ISTE 2013 floorThe room echoed with a dull roar. It was hard to tell if the sound came more from the limitless expanse of booths that covered the San Antonio Convention Center’s expo hall or from the minds of over 13,000 educators working overtime to process the deluge of information about how the educational world is reinventing itself. I paused for a moment to catch my breath and wonder how the convention center possibly keeps its carpets from wearing thin each day, but then in the blink of an eye I had to race off to my next stimulating workshop.

It sounds insane, but that’s just the way it is. ISTE—the ginormous International Society for Technology in Education convention—is packed beyond the bursting point with thought provoking content and opportunities. It simultaneously stimulates and wipes you out, so we had to invent a new word to describe it: Invigorausting!

And I’ll be blunt. If ISTE contains so much content that it can barely fit within four days of dawn-to-dusk duodecuple-booked workshops, expos, and panels, there’s no way I can fit even a minuscule fraction of it into a single blog post. But by golly I’m going to try. Here are a few key highlights that stood out to me. Hang tight!

The Power of Play

It was strange to travel all the way to San Antonio to hear a Fred Rogers quote, but Mr. Rogers is the man and he said it best: “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”

Bring Your Own Device

Apple releases a new iPhone or iPad every 6 to 11 months. Moore’s Law states that the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles every 18 months. People around the world are thirsty for the latest shiny gadget, and mobile devices are becoming hand-me-downs before their warranties even expire. The consumer electronics industry calls this “$729 billion in profits.”  Schools call this “BYOD” and more and more are encouraging students to bring their own devices to be used in their digital technology-driven curriculum.

You Can Do Just About Anything

It doesn’t matter what you want to accomplish in your classroom or school… someone else has not only figured out how to do it, but they’ve also posted everything you’ll ever need to know online.

Pittsburgh is a Pioneer

Not surprisingly, Pittsburgh was well represented at ISTE: Panther Learning and Think Through Math both had booths on the expo floor; Bird Brain Labs pitched their awesome Hummingbird KitJustin Aglio, co-principal at Propel Braddock Hills High School, was recognized as one of 7 Emerging Leaders in education; and someone even recognized my Questyinz t-shirt!

Game Based Learning is Here to Stay

After a student completes an algebra course, it is completely commonplace and expected to give that student a test—even from third parties in a different state—to gauge his or her learning. However, after completing the video game Halo no one ever thinks that a test is needed to assess competency. Completion itself is proof of competency. So, as jarring as it sounds, we trust the educational design of Halo more than we do an algebra course. This is just one of the beauties of game-based learning, and it’s revolutionizing education in amazing ways. I’m so jealous of my own kids. Their world is awesome!

Gamification Just Became Turn-key

Educators everywhere are turning to free tools like 3D Game Lab to transform their traditional curricula into quest-based experiences that let students sit in the driver’s seat and take control of their own learning, with astounding results. Learning is an epic win, and it’s within reach of everyone these days.

But Wait, There’s More

ISTE was overflowing with handy resources, but you don’t have to fly to San Antonio to get them. Most of them are just a few clicks away. For instance, you can: bring design thinking to your school; get started with podcasting; or grab a collection of eBooks, games, and other resources. There’s a start-to-finish guidebook for digital storytelling, tips for using SoundCloud in the classroom, and a dozen or so tools to help your students make games without knowing how to code.

So what do you think?  Are you feeling invigorausted yet?