It has been over a decade since I have been at an International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference. This year, it is being held within driving distance and my school was wonderful to support me attending the conference. When I worked it a decade ago, I was able to roam the exhibit floor, but I was not able to attend any sessions. Today, I wanted to remedy that and was able to learn a lot of tech skills and ideas that I can immediately implement.


I start off with this because if I did not have the app, I would have been lost trying to find anything. This conference is large. There is something for everyone and what you are looking for will occur at numerous times of the day. The app assists you in finding everything. In addition, there are several of these “Ask Here” every few feet. This is helpful for how many times you will get lost during the day.

Hack Your Chromebook Accessibility Features

Lisa Thurmann, a fellow New Jersian, gave a short, but effective session on 10 hacks to immediately use with your students’ Chromebooks. This session was excellent. She pulled out features that I could immediately implement in the elementary music classroom to assist the students. A few of my favorites are:

  • High Contrast Mode (Ctrl+Search+H (Search is the circle where the caps lock should be) to make the background black and text white.
  • The Mercury Extension to strip ads from the articles and you can save them as a pdf and place them on the google classroom.
  • Three finger tap on tabs to close them.
  • Google Slide Captions. You can turn this feature on and when your lesson is on google slides and you have students that are hearing impaired, they can read what you are saying. She turned this on in her session and it translated her voice very well. Currently, it writes in English and does not save. However, think of the possibilities when this takes off and when you speak, it write the text in any language and archives the presentation for later. 

She gave more hacks that were as valuable as the ones I mentioned. In addition, she gave keyboard shortcuts so you and your students can quickly access these features to turn on and off when needed. For example, Shift+Ctrl+qq logs you out of the device. I had no idea and was thrilled to learn new hacks.

It’s Elementary. Molding Minds of Young Engineers 

Nikole Blanchard had her participants explore many STEAM-like projects. It reminded me of Far Hills Country Day School’s Brainspace, where the students are given challenges and ideas to utilize the design thinking process to empathize, design, ideate, prototype, and test. The participants had to balance a ball when given 20 straws, a ball, and some tape. 

She gave ideas that included legos and pool noodles for exploring, designing, and 

Credit: Nikole Blanchard

creating. She showed an idea about foam play to create and reinforce fine motor skills. There was also an example of a lego face to include with their “All About Me” books.

She showed some more wonderful elementary examples of creating and exploring. These are great foundational ideas to level up into a design thinking process that would include problem solving and empathy.

Lord of the Videos

Emily Tighe and Samantha Duchscherer gave a fabulous “BYOD-Bring Your Own Device” session on three video making apps: Screencastify, EDpuzzle, and Adobe Spark.

Quick Tips:

They started the session with some quick tips. They spoke to the tip of when you send a google doc and you want to force copy, so you change the google url link that ends with “edit” to “copy”. This I knew, but I had no idea that when you share a google slides project and you change the url ending to “present”, the person you share it with only sees the google slides in present mode and cannot edit it. Therefore, if you want to share a lesson or project you did in google slides, you can change the ending of the url and your students can only view it. 

Another tip they showed was that your students can pin a tab in Chrome so that the tab will not close and they will not lose the site when they are working.

Pinning a tab


Screencastify is a fabulous Chrome extension that allows you or your students to create screen videos of Chromebook’s screens. This is helpful if you want to watch your students musical creations and the process they took to get to the end result. For example, if they are composing a melody using Noteflight, have them screencastify their process and share that with you. Now you can watch their process and how they built their composition.


EDpuzzle is a wonderful tool to have students watch interactive videos that have them answering questions during the video. For example, you can place a recorder song YouTube url in EDpuzzle, crop the video, and then add questions to the video about recorder fingering. You can create your own videos for your students, upload it to EDpuzzle, add questions for the students to answer, and share the link to their LMS like google classroom. 

Adobe Spark

They showed Adobe Spark in a way for students to create videos so that they can demonstrate their knowledge of the content. Adobe Spark Video Creation Tool is free. For educators (with an .org email), Adobe has stated that it will always be free. If you tell Adobe that you are working with kids under 13 (you have to give them your school’s tax id #), they will set you up with the back channel, have you watch two webinars, and you can run Spark with the students’ emails. This works on multiple platforms from iPads to Chromebooks.

To use this, your students would choose a theme, create a title, and choose to add the icons, which are all used within adobe, so there are no copyright problems. There is a microphone for voice overs. Music can be added within the program as it is Adobe created music. Therefore, they can choose music and not worry about copyright. If your students record a long audio voiceover, it will duplicate the slide until your audio is done. Your students can also insert videos into a slide, but each slide only fits a 1 minute video. 

At the end of the movie, Spark creates its own citations. Once done, your students share it as a link. You can also download it as an mp4. 

Poster Sessions

It was wonderful to see Catie Dwinal present about coding in the music classroom. Susan Basalik presented about GSuite in the middle school instrument classroom. Meredith Allen presented gamifying, coding, and podcasting in the classroom with Soundtrap. The poster sessions are so interesting because you can talk to the presenter and ask them numerous questions about their work. This is not so easy to do in a presentation. Therefore, I try to attend poster sessions when attending a conference.


I ended the day watching the #FlipGridLIVE event where they revealed updates scheduled for 8/1/19. These updates will make the process of creating the video more intuitive and organized in a cleaner fashion. They are also introducing “short” clips, so that your students can make videos that are three minutes or shorter. They will have a live pen to draw on the videos, as well as allowing the student to continue the video after they pause and put numerous clips in a certain order.

It was a great day at the conference. I came out feeling rejuvenated and contemplating new ideas to utilize what I learned today at the conference.

Me and Peardeck
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