanted to use it to show his all boys school that girls can use technology just as fluently as boys.

I had no idea what ISTE was going in, but coming out, I am so glad that I went. It was such a unique experience and I don’t think that I will ever do anything like it again. The teachers that I had the opportunity to speak with were so intriguing and it really gave me an insight on the educational status of the country. Some schools were struggling to afford textbooks while others had so much money they physically did not know what to do with it. It was a look at the world outside of New Jersey. If ISTE ever invited us back to speak again, I would do it in a heartbeat.


Until Next Time,

GLHF and let your kids lead the way.

cross-posted at Teched Up Teacher

Chris Aviles presents on education topics including gamification, technology integration, BYOD, blended learning, and the flipped classroom. Read more at Teched Up Teacher.

Chris Aviles is a STEM teacher, edtech specialist, and president of Garden State Esports. He is also a regular contributor to Tech & Learning.