I am back from ISTE 2013, the annual conference for the International Society for Technology in Education. It was enormous, collaborative, and agile. My colleagues and I think of ISTE as the preview of what will become commonplace in 2-3 years. Imagine about 20,000 people, all passionate about learning and using educational technology to make learning both possible and powerful. Imagine 20,000 people, each with at least one device to take notes, tweet, take pictures, vote, save bookmarks, post to Facebook, text, question, and generally share.
Every line you stand in at ISTE is a collaborative opportunity, even the inevitable lines in the women’s restrooms. Sadly, the ubiquitous devices tempted some attendees to share via device, ignoring actual humans close by, but that was their loss.
My observations during ISTE bring our own device sessions reinforce my thoughts about my own iPad and iPhone. Mobile devices force us to be connoisseurs of DITs and DATs.
DIT: do it tool
DAT: device agnostic tool
Whether using school-owned or “bring your own” devices, teachers and students need Do It Tools for each task we face. It might be an app or a web tool, but the DIT must match the demands of the task: I need to draw and add text labels. I need to annotate an image. I need to collect poll results via smartphone. I need to take notes and be able to access them from my laptop, my iPad, and my phone. I need to track a twitter hash tag. We need to collect urls and citations along with them. Some DITs simply solve the problem of getting “stuff” from one device to another or sharing “stuff” among multiple people. Startup DITs appear daily and die off nearly as quickly.
My experience tells me that the app version of a DIT is often a willing compromise to gain mobility at some loss of ability. Over and over at ISTE I hear, “The app version does this, but the web version does these other things as well.” Using a mobile app reminds me of shopping at Walmart. I enter Walmart looking for something to accomplish a certain task or meet a certain need, and I end up purchasing something that meets about 80% of the need. Mobile DITs therefore must be DATs to ameliorate the Walmart effect.
Device agnostic tools (DATs) allow us to access the work begun on a phone and continued it on an iPad or a laptop. A DAT lets us share the file with an Android user or reopen it in a laptop to finalize the task, often using enhanced or quicker tools. The web version is mostly likely the most able while being the least mobile.
At ISTE connected educators vocally share solutions to the DIT and DAT challenges that emerge during BYOD sessions. ISTE attendees are collaborative problem solvers. As our world becomes a full time BYOD environment across work, school and personal life, all of us must be fluent finding DITs and DATs to simply live and certainly to learn. Once again, ISTE is the preview of the world to come, a world of DITs and DATs.