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ISTE 2017 – Keynote – Jad Abumrad

June 25, 2017

IMG_3777Even though ISTE 2017 Conference started with some dinners on Friday, workshops and Affiliate Summit on Saturday, and more sessions and workshops today, the big kick off is the first keynote, tonight. Always fun to have over 7,000 people in a keynote! (Yes, I did bring a beach ball, and last I checked, it was still bouncing around the auditorium)

IMG_3775While we waited for the keynote to begin, we were entertained by an incredible live band! Three relatively local, and amazingly talented lady musicians provided an amazing prelude. Check out @TiarraGirls. They are three sisters, one of whom is still in high school, one who recently graduated, and one who just finished her freshman year of college.

Mila Thomas – President of ISTE welcomed everyone.

Tonight there are over 21,000 attendees and exhibitors, from all 50 states, and 100 countries.

Mila introduced Richard, who was a Making IT Happen award winner, and started his career as a high school teacher. Most recently was Chief Innovation Officer for the State of Rhode Island.


Richard Culatta – ISTE CEO

Richard also thanked the ISTE Volunteer Board and recognized their help. Richard has been a part of ISTE for many years, and figures he went to his first conference when he was a student teacher. Richard did a “palm app” to find out where people were from, and engaged the audience.

Richard spoke briefly about some of the SHIFTs he has seen.

SHIFT1: From delivery to exploration. Technology has the ability turn students into explorers. Technology allows students to move from being content consumers to explorers.

SHIFT2: From one-size-fits all to personalized.

SHIFT3: Using tech to close the equity gap. Learning opportunities today are often based on the zip they live in, colour of the skin, or the wealth of the parents. Technology can bring access by bringing tools that couldn’t normally be available to them.

Richard used stories from his own experience to talk about these three shifts. And then Richard had some announcements and updates:

ISTE: Vision / Community / Learning Opportunities


ISTE today is releasing the updated ISTE Standards for Educators

ISTE is releasing a new magazine – Empowered Learner

Richard reminded everyone that ISTE members really helped make it happen, moving wireless from 30% of schools to now over 80% of schools.


  • Over 3,000 proposals were submitted for this year’s conference
  • 500 people reviewed proposals
  • 2,500 presenters
  • ISTE Bytes
  • New type of session for next year: members decide who fills the slots
  • Mobile App completely redesigned, can scan directly from the badge into your contacts.
  • There are new events coming this year

Learning Opportunities

  • New books – No Fear Coding
  • Recording many sessions of the conference, going to make them available online for free (starting in August)
  • Professional Learning Networks (PLN)

IMG_3789Ignite Presentation – Sarah Thomas – Prince George’s County Public Schools

Learn to Teach

Sarah asked if we learn to teach, or teach to learn. Sarah is focusing today on the Learner Standard. Every Child Needs a Champion TED talk – referenced by Sarah. When you have peer to peer collaboration between students, it works GREAT. You now have multiple brains on any given problem.

PLNs allow you to make connections and friendship that turn the world into your oyster. These connections become the foundation for learning. These connections kept Sarah in Twitter.

It’s a great time to be an educator, because of all the connections we can make using technology, around the world. Social Media allows us to get together AND advocate for our connections and our students.

Sarah has a Personal Learning Family (PLF)

Why not? be a learner?

Sarah’s presentation can be found at:

One more song from @TiarraGirls

IMG_3792Keynote: Jad Abumrad – Host and creator of public radio’s “radiolab

Jad started by talking a little bit about how they answered the questions, back in 2011, reflecting on how radiolab happened. It wasn’t plans, or anything, but it was just gastric acid, gut churning. This started Jad to thinking about “gut churning”.

One of the first questions that he had to tackle when he got started, was the question of voice. What is your voice? Who are you? Radio exacerbates that, because it is a medium about the voice.

Didn’t have a lot of role models, but at the age of 29 he ended up through a series of turns, in a radio studio. But as he started in the radio business, the microphone would cause his mind to go haywire, and he would start speaking, like others. Jad would be in the studio and someone else’s voice would come out, and he struggled to be himself and speak in his own voice.

What does that mean? To speak in your own voice?

The power of the microphone, is that it creates a massive empty world that seems so much bigger than you, that a thousand voices rush in to fill the void, in your head. Jad asked all of us to speak at our mid-voice tone, and he said, doesn’t it feel weird? And most people said yes.

Although Jad has been doing this for more than 15 years, it is still hard for him to start, and that discomfort is always there, and still takes him a few minutes to get over it.

Jad always “shows his work” that’s what radiolab is all about.

Jad used many examples about how people tell stories, how they build them, and how they try to engage their audio through audio only.

As a reporter, ostensibly, his job is to find answers. But that’s not his job, it’s actually more about questions. Anyone can ask a question, but how are you asking the question. Be the question, your very being could be/ask the question. Are we pursuing the question past the point of reason? Sometimes nothing is good until it stops being reasonable.

Chasing the antelope

If you commit to the question, you may not get the answer, but you will get somewhere else, perhaps somewhere beautiful, somewhere you may not have thought of, something completely different.

Jad used an example of how they tried to demonstrate in radio, how different animals see the colours of a rainbow, and managed to get a choir to help make this possible.

Adjacent possible – what kind of change is available to you at any given moment. Can you know your adjacent possible before you are actually standing in it? Or do you have to go through the pain to get there.

Truly unique keynote: Jad uses various audio/video clips to convey his thoughts and ideas to us. For a guy who works in radio, he does an extraordinary job of using audio AND video mixed together to make his point and engage the audience. We were all mesmerized and spellbound throughout his entire presentation, yet it was incredibly difficult to describe. Jad is truly a visionary person in his own class and field, and I know I’ll be looking up radiolab’s podcasts, as likely will be thousands of others.

Thank you ISTE for an excellent opening keynote!




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  1. ISTE2017 – Day Three | mrtoddkennedy

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