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The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) 2018 Conference in Chicago has come to a close and what a ride!

This year was my third and the largest!

If you aren’t familiar with ISTE, it is an educational technology conference. Imagine a town descending upon a city en masse! ISTE reported record-breaking numbers with the total number of attendees topping 18,540 for the first time.

When you add in the expo hall, more than 24,000 people gathered at McCormick Place to discover new things, connect with like-minded educators and bring new techniques back to their schools.

Sessions, keynote speakers, playgrounds, poster sessions, and, my personal favorite, the EXHIBIT HALL! Rows and rows of vendors ready to tell you why their product is the best, how they can make your jobs easier, what they can do to benefit your students, and how you can go home with fun swag!

For educators, it is our gathering place. We assemble once a year to celebrate all that is educational technology. You’ll see badges with ribbons to the floor (or, in one case, a cape on a woman’s back completely COVERED in ribbons), thousands of mobile zombies tweeting and looking at our schedules as we quickly move between sessions to get prime seating, bags of swag and informational flyers, and a lot of comfortable shoes. You might also hear sounds of clapping from inside sessions, cheering from activities on the expo floor, or, as in my case, (trying to be as professional) nearly yelling in the small meeting room as the company executives at SAFARI Montage tell me about new features.

As mentioned earlier, the exhibit hall is my favorite.

This year, I had the privilege of presenting at the Bak USA booth on their Atlas 2-in-1 laptop with attached stylus that caught my attention last year at our local Microsoft Store.

(Check out that video here!) When I saw the price, I couldn’t believe that a 2-in-1 laptop equipped with Windows 10 OS, an active touchscreen, attached stylus, and water-resistant keyboard could be that affordable. Then, when I saw their video of children carrying it by the handle and running in nature to study rocks, even using it to collect rocks, I knew I had to learn more.

As a former special education teacher and regular education teacher and now tech trainer, I know the durability and ease of use of technology is important. What is also important to me is accessibility. That was the topic for my presentation.

Another benefit of ISTE is that you get to PLAY! Booths want to draw you in so you are surrounded by not only happy, enthusiastic attendees, but smiling vendors offering games, activities, mini-presentations, and the already-mentioned swag to get your attention. We were encouraged to tweet selfies, play trivia games in person, play trivia on Twitter (#TeacherTrivia #BakAtlas), dance, cheer, etc.

Bak USA was one of those fun booths. From helping me with my Madonna microphone for the presentation to throwing laptops on the floor next to unsuspecting people, they worked to get their product out there. I loved meeting the team in person and I am so glad they partner with Microsoft since, in my humble opinion, Microsoft has taken a huge lead in accessibility and inclusion in the global market.

Lastly, I loved meeting my Twitter “buddies” in person, my PLN (Personal Learning Network). After quite some time following each other, sending encouragement and tips, it was an amazing experience to put a face to the @, seeing some in sessions, some coming to my Bak USA presentation for support, and many at Microsoft’s Hack the Classroom.

I go home energized with new friends, tons of fresh knowledge to take in, and swag to share with colleagues (after my niece and nephew raid the bag, of course. My dinosaur pins from Microsoft will be gone quickly!)


Karyn Fillhart is a Technical Training Specialist at the Chino Valley Unified School District in the Greater Los Angeles Area. She is also a Microsoft Certified Educator, Microsoft Surface Master Trainer, MIE Master Trainer, Apple Teacher, and Google Certified Educator. Follow her on Twitter @Filibuster3 and on LinkedIn.