So much of what makes a conference for me is the people. I’ve missed the last two ISTE conferences and it has been a while since I have seen a number of people who I interact with online in person. Today was a day to reconnect in real life.
New for me this year is the selfie. I've taken several with people. The one on the right is with Steve Dembo of Discovery Education. We caught up at the Blogger’s Café early today. It was great to catch up with him. And with too many others to mention.
I spent the morning in the exhibit hall. There were a lot of 3D printers and robots. I've seen robots in previous years but the explosion in 3D printing is new. I think we’re still early in that but the move towards getting students making things is going places. Of that I am sure.
On the computer science side the Alice program from Carnegie Mellon had a booth this year. Don Slater was manning the booth and it was encouraging to hear him talk about how people were already using Alice and looking for more ways to use it. That’s exciting.
Python, the programming language, was present a lot this year. Grok Learning has an online tool (not free) that evaluates code and reports back on errors. It has some similarity to some project from Microsoft Research like Try F# (http://www.tryfsharp.org/), Pex 4 Fun(http://pex4fun.com/Page.aspx#learn/) and more recently Code Hunt (http://www.codehunt.com/) It’s not free like the Microsoft options are but there is support and it is designed for teaching so I may look at it some more.
Exploring Robotics has an “Exploring Robotics with Python” curriculum that uses a Scribbler robot. Combining programming and robots seems to be a common theme at ISTE in the exhibit hall. I may look into that idea some more. Kids like seeing things move and do things.
At the Computing Teachers Network forum (used to be SIGCT) I saw the Nao robot from Aldebaran up close and personal. It can be programed using a number of languages and also a drag and drop system called Choregraphe. That system is built on Python and Python can be used to create new objects and commands for Choregraphe. It is expensive though.
So many things are, probably not surprisingly, not free and some costs add up quickly. But then a lot of the best things in education do cost money.