ISTE 2019 Wrap-up: Shining a spotlight on student-centered learning and accessibility

2019-06-28 By 0 Comments

We are so invigorated by what we heard and saw at this year’s ISTE conference in Philadelphia. Thousands of teachers and school leaders from around the world came together with education technology experts to discuss topics such as personalizing instruction, supporting teachers in evaluating and using tech tools, developing social and emotional learning, and improving accessibility in the classroom.

Those issues are core to our efforts at Microsoft to help foster more student-centered and inclusive classrooms where every learner is valued, diverse learning styles are celebrated, individual needs are met, and student agency and voice are nurtured.

In our What’s New in EDU: ISTE Edition post, we unveiled resources aimed at meeting these critical goals.

Some of these improvements include integrating Immersive Reader, which aids struggling readers, to Minecraft: Education Edition and Azure Cognitive Service, allowing third-party apps and partners to add the tool into their products to help both students and parents read text within the app. We also launched a new partnership between Microsoft Education and NASA, which includes the development of eight free STEM lesson plans to engage your students in a lifelong love of learning and science. Also announced: Presenter Coach in PowerPoint, which helps hone public-speaking skills, and unveiled improvements to Teams for Education to help teachers organize assignments, collaborate with peers, and communicate with students.

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During FlipgridLIVE at ISTE, we shared a host of new accessibility, inclusion and community-building features for Flipgrid, while celebrating educators who use the video discussion platform to elevate student voices and foster engagement. About a thousand teachers turned out, with many noting that Flipgrid empowers children with the least confidence to equitably share their knowledge and skills through video. Atlanta educator Natasha Rachell said it so eloquently when she told the crowd that tech tools like Flipgrid can be game changers. “They could very well be the steppingstones that change a child’s life,” she said to rousing applause.

Supporting teachers with meaningful professional learning opportunities is essential. Just ahead of ISTE, the OECD released a report finding that teachers need more preparation and support to effectively use technology in the classroom. Microsoft is working to help address the problem. For example, we offer direct training and are promoting peer learning and networking with the Microsoft Educator Community. And Microsoft Teams is serving as a platform for peer learning among teachers.

Taking the stage for keynote discussions at ISTE, Microsoft Education leaders urged teachers and school leaders to encourage innovation, growth mindsets, and the use of technology to positively impact school communities. Microsoft Education’s Barbara Holzapfel led a discussion on using data analytics to better understand and serve children. “It can actually draw you a map to student-centered learning,” she told the crowd.

Our team also led breakout discussions, including a rich conversation about the future of immersive technology and mixed reality and the opportunity they present to bring engaging, experiential learning opportunities to students. Check out a white paper we released on the topic here.

At Microsoft Education, our mission is to empower every student on the planet to achieve more. Delivering on this means working with partners across the globe who are equally committed to improving educational outcomes. At our booth at ISTE this year, we were joined by partners and will be spotlighting many of them on this site in the coming weeks. To learn more about our partnerships, visit

One collaboration we’re so passionate about is between Microsoft Education and NASA. Science teacher April Kelley spent time in the Microsoft booth at ISTE learning about how we worked with NASA to create STEM lessons for students related to the space program. Kelley said a lesson in which kids are asked to design a solution to a foot ailment common among astronauts would be a hit with students at Lauralton Hall, the all-girls high school in Milford, Connecticut where Kelley teaches. “It’s an example of real-world learning that encourages higher-order thinking,” she said.

Of course, our most important partnerships are the ones we have with teachers who work hard each day to use all the tools at their disposal to make an impact in education and on their student’s lives. At our Hack the Classroom live event at ISTE, teachers joined us in person and online to exchange moving education innovation stories.

Jessica Tozzi, a teacher at I Promise School in Akron, Ohio explained how she used Microsoft’s Hacking STEM Lessons as well as social emotional learning practices to ensure her students are developing 21st-century skills. And fourth-grade New Jersey teacher Toney Jackson reminded the crowd that teaching is revolutionary. “This work is about the most challenging and rewarding work you’ll find,” he said. “It’s the work of changing the world.

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