About Sarah Denham

Sarah has been a classroom teacher for eleven years and is certified in almost every subject area. She also holds a Bachelors and Masters in Social Studies and a Specialist in Instructional Tech. She is also an ed tech guru who loves blending current technologies into her literature classroom. When she is not teaching, Sarah loves books, writing, playing with her dogs, and going on adventures with her husband. Sarah loves to hear from readers and other fellow educators so feel free to contact her at @EdTechieSarah or sarah.denham416@gmail.com.

From June 28 through July 1 (Saturday-Tuesday), thousands and thousands of ed tech enthusiasts braved the heat and humidity of Atlanta, GA to attend the 2014 International Society for Technology in Education Conference and Expo at the Georgia World Congress Center. Since I am a local, I was one of those thousands. This is the conference to attend if you want to see the newest trends in ed tech and to learn the newest and best strategies for using ed tech in the classroom. I spent four days wondering the massive floors of ISTE2014, and just over a week later, I am recovering from all the walking and digesting all of the amazing information I gathered during my time there. This whole conference was so much fun.

My first day

June 28th was dedicated to getting my registration badge and truly networking and meeting with others. When I went to get my badge, I was met by smiling and polite ISTE reps, which answered my many questions. As I left the registration hall, I turned in one of my small raffle tickets for the welcome treat. I was very happy about this treat because it was a peach popsicle from one of my favorite Atlanta food stalls, King of Pops. If you ever visit Atlanta, find them. They make amazing stuff. Anyway, I spent the first part of my afternoon getting to know some of The Educator’s Room writers, Matt Barry and Mike Dunn, and our fearless leader, Fran Warren. We met up in the Blogger’s café, which overlooked the massive Expo Hall and was always busy. This was just a nice time to sit and get my bearings before the session filled Sunday through Tuesday. I made sure I stopped by the Communities Networking fair to meet and/or sign up with various PLNs among ISTE members. Going to these types of sessions are just a great way to meet others like you and really find a home(s) in the professional world. After this, I headed back because Sunday was going to be very busy.

ISTE Iron Chef

First on my new list was to attend ISTE Iron Chef: Appetizer session so that I could be a part of a team and compete on Tuesday. ISTE Iron Chef gives teams challenges based on grants, projects, or app creation and have them come up with a 5-minute proposal/ presentation that is judge by a panel like the show, Iron Chef. I was by myself so I became a part of a team with others from around the country. These wonderful women were Shirley Farrell, Sarah Hallum, Christy Fennewald, and Angela Batten. (They are awesome!) We formed Tech-lectic, and our challenge was developing a project around ISTE standard 4 and having 30% of our students meet as special needs. Over the next 30 hours, we developed our presentation and proposal, all while going to other sessions and meetings. We were a busy bunch.

 photo 1

(I am on the right.)

On Tuesday, July 1, six of the teams presented their proposals for the six judges. My team went first, which was daunting and thrilling at the same time. The presentations included PowerPoints, videos, Twitter, and even, interpretative dance! We had a mixture of really sweet sounding judges and a definite Simon Cowell-type. I have to say it hurt every time he would release a judgment. Even though my team did not win, it was still an amazing experience. If you have the chance, make sure you attend.

photo 2
(My team giving our presentation. I am on the top in the middle.)


After fighting my way through the crazy lunch lines at the CNN Center food court, I attended the Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) “Exploring World War I using historic newspapers.” This session explored the web portal, Chronicling America, teaching World War I, National History Day, the NEH’s EDSITEment, the connection to ISTE standards, and more. I wrote about it in detail for Closer Readings blog, which you can find here. This was a great session that provided us with a lot of great resources


Engaging Learners with Digital Content

After I finished with this session, I ran across the building to join my editor, Fran, for a media event offered by Common Sense Media. This event looked at how to engage learners using digital content and featured Dr. Kris Mitzner, principal at Winbom Elementary in Katy, TX; Shira Katz, Senior Director Education Content at Common Sense Media; and LeVar Burton, actor and force behind Reading Rainbow. Below are some of the points and highlights discussed by the panel at the session:

  • We as educators, supporters, etc. need to reprioritize where we are going to put our emphasis in this next generation of      education.
  • There is a revolution of education and an evolution of integrating technology in education.
  • What is hard or missing when making digital media content? Very hard to get the digital media to social studies and include   teachers in the equation.
  • LeVar Burton and the Reading Rainbow app: Surprised at kids not being as connected to the interaction but connected to the app for story.
  • Young journalist (small girl) to LeVar Burton- What is his fave children’s book? Amazing Grace and Enemy Pie
  • Is the mission ever finished? No. There is always another child to reach. There is always another book to read.
    1/3 of teens say the read for pleasure.
  • Use apps that help learning in school to help students connect.
  • LeVar Burton’s advice to parents and getting children to read: Have you connected literature to what your child is passionate about?
  • Reading Rainbow now- Moving to the digital realm. Go beyond what they could do on the show.
  • Talking about the beginning of Reading Rainbow- Uses Television to steer kids back to the written word. In the 1980’s, TV was where children were.
  • LeVar Burton: “What made you want to help kids become avid readers? My mother”

photo 3

(Photos from the event. Yes, I got to meet Mr. Burton. He is so nice.)

Working ISTE Live

I also got to spend one day working behind the scenes as an Operations Facilitator for ISTE Live, which allows viewers from around the world to watch one day of the conference. My job was to monitor the sessions, help viewers as needed, and work the chat room when needed. I got to view some amazing sessions as well as work with some educators from around the US as we worked with the whole ISTE Live team to run this smoothly for all our viewers. I want to do this next year.

photo 4

Final Thoughts

This was my first ISTE, and after experiencing all that I experienced, it won’t be my last. I don’t have enough room to truly show how great this conference was. Next year it will be in Philadelphia, and I know that I will work to get to it. I suggest that if you have the opportunity, make the trip and attend ISTE2015.

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