Saline Area Schools Leaders Teach and Learn at Tech in Ed Conference

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 07/17/2019 - 13:51
At the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in Philadelphi, Saline Area Schools Superintendent Scot Graden shows educators from around the nation the Compass and its eight qualities that Saline educators try to impart on their students.

Saline school officials were front-and-center for this year's International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in Philadelphia, where district staff led by Superintendent Scot Graden and Board of Education Trustee Michael McVey led the charge.

The ISTE conference represented an opportunity for Saline educations to come away with knowledge and a greater understanding of how to deliver a cutting-edge contemporary education to today's and tomorrow's students.

"Those of us involved in technology from school-wide systems to the classroom left the ISTE conference with excellent examples of technology in the aid of education," said McVey, who is also an elected member of the ISTE Board of Directors. These ideas come from exposure to teachers from around the country who showcase how they themselves put technology to work in the educational setting to enhance student learning and growth.

"The vendor hall alone provided participants the opportunity to speak directly with people on the cutting edge of many new classroom materials," McVey said, adding that he brought back a special kit for teachers working on the Innovation Lab initiative in Saline. The kit included contact information and other means of connecting with educators using the same kit in school districts in all 50 states.

A chance to let the Compass shine

Saline didn't just take, but gave to other educators attending the ISTE conference last month as part of the "playground" portion of the conference where districts showcase their ideas, concepts, and practices at booths in one of several themed areas of the educational playground.

Graden manned Saline's booth in the leadership area of the playground, where he and other Saline schools attendees shared the Learner Profile and Compass concepts with interested visitors.

"Overall I found the experience rewarding in terms of feedback we received from individuals that listened to our talk," Graden said. "The opportunity to share about our Compass (and) Learner Profile continues to help us refine our thoughts on our approach to discussing student success."

McVey said he was "proud" of how the Compass was received. A number of high-ranking school officials, including Dr. Scott McLeod, a professor of educational leadership from Colorado who authors the popular Dangerously Irrelevant blog for school system administrators. 

"As a trustee I was quite proud of our Compass Night where we recognize outstanding students who reflect each of the eight Compass attributes," he said.

ISTE ties into relevant areas of Saline school functions

Whether it's the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Forum or this year's student-led TEDx talks, the ITSE conference either provided an opportunity to garner new ideas and perspectives for existing ideas or germinate completely new ones.

"Teacher Matt Hamilton and I participated in ISTE's first Equity Action Forum," McVey said, "The 200 educators in attendance focused their interests on as many as 30 separate issues and will meet as teams over the summer and throughout the year in an attempt to tackle issues related to equity in the classroom using a Design Thinking model."

McVey said he is working on distilling his experience down into a form that will add to the DEI forum, which has rapidly grown in prominence in the district over the course of this recently completed school year.

McVey attributes these and other new opportunities to new ISTE CEO Richard Culatta, who has rolled out many new initiatives since last year, including ISTE-U, ISTE Certifications for teachers, smaller sub-conferences within the broader ISTE conference framework to target more granular topics, and many other new additions that will make next year's ISTE conference in Anaheim, California an even more attractive draw for Saline educators, even though the travel distance and time will be significantly greater than with this year's conference, or the previous year's conference in Chicago.

Every Saline school teacher and administrator will be qualified to attend, as Saline schools participated in a pilot program this year that bestowed a paid membership onto all qualified personnel who wish to participate in ISTE programs and events.

Saline was one of only 10 school districts in the country that qualified for this pilot program benefit.

"For me, ITSE is a joy and a marathon of activity," McVey said.

Sean Dalton's picture
Sean Dalton
Sean Dalton is a veteran of the Washtenaw County journalism scene. He co-founded and and also worked for Heritage Newspapers.