Recently I had the opportunity to join many of my colleagues at ISTE, one of the world’s most influential education events. The upbeat energy of the host city, New Orleans, spread through the convention center the way music permeates the local streets, with the city’s vibrant spirit seeming to rub off on the people who came to “The Big Easy” from other parts of the U.S. and around the world. It was refreshing to feel the excitement while reconnecting with colleagues and meeting face-to-face with educators and edtech partners again. The event exuded the feeling that “if we work together, we can do anything!” 

Microsoft presented more than 65 sessions, trainings, interactive demonstrations, and educator-led presentations—all focused on the ways that Microsoft devices and software support schools in enabling equity and driving literacy. Many of the topics in the Microsoft Learn Educator Theater were live adaptations of some of the material available in the Microsoft Learn Educator Center, and ISTE attendees were especially excited to see resources like Reading Coach, Reading Progress, Minecraft, and Flip in action.

One popular session led by resident expert Mike Tholfsen, called “Improve reading fluency: Reading Progress and Reading Coach in Microsoft Teams,” focused on how these built-in tools can help all students practice and build confidence with reading and provide additional reading support for those who need it.

Education Insights, another key feature built into Teams, was also highlighted in the session: “Powerful insights made simple with Education Insights for Microsoft Teams.” This presentation explored how Education Insights empowers educators with actionable data and analytics about student engagement, well-being, performance, and more.

Minecraft made a huge splash with “League of Literacy: Challenge students and inspire learning with Minecraft Education.” Presenters Laylah Bulman and Bryan Bonham shared how the new build challenge game, based on the first official Minecraft novel “Minecraft: The Island,” supports literacy by encouraging exploration. The game and supporting curriculum are offered in partnership with Random House and supported by the National Literacy Trust.

Foster inclusive classrooms with Microsoft 365,” by presenter Rachel Berger explored specific ways to increase equity with an in-depth discussion of how Microsoft 365 tools can expand inclusivity and support special education needs in reading, writing, math & communication.  A session called “Enable equitable learning: New Microsoft education solutions” built on this topic by sharing how new windows solutions including Windows SE broaden access to tech, maximize budget, and enable successful learning from anywhere.

When we discuss “enabling equity,” that doesn’t just mean putting a computer in every student’s hand. Rather, it’s a broader opportunity to enable all students to have equitable access to great learning experiences. Part of closing the equity gap is ensuring that learning environments are inclusive by design, providing resources that make it possible for all learners to benefit from high-quality learning solutions and technologies regardless of their ability, income, language, location, or mobility. To help schools achieve these goals, technology needs to accelerate learning in a way that’s safe and secure, fosters well-being, and is inclusively designed.

The Microsoft booth in action

The four pillars of equity served as the model for how we shared Microsoft’s message in our booth. There were distinct areas where visitors could experience software and devices that demonstrated the concepts of safety and security; accelerating learning; fostering well-being, and inclusive design.

For example, in the “Foster Well-Being” section, attendees were able to explore how the “Feelings Monsters” and Education Insights in Teams can help educators gauge the emotional well-being of students. Then, in the “Accelerate Learning” section, they could see how data from tools like Insights can help educators make the most of their resources and better understand where teachers and students need support.

In the “Inclusively Designed” area, there were demonstrations of how Microsoft’s solutions can help personalize learning so every student can learn in ways that work for them. The exhibits in “Safe and Secure IT” demonstrated the ease with which schools can set up, manage, and protect devices.

Throughout those sections, demonstrations also highlighted the importance of fostering literacy. New and updated non-stigmatizing tools like Reading Progress, Reading Coach, and Immersive Reader made a huge impact on the thousands of teachers and educators who visited, and many people shared their excitement about embedding these tools more deeply in their classrooms.

Attending booth exhibits and learning sessions weren’t the only things to do in the convention hall. I was especially honored to be part of Dell’s “Defining What's Possible for Reinvented Learning“ think tank with a panel of knowledgeable educators and edtech leaders.

Dell Think Tank Panel: ”Defining what’s possible for reinvented learning”. Picture by Dell Technologies

During the panel, we started with the broad question: “What is the purpose of school, and what are we trying to achieve?” The group immediately focused on the importance of increasing equity. We agreed that one of the primary functions of schools is to fulfill the promise to help develop all students to be productive citizens and to find ways to achieve their goals. This was an inspiring discussion, and I learned a great deal from my fellow panelists as they shared their hopes for their schools and students, and debated which steps to take to deliver on the vision of more equitable, inclusive education.

FlipFest recap video

FlipFest was another incredible experience, with lots of fun, inspiring stories from the community. There, Microsoft launched the big announcement that Flipgrid is now Microsoft Flip. It was definitely one of the highlights of the week, so make sure to watch the recap video!

After five days of listening, learning, meeting, connecting, and smiling a lot, I feel energized and encouraged. Attending ISTE 2022 reminded me that teachers, school leaders, and edtech partners all come from different perspectives and have different areas of expertise, yet share a common goal: to help every student catch up, keep up, explore their world, and contribute to a bright future.

Stay up to date with the latest in educator training and professional development, visit the Microsoft Learn Educator Center, where you’ll find product information, ideas to make classrooms more inclusive, tips for using Minecraft to engage students, and much, much more.