ISTE 2017 Round Up

By Len Scrogan

The ISTE 2017 educational conference held in late June, with over 15,000 educators in attendance, is considered the largest ed-tech conference in the U.S. Every state and more than 72 countries were represented at this year’s ed-tech extravaganza, which appeared to be the best ever in memory.

Here are some interesting statistics about this conference:

ISTE Conference InfoGraphic smallThe Display Daily reader should note the “hot topic” tabs at the bottom of the infographic, tabs that reveal attention density at the conference. Creativity Tools and Innovative learning Environments, the arenas associated most with our readers, remained top of mind for educators. Now, let’s zoom in on some of the more consequential sightings and developments emerging from this huge U.S. educational technology event:

The Educational Expo. The ISTE 2017 expo was bustling and vibrant, with more than 572 exhibitors in place in the newly remodeled Henry Gonzales Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas. Again, this appeared to be the largest exhibit presence in recent memory and educator attendance was robust. A U.K. pavilion, along with a lively startup pavilion, added tasteful spice to the floor experience. Persistent exhibitors from China also returned, in search of partners, distributors, and markets. (But in these booths, communication was a huge problem. They offered real heart and great technology—but I discovered that they could not convey their message well, due to profound language challenges.)

The Biggest Players. Microsoft returned again this year with a huge presence, offering many breakout sessions with long entry queues. So did Google, the now cyclical darling of the ISTE conference.

Return of the Prodigals. Apple returned to the conference this year, in a big way—not in the exhibit hall—but in highly popular special-event or breakout rooms. And Dell, perhaps laying down some stakes in its home state, returned with a roar.

The No Shows. Still, most telling were the no-shows in the exhibit hall. Last year, at ISTE 2016, Amazon Education won a “best of show” award; this year they were nowhere to be found. Neither were Panasonic, Samsung, Toshiba, nor Lenovo (except the Stoneware-Lenovo Software Services group, a recent software acquisition). How can we explain away the absence of such stalwart perennial exhibitors? Blame it on the success of Google chromebooks, now dominating the education market and Google’s inexorable paradigm of free software for schools. Frankly, Google outright owns the mindshare of K-12 educators in the U.S. And everyone else simply has to live off the crumbs of any attention density that remain.

Document Cameras. Considerable innovation in the document camera or classroom visualizer industry also returned to ISTE this year. It was unsuspected. The traditional players were there, but sparks of innovation flew from the likes of Hue, HoverCam, Discovery, and Eloam. Hue (A U.K.-based firm) earned a “best of show” award, while Eloam (a well-represented Chinese firm) offered a slate of highly capable products at an attention-getting price point for the constantly strained U.S. education market. They featured portable, wireless, and new wall-mounted units that earnestly captured my interest. HoverCam continued to push the boundaries of visualization forward by releasing their powerful Digital Podium solution and following up with the announcement of their Nillo 100 product, a document camera with a complete built in computer, powered by Android. Conference newcomer, Discover Document Cameras, also displayed on the floor.

VR/AR. Although both VR and AR technologies were well represented at ISTE 2017 in educator, student, and university presentations (as well as in the expansive exhibit hall (see the innovative learning environments tab at the bottom of the infographic shown above), VR clearly outpaced the AR meme this year. This runs counter to most expectations that AR will eclipse the sales of VR in education over the next few years. But I can explain that. At least in the education arena, VR has throttled itself into full ‘bandwagon’ or ‘hype’ mode. But if you know education, as I do, the very thought is somewhat worrisome. Can you say “crash and burn?” It’s possible with the fickle education crowd. Still, the VR meme evidenced at ISTE 2017 is deserving of a dedicated discussion, so I will follow up with a deep-dive article on this theme next month.

Display Technologies. Action in the display technology arena at ISTE 2017 was novel—even quirky. There’s more to come in a drill-down article later this month. –Len Scrogan