I'm headed to ISTE 2011 this weekend, my eighth time at the conference but my first time attending as a journalist and not as ISTE or conference registration staff. No surprise then, I'm more excited about this trip than ever before.

My schedule is already chock-a-block with exhibitor briefings, and I worry that I'm not going to have enough time to talk to educators or to attend any sessions. I have carved out all Sunday to attend the various ISTE member events and I'm going to try to attend as many Special Interest Group events as possible. (We'll see how that goes.)

But my job there this time around isn't to manage those SIG events (phew!); it's to report on the latest in education technology -- in its development, in its usage in and out of the classroom. With that in mind, here are the things I'm hoping to see tech- and company-wise at the event:

1. Ed-tech startups: Honestly, I hope there aren't too many startups on the exhibit floor. If you've rented a booth as a startup, you're likely to get a stern "lean startup" lecture from me about how you prioritize spending your money. But if you're an ed-tech startup and you're missing ISTE altogether, you're also missing an opportunity to talk to a large group of educators, to make new connections and get feedback from your potential customers.

2. Open source technology: Let's put an end to expensive, proprietary technology in schools. Instead, let's embrace open source. More eyes on the code means better code. Better code means better products. Better products -- who'da thunk it in ed-tech.

3. Openly-licensed content: Much like the end to expensive, proprietary technology, it's time we start rethinking expensive, proprietary content. I'm interested in open educational resources, in tools that allow remixing and sharing -- by teachers and by students.

4. Teacher-driven / student-driven technology: I'm looking for companies that provide what teachers and students want. I'm not particularly interested in companies that have to do a lot of marketing to plant these "wants" in their potential customers (IWB-makers, I'm looking at you). I want to talk to companies that are building educational tools that solve real problems and meet their customers' needs.

5. Students as makers, not consumers/workers: Let's give students the skills to be able to build and make and create. Equipping students with "21st century skills" doesn't mean simply instructing them on keyboarding or on PowerPoint. How can we foster more creativity, how can we encourage more hands-on learning, how can we give students the skills to build the future, not just buy it?

But I'd be remiss if I didn't add here that, as much as I'm looking forward to writing about the ed-tech companies -- the "what I want to see" -- I can't wait to see in person my ed-tech community -- "the "who I want to see." I feel like I spend my days chatting with folks on Twitter, and this is one of the rare times of year when I actually get to be with others who truly care about education and technology.

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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