entryway banner from ISTE 2018

Highlights from the ISTE 2018 Conference!

Nearly 17,000 educators from around the globe came to the vibrant city of Chicago for the ISTE 2018 Conference, one of the year’s most sought-after edtech conferences. The moment you walked into the convention center at McCormick Place West Building, you felt the energy and excitement of the limitless opportunities for knowledge and professional growth with the wide range of session selections, the massive vendor hall, and the world-renowned keynote speakers. There were several topics that came up quite frequently during this year’s conference:

  • Be creative and think outside of the box.
  • Trial and error is a part of learning.
  • We need to shift our ways of thinking from the old education system to one that allows for student growth.
  • Technology plays a big part in the future of education.
  • Empower students and teachers, and equip them with the right tools for success.
  • Be the spark that ignites the passion inside of each and every student.

poster with ISTE keynote speakers

Getting Started at the ISTE 2018 Conference

The conference opened up on Sunday, June 24th with a keynote session featuring ISTE’s CEO Richard Culatta and Board President Mila Thomas Fuller. After they amped up the crowd for an exciting time at ISTE, featured keynote speaker, David Eagleman, PhD and bestselling author and neurologist, took the stage. Dr. Eagleman encouraged attendees to open their minds and change their way of thinking during the conference in order to gain more from it. Using his knowledge of the brain, he inspired attendees to find ways to incorporate creativity into their daily routine to enrich both their lives and their students’ lives.

The exhibitor hall opened its doors Monday morning, and as you walked in, you entered the world of edtech, which was buzzing with excitement, engagement, and learning. This was not your traditional vendor hall of booths with tables, chairs, and backdrops. At ISTE, you were taken into a space filled with color and beautiful displays. Many booths welcomed you into their space to enjoy interactive activities and engaged attendees in learning about their products. Scheduled demonstrations meant that attendees could learn about companies and what they offered, and do some product testing and ask questions. All around you, you could see how creatively the different companies used their space to help engage and inform visitors.

Sessions were not hard to come by during this conference! With hundreds to choose from, there was something for everyone. ISTE broke the sessions down into four different formats to accommodate different learning styles.

  • The first was listen and learn, which was directed at learners who wanted to attend a traditional lecture with one-way audience interactions.
  • The second was participate and share. During these sessions, attendees had the opportunity to participate in some activities with moderate interaction.
  • Explore and create sessions included extensive audience interaction with hands-on activities.
  • The fourth type of session was engage and connect. This type was geared toward anyone who wanted to network, socialize, and learn dynamic content.
  • And in case that wasn’t enough variety, ISTE also provided interactive lectures right outside the entrance to the exhibit hall. Attendees could come and go as they pleased, and listen to the lectures as they were waiting to attend another session.

photo of ISTE conference

Setting Standards, Being the Spark, and Transforming Education

The second keynote session featured five leaders in the education technology world, starting with ISTE’s Chief Learning Officer, Joseph South, who kicked off the session by announcing that ISTE redefined their standards to better support students, teachers, and educator leaders. Learning without standards such as these is like giving a car to someone without the keys, he said. These new standards offer educators the opportunity to grow in their fields, and give them guidelines to help better their education system.

Next to take the stage was Luis Perez, Technical Assistance Specialist at the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials at CAST. Luis shared the struggles he’s had to overcome due to the slow loss of his eyesight. His high school’s motto was “turn to the light,” and Luis never understood the meaning of this saying until he became part of the education world. Educators are the spark that can light the path of learning for students, and technology plays a big part in giving educators the tools and resources they need to help students (and themselves!) be successful.

The first featured keynote speaker was Andy Weir, who is an author and former software engineer. In this Q&A-style session, Andy spoke about how much of learning is connected to failure. Without failure, he said, we would not be able to learn from our mistakes and solve problems. In Andy’s books, he likes to challenge readers to solve problems on their own, and he advocates for this idea being incorporated into the classroom as well.

The next featured keynote speaker was Katie Martin, who is an education leader, teacher, and author. She believes the education industry was designed like the old industrial model made for mass production. As a result, we now face challenges when adding technology to this outdated system, so it’s important to make some changes to it. Technology will never replace teachers, but technology in the hands of a teacher can be transformational. Katie stated that the education model needs to back teachers and students to discover their passions and share their ideas in their own ways. Educators should be supported in sparking curiosity, igniting passion, and unleashing genius in their students.

Last to speak was Michael Cohen, designer, educator, and creativity instigator. Cohen never saw himself as an educator; instead, he saw himself as a designer who happened to be teaching. What he realized during his time teaching is that education should be viewed as a calling in order for teachers to make a meaningful difference. Michael motivated attendees to explore and be creative. Learning is not confined to the four walls of a room, he said; it is everywhere if you look for it.

ISTE chalkboard - "Share your learning journey at #ISTE18"

What’s Next?

Everywhere you turned, there was an opportunity to learn and grow no matter your role in education. ISTE 2018 provided something for everyone! If you weren’t able to attend this year, next summer’s ISTE conference will be in Philadelphia. We hope to see you in the city of brotherly love, so be sure to check out where “Bold Educators Activate Change!”

About the Author


Ashley Venuti

Growing up in the beautiful state of Colorado, Ashley graduated from the University of Colorado with a BA in Business Administration with an emphasis on marketing and management. During college, she began her career working with children. For the next eight years, she focused on helping children by teaching dance, art, and cooking. Ashley then decided to take her passion and become part of the edtech industry. She is excited to be a part of the Where Learning Clicks Team where she can transform her enthusiasm for teaching into writing.