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  • Writer's pictureJolie Radunich

The case for industry professionals to visit the Disneyland of edtech

Hey kid,

There I was.

A learner-turned-edtech professional who took a quick train ride from NYC to Philly, not fully knowing what I was in for.

My first-ever conference had 18,000 attendees. Beautifully designed booths.

Seeing some of the faces behind learning solutions that motivated me to become a better student made my eyes water just a little.

Here's why ISTELive is worth the hype.

Get to know ISTELive's reputation

The conference is run by ISTE (The International Society for Technology in Education), showcasing what's hot in education innovation and challenging attendees to rethink their visions of digital learning.

ISTELive 23 wasn't this conference's first time at the rodeo.

The company has been drawing crowds from around the globe, and hosting in cities across the country, for a few decades now.

Thousands of educators and industry actors attend. Here are just a few of the many types of professionals that were present:

  • C-Level executive

  • Corporate staff

  • Curriculum designer

  • PK-12 Teacher/ faculty

  • Principal

Attendance numbers continue to rise, including after a pandemic rebound when the conference went virtual-only for two years.

A conference of this size creates large opportunities to network and learn from people who have various professional backgrounds.

Get inspired by hundreds of companies in the expo hall

Over 475 exhibiting companies were present at ISTELive this year. You can check out the full list here.

On day 1, I planned to spend 30 minutes walking around...

...until I resurfaced into the main part of the convention center two hours later, with not quite as much energy as when I arrived.

I walked up and down every aisle in the hall, combing each booth of companies I knew of or had never heard of. I also got to know some of the faces behind different products and brands.

Here are a few of many categories of edtech that had a presence at the conference. My ideas of what this industry was were definitely challenged:

  • Curriculum and instructional tools

  • Data management and storage

  • Furniture (!)

  • Robotics

  • Wireless and Internet Infrastructure

Like a kid on Halloween, you'll leave the expo hall with a bag filled with flyers, stickers, and other trinkets from hundreds of edtech companies!

Hopefully, above all, you'll take away a desire to work for MORE in this industry.

Embrace your role and talk to everyone

At first, I felt a little funny walking around the expo hall.

I knew the edtech exhibitors were eager to talk to educators, scan their badges and score new leads.

So I was constantly asked if I was an educator.

But I didn't go to ISTELive to become a lead. I wouldn't be a very good one. After all, I'm not an educator. I work for an edtech company.

I also didn't want to feel like a spy!

I remembered how genuinely excited I was to participate in the conference. So I leaned into why I was there and embraced my Raised on Edtech brand. Once I positioned myself as genuinely curious and enthusiastic about the industry, so many types of conversations opened up to me:

  • Getting to know interesting company histories

  • Hearing product pitches from founders, marketers, and sales folks

  • Learning about future opportunities to connect with different individuals and groups

Not everyone was raised on edtech. But you can use your industry ties to start conversations and connect with others who are passionate about this work.

Join innovative hands-on learning sessions

ISTELive delivered nearly 1,000 sessions to help attendees get to know different products in personal ways.

Below are a few of the many topics featured in these sessions. You can search and filter the full list here.

  • Assessment/ evaluations/ use of data

  • Computer science and computational thinking

  • Games for learning gamification

  • Maker activities and programs

  • Student agency, choice, and voice

These sessions are still fruitful for non-educators. By reexperiencing the range of student emotions that comes with learning digitally, you can feel that much more connected to the students you support.

My favorite: a Minecraft Education session demoing how students can solve math problems like finding area and volume, within the game!

By attending a math session like this, for example, you'll walk away understanding the product's clear benefits, like:

  • Connecting kids who don't feel like they're "math kids"

  • Teaching math in a creative way that's fun for all

  • Giving students the chance to lead (since many play this game in their free time)

When you return to work, you can channel these emotions into your tasks.

Brb while I go budget out this subscription.

Channel your tech kid at ISTELive

Here are 3 reasons attending ISTELive is worth it for edtech professionals:

  1. Refresh yourself on digital learning trends. This year AI took the cake with numerous sessions and entertainment that featured kids and ChatGPT, plus a robo dog.

  2. Expand your view of edtech. I spend a lot of time in K-5 literacy. Seeing cybersecurity and computer display companies reminded me just how wide of a tent this industry has.

  3. Check out the competition. It doesn't hurt to learn from and get inspired by companies with like-minded visions.

In the words of ISTE CEO Richard Culatta on day 1...the countdown to ISTELive 24 has begun!


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