Lesson Design Ideas: Using Technology in Physical Education

Do you want to enhance your Physical Education program? Let’s explore how to take best practices and amplify them with technology. The result is an evolved next level PE experience!

As teachers, we want to equip our students with a variety of resources that provide guidance and knowledge to assist them in their learning journey. One resource that goes untapped is our students perspective and their resources. Our students possess insight that provides us a valuable look into what is working for them and what is not. They also will unveil resources that we do not always gravitate to or even know exist. Let’s explore a few examples specific top physical education that provides you with a clear and concise way to harness and display student created resources to work in concert with the resources you already have provided.

Collaboration Activity

The collaboration activity is straightforward using a google slide presentation for your students to work synergistically in creating a student-driven resource. Our students are not only a valuable resource and sounding board for us as teachers but also for each other. First, open a new google slide presentation and title it however you would like. I find putting collaboration in the title makes it easier for the students to find it amongst all the resources we provide them. Here is an example of the slide I used for a collaboration activity during my physical education and technology presentation at the Illinois Computing Educators (Now known as IDEA) conference this year. Feel free to utilize any format you would like. Remember to keep it simple and functional!

An important question that needs to be answered is why? Why would we utilize this activity and how does it benefit our students? First and foremost as I mentioned earlier we want to provide our students with a plethora of resources to guide them on their learning journeys. A student perspective is another way. Our students possess a viewpoint that we cannot fully grasp and that is okay. Lastly, learning together is something we already know is a catalyst for growth. When students share their learning tools it creates dialogue and camaraderie amongst and across the class.

Fitness Terminology

Vocabulary integration is a best practice that empowers our students with not only a cognitive understanding of fitness terminology but a chance to apply them in PE class. In other words, the students have the opportunity to make them come to life and experience it on a physical level creating a mind muscle connection. This is a powerful, personal and authentic learning experience.

In the creation of this activity, I amplify what could be a pedestrian vocab activity into a meaningful and choice filled experience. I use Otus to create my lessons. Within Otus’s lesson structure I embed/integrate the authentic learning experiences I create in quizlet to provided students with a multitude of learning opportunities. The students can access and engage the quizlet activities without ever leaving Otus. 

PE Journals & Goal Setting

My students are for the most part on the move in PE class. This is PE and I love it! However, this class structure does make it more challenging to get a clear picture of where my students are at in their learning journey. After reflecting for a time the idea of creating a PE journal popped into my head. I utilized google sheets to create a PE journal that would capture and give me a perspective of where my students were at. The journal also allows them to set personal goals to achieve throughout the quarter. The ability to harness and analyze our student’s mindset/perspective is paramount to delivering authentic feedback and give our students a voice. 

The PE journal building process was very straightforward and can be customized to fit your students' needs. I want my students to be able to share where they are at in their fitness journey and what their mindset is. When students have ownership in their learning it is very powerful. I want my students to know I value their voice and want to partner with them to create the best learning journey possible. I want authentic data/feedback to make student-focused decisions to increase my student’s knowledge and increase their health.

Next year, I’m going to explore using the blog feature in Otus for our PE journals. Each student's blog would be accessible by me and allows us to keep a running record/journal of my students’ fitness journey. The best part is that we’ll have all of this information available in one sport, Otus, and students could even add a blog post to their portfolio! 

Using Video for Analyzing and Assessing Skills

“There is something about seeing myself improve that motivates and excites me” Jackie Joyner-Kersee 

We can use technology to watch ourselves on a video to analyze our progress in a matter of seconds. This is such a valuable tool in physical education. To create this learning opportunity  I use Otus and Wevideo. Students have their partner's record videos using wevideo. The videos are loaded up to Otus where I provide a rubric to share what constitutes mastery as well as criteria that share what developing skills look like. 

In PE my goal is to impart fundamental skills to all my students so they can confidently participate in a variety of activities to improve their health. When developing and analyzing skills we take a few videos to show the growth process. Students can reflect on their growth over time. They can also see what they need to work on as well as celebrate the skills they have already mastered. Students thrive when they have a focused goal and learning opportunity to make them better. 

Remember Your Why

Learning approaches for physical education are evolving and it is vital that we offer a variety of opportunities that allow our students to share learning and improvement in their health. Technology allows us to deliver many different learning opportunities. Remember to explore and always answer why you are using a particular learning approach and do not forget to include student feedback. Technology amplifies best practices and levels up your physical education class.


AUTHOR: Jon Szychlinski
You can connect with him on Twitter at @JTsunami78

Otus Design Ideas: Blended Learning

As a former educator and instructional technologist, I'm always on the lookout for new technology. The opportunities to amplify our craft as teachers and the learning for students are seemingly endless.

For example, students working in stations (also called centers) is an effective instructional strategy. It's often used in elementary classrooms and but can even be found in some upper grades. This approach allows teachers to provide activities at each station according to a particular skill or academic level. It's especially useful for differentiation and formative assessments.  However, learning opportunities can sometimes be limited to the resources available in the room e.g. textbooks, maps, etc. Enter blended learning.

Amplifying Teaching with Technology

When a teacher has access to new technology in their classroom, it opens the doors to a whole new world of exciting possibilities. In the case of stations, also known as blended learning when technology is infused, technology amplifies a teacher's ability to create more engaging and personalized activities at each center. This is because of the dynamic resources available online. There's YouTube videos, podcasts, primary source documents, text-to-speech, 3D maps, augmented and virtual reality, real-time data from formative assessments. Additionally the fact that language can be translated for ELL students and reading content can be differentiated according to Lexile level. That's not to mention the hundreds of tools for students have for creating new evidence of learning.

Blended Learning: The Station Rotation Model

The modern approach to stations/centers fits under the umbrella of blended learning. It is commonly known as the Station Rotation Model. This model is often a good place to start when integrating new technology in the classroom because many educators are already familiar with rotating students through stations. The main difference here is that at least one of the stations has an online learning component to it. If you would like to learn how educators are using Otus to implement this strategy, I've created an Adobe Spark page with a practical example and additional resources to get you started!





Personalized Learning with Otus and the Thrively Strengths Assessment

Student strengths, interests, and passions survey

To Otus, personalized learning happens when instructional practices, content, and learning environments are tailored to the unique needs and learning preferences of individual students. We’ve partnered with Thrively to provide each child with a strengths profile and a playlist of curated resources that engage them in learning activities that are of interest to them which is perfect for use during genius hours or for passion projects. This assessment and the full features and functionality of Thrively are available to Otus teachers and students.

The Thrively Strength Assessment

The Strength Assessment is the foundation for your classroom’s Thrively experience. After completing the 80-question assessment, you and your students receive a personalized profile. Furthermore, The Strength Assessment measures students against 23 different strength factors. Additionally, it takes an inventory of your student’s career aspirations and their extracurricular interests. Together, this information gives you and your students the guideposts for discovering true passion: an uplifting evaluation of the student’s innate strengths; motivating future career goals; and tangible interests that students can pursue to connect their present to their future. Meanwhile, as a teacher, you’ve accepted the calling to educate the whole child and help students reach their full potential. With Otus and Thrively, you now have an online platform to help make it all happen.

Connecting the Strength Assessment to the Classroom

The Strength Assessment is the starting point for Thrively. For one, It gives the student greater self-awareness and a confident foundation from which to explore. Additionally, it unlocks the rest of the Thrively platform. Based on the results of the Strength Assessment, educators can deliver project-based learning and “genius hour” projects. Students can access enrichment opportunities, activities and educational content recommended by the platform. Likewise, they can also connect to a broader community of friends who share their interests. Finally, all of this activity is tracked by each user’s Digital Portfolio, which students build over time to showcase their accomplishments.

The Focus on Strengths

Parents who founded Thrively, like thousands of educators and families across this country, felt the traditional, high-stakes, deficit-model of education wasn’t serving their kids. With that initial impetus, we worked with renowned pediatric and adolescent neuropsychologists, Dr. Jonine Biesman and Dr. Jayme Neiman-Kimel, to develop Thrively’s strength taxonomy. The taxonomy is based on decades of the doctors’ combined experience studying the mind and working with children and families. It reflects a commitment to incorporating a broader definition of personality and character that is typically measured in standardized tests or physical competitions. It encompasses attributes such as focus, social justice, appreciation, and social acumen among many others. However, no strength is more important than any other, and the strength profiles we generate capture a very broad, non-judgmental picture of each child taking our assessment.

For more information on having your students complete the Thrively Strengths Assessment, check out this article in our collection of advice and answers from the Otus team.

Thanks to Thrively for writing this article. You can find the original post here.

ISTE 2019: It Might Be Cheezy, but Otus Loves Educators

City of Brotherly Love

In the spirit of Philadelphia, we want to show the educators attending ISTE 2019 some love! You're invited to stop by the Otus food truck parked in front of the convention center throughout the day on Monday, June 24th.

Just bring your badge from the conference and stop by for FREE coffee in the morning, authentic Philly cheesesteaks at lunch, and refreshments in the afternoon. First come, first serve so don't delay!

8:00 - 10:00 FREE Coffee to the first 300 people

11:00 - 12:00 FREE Cheesesteaks to the first 500 people

12:00 - 1:00 FREE Cheesesteaks to the next 500 people

2:00 - 4:00 FREE Iced Tea and Mint Lemonade

Thanks for everything you do to support and empower students!

Meet Otus

Improving educator efficiency.

Integrated classroom tools for students and teachers. Powerful transparency for families and school leaders.

Because we're better when we're learning, together.

Learning Management

Assessment Management

Data Management

Did you attend ISTE 2019 and want to learn more about Otus? Sign up for a free teacher account or schedule a demo today!

We'd like to thank SIIA for recognizing Otus as the Best Administrative Solution of 2019. Onward and upward!

Why Otus is Partnering with Project Unicorn on Interoperability

This is a joint blog post between Otus and Project Unicorn, an educational advocacy initiative dedicated to the secure, controlled interchange of data within K-12 education. Earlier this year, we partnered together around a common goal of interoperability.

Whether we’re teaching our students or developing the technology they use in the classroom, our goal is the same: we want to see students succeed academically, cognitively, and socially. With the edtech landscape maturing, we have new tools to help us get closer to achieving our goals, but unless those tools work together and responsibly share their information, we won’t get there. In order to develop a technological ecosystem that teachers can navigate to unlock the insights and potential of their classroom data, we need interoperability. In this article, we’ll work through what this term means to educators and district leaders, why blended and personalized learning is so important, and ways that you can move towards interoperability in your district. Data will never replace great teaching, but it can help our educators and district leaders understand and bolster their students’ paths to success.


The term interoperability is confusing or unclear to many people so much so that the word itself can be somewhat of a deterrent to realizing its importance in education. The official definition of interoperability, according to Project Unicorn is the seamless, secure, and controlled exchange of data between applications.

In other words, having interoperability (in the classroom) ensures that all of your learning, assessment, classroom, and data management tools talk to one another – which means running a classroom is easier for teachers because the relevant tools, resources, and student learning information can be accessed in one place. This degree of accessibility saves teachers time (which, in a non-interoperable classroom, is wasted on managing multiple applications and portals which have nothing to do with one another) that can be better spent helping their students.

Defining interoperability is the first step, but the greatest challenge is not getting educators to understand what interoperability is. Rather, it’s convincing them why interoperability should matter to them personally.


When a teacher’s learning and classroom management tools talk to one another, the teacher has greater capacity to create a personalized learning environment for their students. Most of the time, information about students is scattered across a disparate platforms – grading and homework platforms, attendance trackers, behavior and performance gauging systems – all of which must be accessed individually for each and every student.

Not only this, but the information we want to know about students (strengths, passions, interests, purpose) isn’t readily available to paint a holistic picture of who are students are! An enormous amount of effort is required for teachers to fully understand the academic, cognitive, and socio-emotional status of every child in the classroom. And teachers, more often than not, must gather all of this data from the various locations. What if there was a way for teachers to access all tools, all systems, and all data in the same place? There is a way, and it is through interoperability.

Project Unicorn’s Interoperability Rubric ensures easy assessment of interoperability in classroom tools. On a 1-to-4 point scale, a teacher can determine where his or her edtech tools fall – earning one point means the tool is not interoperable at all, while earning four points means the tool is completely interoperable. The rubric is unique in the industry, and we encourage all educators to use it when researching edtech tools, as it is designed to make their lives easier in the long run.


Here at Otus, we’re approaching the obstacle of interoperability by building a “pre-integrated” student performance platform. Rather than using 6-8, or sometimes as many as 12, individual edtech solutions, Otus takes the best of each and puts them into a single platform. This is Otus --- Data Management, Assessment Management, and Classroom and Learning Management, all together. Moreover, Otus helps teachers email or text parents, create student portfolios, and compile a student profile created through our partnership with Thrively and your district’s academic data.

Teachers and administrators are freed up from the tedious work needed to maintain multiple systems so they can spend more of their valuable time engaging the students and learning together. This is why our work and partnership with Project Unicorn is a top priority for us. We both agree the lack of interoperability can be a barrier to good teaching and the overall learning experience for students. In accordance with the mission of Project Unicorn, Otus is simplifying working with data and technology for teachers so they can do what they do best: teach.

Project Unicorn does not endorse a specific product or data standard but instead is an educational advocacy initiative dedicated to the secure, controlled interchange of data.

Student-Led Conferences in the Digital Age of Education

Despite many efforts to make education more student-centered, there’s one aspect that has remained mostly unchanged until recently: parent-teacher conferences. Some schools are moving away from the traditional one-sided discussion led by teachers, explaining to parents/guardians their student’s performance, grades, and behavior. The new alternative is a student-led conference (SLC), and the benefits are many, including increased attendance by parents and students taking a greater sense of ownership in their learning. And with advances in technology making it easier to capture and organize evidence of student learning, it is simpler than ever for students to showcase dynamic examples of their work.     

In our fast-paced and over-scheduled modern society, getting parents to attend parent teacher conferences can prove to be challenging. Especially if conversations are one-sided and parents are simply receiving information on the progress of their student. Parents are far more likely to attend if their student is presenting because they get to see them perform. It has the same effect as a school play or music recital. Patti Kinney, the associate director of middle-level services at the National Association of Secondary School Principals, says that SLCs overall were a very positive experience at her school — and parents seemed to agree. “When we started, we had 40 to 45 percent attendance rate [for traditional parent-teacher conferences], but when we moved into SLCs, it shot up to 90 percent,” according to Kinney.

Another important feature of this approach is students taking ownership of their learning. In this format, teachers should be doing much less of the talking and the students are taking the lead. When students reflect on their performance in class, it requires them to think deeply about their actions and often results in an increased sense of accountability. Ultimately students have to ask themselves the crucial questions:

  • How am I doing?
  • What are my short term and long term goals?
  • How will I accomplish these goals?

Additionally, students are able to convey to the teacher the ways in which they like to learn or the types of projects/assignments they like to do. The feedback is invaluable to teachers and can be incorporated into future planning. Last but not least, students are given the chance to share their developing passions and interests. Few things are more motivating to a learner than learning in the context of what they are passionate about.

Student-led conferences are also picking up steam in education due to the ease with which students and teachers can use technology to aggregate dynamic digital content like blog posts, assignments, assessments, etc. into a digital portfolio. In the past, this may have been done with a folder of messy papers or poster board with 30 of the exact same artifacts for each student that only partially portrait student learning. Today, it is far simpler to pull together relevant and unique work from each student to discuss in a conference.

With Otus, educators can take SLCs to the next level because of the new enhancement to our rubric-based assignments enabling teachers and students to compile, reflect, analyze, and set goals. Teachers can bundle assignments and assessments into “mini-portfolios,” where students can submit a variety of work to demonstrate their level of understanding.

The beauty of this is that one student could submit a blog post, an image, and a video reflection, while another student submits a screencast, an infographic, and a short animated film. Teachers can then provide their own feedback in the same variety of ways.

These mini-portfolios can later be added to a more comprehensive digital portfolio to be used in a student centered parent-teacher conference.

Technology is an amplifier of teaching and learning. This type of conference is possible without technology, but the ease with which Otus allows teachers and students to collect snapshots of learning amplifies students’ ability to tell their own story and enhance the parent/teacher conference experience. While education is no stranger to pendulum swings from one opinion about what’s best for students to another, my hope is that student-led conferences are here to stay. Have you used SLCs? We'd love to hear about your experience!

A Conversation On Modern Measures of Learning

Like many terms in education, the words we use to describe K-12 instructional strategies mean different things to different people. The five most common terms we’ve found to garner much debate and deliberation are:

Most educators will agree there’s a need to move in the direction of one or more of these strategies,but ask them what they mean and most likely you’ll get a variety of similar, but different answers. For example, to Otus, personalized learning happens when instructional practices, content, and learning environments are tailored to the unique needs and learning preferences of individual students. The key to personalizing learning is data because it is very unlikely that teachers can accurately tailor instructional strategies and content to each student when simply relying on intuition.

A major challenge to effectively realizing any of these approaches in a school system is in the amount of effort required for educators to fully understand the academic, cognitive, and social-emotional status of every child. We believe that this is because all of the information we know about students (grades, attendance, behaviors, performance on classroom-based assignments, etc.) is scattered across technology platforms and, maybe, more importantly, the information we want to know about students (strengths, passions, interest, purpose, etc.) isn’t readily available.

By removing silos of data and simplifying the use of technology for educators, it empowers teachers to do what they do best, teach. While ultimately, our vision is for Otus to be a technology tool that can recommend instructional strategies, content, and assessments based on multiple points of academic and social-emotional data, we know that right now, when teachers simply have the information needed to see students holistically, every student is able to get the resources and attention they need in order to achieve their personal best.

I hope you’ll join us on November 1st for A Conversation on Modern Measures of Learning. We've created a new format for this conference that allows attendees to have a chance to gain valuable insight from leading educators in an environment geared toward participant-driven conversation based on the aforementioned topics. At Otus, we believe we’re better when we’re learning together.


What's Your Vision for School Improvement?

As in any industry, data can be a powerful tool in education. It provides key insights into how to teachers and administrators can improve student learning. However, it is only helpful if school employees know how to properly utilize it.

In order to help educators make sense of their data, we’re sponsoring a webinar later this month. The webinar titled “The ‘Why, What, and How’ of Using Data for School Improvement”, will feature Bradley J. Geise, an associate at Education for the Future. Bradley has decades of experience helping schools and districts properly utilize data.

We caught up with Bradley prior to the webinar to get a better sense of his background and his insight into education data.

Tell us a bit about your background and experience in education.

I have 25 years of experience facilitating the use of data for Continuous School Improvement with Education for the Future, a 501(c)(3) non-profit initiative at California State University, Chico.  Our mission is to build the capacity of learning organizations to use data to improve teaching and learning. Our work has been chronicled in 22 books over 25 years. We believe data analysis, with a strong shared vision, is necessary for true improvement to take place. We focus on comprehensive data analysis for Continuous School Improvement, staff engagement and facilitation, systemic improvement, strategies for effective leaders, and long-term capacity building.

How do you recommend districts engage staff with data to realize a shared vision for improvement?

It is essential that learning organizations utilize a formal framework for Continuous School Improvement that links data and staff engagement with shared vision, planning, and evaluation.  Shared vision is the prescription for improvement relative to curriculum, instruction, assessment, and environment. It is the target for what you are evaluating yourselves against. The alternative is just to focus improvement efforts on data for compliance for accountability.  This creates a singular focus on student achievement data, and the often unintended result is that anything not traditionally tested is marginalized.

Based on our previous conversations, we agree it’s crucial to organize and present data in a way that links analysis to actionable next steps. How are districts successfully transforming data into action?

The mantra of Continuous Improvement is “all work is a process.”  Schools are perfectly designed to realize their current results. If schools want different results, they need to measure and then change their processes to get the results they want.  The core has to be about using multiple measures of data: demographic, perceptions (questionnaire work), student learning, and school programs/processes. In this sense, all work with data has to be focused on the identification, ownership, internalization, improvement, and evaluation of programs and processes to realize the desired results.  This is what we do...

Technology affords educators the ability to use data to inform decisions like never before. What is one example of best practice relative to data use that is especially relevant today?

We are seeing data used for gap analysis as the sole solution for school improvement.  Folks rush to fill the gaps, and in the process anything that isn’t tested is marginalized. The alternative best practice is to use comprehensive data analysis with a focus on informing and evaluating ourselves against the shared vision of those within the learning organization.  This allows you to consider the full scope of what you value and believe needs to be in place relative to curriculum, instruction, assessment, and environment relative to areas of identified need.

Collecting student data is about much more than compliance. If a district we’re starting today on the path towards school improvement, where do you recommend they begin?

All in all, it is actually pretty simple.  Look for opportunities to align the framework for Continuous School Improvement to what you already do.  What are we doing well relative to the framework? What could we be doing better? How can we leverage one for the other?

If you’re interested in learning more about using data in your school, we’d love to see you in our webinar on September 25th. If you have any questions in the meantime, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter at @NoApp4Pedagogy.

ISTE 2018: What we saw, what we learned, and how we need to move forward

ISTE -- the annual whirlwind that sends thousands of educators home with new connections, sore feet, and renewed enthusiasm for their profession -- successfully came to a close a few weeks ago. With over 24,000 attendees (representing over 85 countries), 1,700 sessions, 900 student presenters, several of the biggest names in edtech AND one ISTE baby born, there was a whole lot going on on the conference floor this year. In case you couldn’t make it (or in case you were just overwhelmed by everything), I wanted to reflect on a few themes that stood out to me this year.

While most people don’t like to be sold anything, I’m always impressed with how companies continue to find creative ways to draw people to their booths. Here are a few of my favorites.

Three Fun Booths

1. Pop-A-Shot

2. Blend While You Ride

3. Skeeball

Getting people to your booth is one thing, but more important are the conversations that occur once people stop by your booth to talk. Here are three of the trends that I saw numerous people talking about and showcasing.

Three Trends to Watch

1. AR

Kevin Chaja @el_chakka demoing MomentAR


Steven Sato @stevensato tearing it up with the HTC Vive

2. Digital voice assistants in the classroom

3. Differentiation, Personalization and Standards-Based Grading

When you combine everything you see, hear, and talk about at ISTE, it takes some mental effort to distill all of those million different things into overarching takeaways. But here are the three most important things that I came away from the conference with.

Three Takeaways

1. Connections/relationships are everything

The ISTE conference does one thing exceptionally well in my opinion: it provides a place for educators from around the world to talk to each other about what’s working in their schools, recent failures, and how to get up the courage to take more risks for the benefit of students. There are people I still exchange Tweets with going all the way back to my first ISTE in Atlanta in 2014 and every year my network of talented and passionate educators grows. I lean on them in times when I feel frustrated or need validation that I’m on the right track -- there’s no doubt I wouldn’t be the educator I am today without these people. No other conference has such a collection of smart and talented people at this scale. For that, I am forever grateful every year, because these people have truly pushed my thinking and stretched my imagination of what’s possible in our classrooms.

2. Technology reigns supreme

It may come as no surprise that a conference hosted by the International Society for Technology in Education was full of nothing but the latest and greatest shiny, flashy tools. The show had robots big and small, a software solution for every problem, and future-looking applications such as voice assistants, augmented and virtual reality, and hologram headsets in the classroom.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about digital voice assistants like Alexa or Google Home in the classroom, they certainly raise red flags about the security and privacy of students, but if you can put that aside for a second, you can see amazingly powerful potential applications. Imagine a classroom where students have access to a voice assistant. Perhaps one kid is working on improving fluency and the voice assistant can make minor suggestions and record the reading for the teacher to review if needed. Maybe there’s more than one student who has similar reading skills to work on and now more students get 1:1 assistance, all the while generating data for the district to use. This is just one scenario in which technology can make a tangible difference in our schools.

3. Modern education technology + ineffective teaching = ineffective teaching

As exciting as the technology may be, we still have little-to-no evidence that technology on its own improves learning in education. If schools are simply adding new technology to traditional teaching methods, they’re not improving their teachers’ abilities to provide relevant and authentic learning experiences. This is particularly true when they don’t have a plan for implementing said technology. One of my favorite metaphors for the ISTE conference, or even the smaller regional shows, goes like this: Nobody visits a hardware store to buy 30 of the latest and greatest tools and then returns home to decide what they’re going to build, however this is often what happens at technology conferences. Successful and meaningful technology integration starts with clearly defined educational outcomes and the desired learning experiences for students. Once those are identified, the likelihood of choosing the appropriate tool, technology or otherwise, and arriving at the intended learning goal is greatly increased.

In order to solve this problem, we must first identify what’s causing the issue. Buying and distributing technology to teachers and students is very exciting for school districts and there’s instant gratification. It also happens to be the easiest aspect of a technology initiative. The hard part is getting educators to think differently about the nature of the work students are doing, the type of assessments we’re using, and the grading practices that reflect what students are learning. The hard work takes years before one can realize the fruits of their labor. If don’t we stop celebrating “going 1:1” and start acknowledging those who are changing the paradigm in our schools, I’m afraid we’ll continue to get more of the same and you’ll be reading the new version of this article after ISTE next year. “New Technology, Same Old Results.”

What did you think about ISTE 2018? What were the coolest booths or technologies that you saw? What will you keep in mind going forward? I’d love to hear your thoughts -- let me know on Twitter at @NoApp4Pedagogy.

ISTE Chicago visitor's guide

ISTE is the biggest education technology conference of the year, and this summer we’re thrilled have the conference here in our hometown of Chicago. We may be a little biased, but we believe Chicago is one of the greatest cities in the world -- especially in the summer!

ISTE will be bringing thousands of educators from around the country (and the world) to Chicago, and we want to make sure all of you enjoy our city as well. As such, we’ve put together a little visitor’s guide below -- you’ll surely have a great time at the conference itself, but here are a few ways to make the most of your time outside of ISTE.


Chicago has been recognized as one of the best -- if not the best -- food cities in the country, and we could not agree more. Many of the city’s top spots are right here in our West Loop neighborhood, which has completely transformed over the past couple decades to become perhaps the city’s most popular neighborhood for a night out. Of course, it’s not only about the high-end options, though -- for those of you looking to try some more traditional Chicago foods, we highly recommend deep dish pizza or a Chicago hot dog!

Explore the Loop

The Loop (essentially our downtown) is the most famous part of Chicago, and if you haven’t been here before, it’s a must-see. You probably already know about “The Bean”, and if you want a selfie there (you do), that’s in Millennium Park. From there, you can walk to the world-famous Art Institute of Chicago, and just slightly further south is Grant Park and Buckingham Fountain. The Loop is also a great place to do an architecture tour -- by foot, boat, or train -- and see the various styles of architecture that make our skyline what it is. Finally, to that end, you go into some of those skyscrapers and get a view from 100 stories in the air. The two famous ones are the Willis Tower Skydeck and 360 Chicago at the John Hancock Building just north of the Loop. (Local tip: if you want to enjoy your view with a drink and no entrance fee, you can also stop into the Signature Lounge on the 96th floor of the Hancock Building.)

Grab a drink

We love ISTE, but it can take a lot of energy. There are plenty of options to unwind with a drink -- if you’re into craft beer, Chicago is one of the country’s craft beer capitals. You can view a map of the city’s breweries here, and note that there are a few within walking distance of the conference in the South Loop. If you’re not a craft beer person, you might prefer checking out one of Chicago’s many rooftop bars. (Just search “Chicago rooftop bars” and you’ll find no shortage of lists.) Beware, though: these can get pretty crowded, particularly on nice days.

Enjoy the lakefront

You may see some Chicago companies using the phrase “Third Coast” in their name. Once you see Lake Michigan, you’ll know why. We’re proud of our Great Lakes location, and the lakefront has been described as Chicago’s “front yard.” It’s a beautiful place for running and biking if you want to get some exercise, and there are also numerous attractions right on the lake. Venture north a couple miles and you’ll hit Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the only free zoos in the U.S., one of the oldest zoos in the U.S., and in our opinion, one of the best zoos in the U.S. Closer to the conference is the Museum Campus, which not only hosts top-class museums (our planetarium, aquarium, and natural history museum) but also provides one of the best views of the Chicago skyline. If you’re around on a Saturday or Wednesday night, there are also fireworks displays over the lake at Navy Pier.

Attend a street festival (or three)

Everyone knows winters can be tough in Chicago. So when the good weather comes around, we take advantage of it -- there are multiple street festivals every weekend during the summer. If you’re coming in the weekend before the conference, you’ll have no shortage of fest options, and they are spread throughout the city. Check out the list here.

Whichever activities you choose, we’re sure you’ll enjoy our city. Have any questions about any of the above recommendations? Or looking for more neighborhood-specific suggestions? Hit us up, and we’d be happy to help you out!