Using ISTE as a Point of Reflection for Higher Education Faculty

Author: Dr. James Basham

Are you planning to attend the ISTE Conference?

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is the largest annual educational technology conference in the United States. During an average year, ISTE brings together 20,000 people ready to learn, network, and celebrate the newest practices and technologies associated with education. Focused primarily on the K-12 education system, ISTE provides educators and education leaders inspiration for the future of education.  

For those faculty members in (special) education personnel or leadership preparation, ISTE is a great way to connect with innovative educators and see some new technologies. Historically, ISTE is not a conference heavy in academic research but has a great deal of practice-based evidence.

When attending ISTE someone in personnel preparation quickly realizes three things…

First, educational technology is not a silo in (special) education, but a critical area of focus that spans all professional practices in the modern education system. Every one of us has a role in personnel preparation to ensure all future educators, education leaders, and researchers have the necessary knowledge and skills to be successful in the effective use of educational technology. 

Second, there’s still a great deal of work to do in ensuring educators are using effective practices in supporting all students, including those with disabilities, across all modern educational environments. Likely because educational technology has been generally siloed to the “ed-tech person or department”, it has not been a centralized component within many personnel preparation curricula. Now that the pandemic has placed technology in the spotlight it’s time to make its integration a critical component within these programs.

Third, take time to reflect on how your own practices, or the practices within your department, college, or school are shaping future educators, education leaders, professors, and researchers to use technology within their professional practice. While attending ISTE you might reflect on these questions… 

  1. How well are our pre-service educators or graduate students prepared to enter the PK-12 classroom (or leadership position)? Can they effectively use, reflect on, and adapt educational technology across learning environments for all students, especially for those with disabilities? 
  2. Do our pre-service educators or graduate students have an in-depth understanding of the range of educational technologies needed to be effective in today’s modern learning environments?
  3. How well am I doing in modeling effective practices with education technology within my teaching and/or mentoring of students? 
  4. How well are your program’s future educators, education leaders, professors, and/or researchers being prepared to critically understand, use, and problem-solve issues related to educational technology? 
  5. How well are the ISTE standards being integrated across our personnel preparation programs? Check out the ISTE educator preparation program (EPPs) digital equity pledge ( to learn more about what your department, school, or college can do to better support future educators. 

So, while ISTE is not an academically driven conference with a bunch of research presentations it does provide the perfect opportunity for higher education faculty in (special) education, early childhood, and human-related services to learn. Attend ISTE to see and learn about new technologies and practices, but avoid getting swept into the marketing hype of the shiny objects and acronyms of the day. Consider your role in shaping the future of education for all students. Minimally, ask yourself one question: How am I meaningfully contributing to the appropriate use of educational technology in the education of all students?

Follow-up online…

Want to engage with other higher education faculty focused on educational technology in special education personnel or leadership preparation? Dialogue around ISTE or other things related to education technology in the CIDDL online community.