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Klaas Kuperus

Klaas Kuperus

Across the Pond: Our ISTE 2017 Highlights

Primo Toys' Giorgia and Hugo at ISTE 2017 edtech conference

Having originally joined the company as an intern back in 2015, young Hugo is one of the old guard and an integral part of the Primo puzzle. A jack of all trades and master of all, he’s responsible for managing a staggering variety of projects, from events and localisation to customer care and repping the company in exotic locales.

Tens of thousands of educators gathered in San Antonio, Texas last week for one of the world’s largest and innovative edtech conferences, hosted by the International Society for Technology in Education, best known as ISTE. Teachers from all over the globe attend the annual event, each of them searching for the latest trends, products and ideas in education.

This year we joined the ISTE party for the very first time. Giorgia and I made the voyage across the pond to meet as many educators as possible, and get their thoughts on Cubetto.

We met Cubetto experts, Cubetto beginners, and Cubetto newbies; those who’d never heard of Cubetto, and those who had followed us since our very first Kickstarter campaign four years ago. We met school teachers, principals and directors; education researchers, teaching instructors, and university professors; edtech advisors, technology experts and IT coordinators.

We met exhibitors and attendees who had travelled far and wide: from San Antonio locals who had taken the bus downtown, to Australian globe-trotters who had flown halfway around the planet. In fact, ISTE 2017 attracted over 15,000 attendees from all 50 US states and more than 75 countries worldwide.

Educators love low-tech and screenless devices

Joining the edtech pilgrimage were blue-chip companies like Google, Apple and Microsoft; London start-up friends like Kano and Sam Labs; and incredible keynote speakers such as Radiolab host and creator Jad Abumrad, and Girls Who Code founder and CEO Reshma Saujani.

Super keen to get started, we kicked off our journey two days prior to the official opening of ISTE. On Saturday, we were excited to be invited to a pre-conference event, the Mobile Learning MegaShare hosted by our good friends at TechTerra Education. We held four half-hour sessions for educators, giving them a chance to try out Cubetto, explore our learning materials, and test their own coding skills with some special Cubetto challenges!

TechTerra founder and ISTE MLN President, Susan Wells, led the event, and presented all the amazing raffle prizes including an exclusive Cubetto giveaway! Kim Thomas, a Tech Integration Specialist at Madison School District, in Phoenix, Arizona, won our free Cubetto, and generously gifted it to her colleague, Jocelyn Harding, a teacher at Madison Simis Elementary.

TechTerra winner at ISTE

Our MegaShare raffle winner, Jocelyn (left), who won a Cubetto for her school!

ISTE itself ran from Monday to Wednesday, June 26th to 28th. Located in the British Pavilion, we were lucky to be surrounded by a host of innovative education companies from the UK. As well as manning our booth, we participated in a string of ‘Interactive Playgrounds’ and ‘Poster Sessions’: mini events in which attendees could sit down and try out Cubetto in a workshop-style environment. Themes ranged from ‘STEAM and Digital Storytelling’ to ‘Creativity and Early Learning Network’, and teachers flocked, often dozens at a time, to have a play with Cubetto!

On the Tuesday we were joined by the wonderfully talented pupils from Fort Sam Houston Independent School District, who did a fantastic job helping us at our booth. Fort Sam Houston’s Director of Technology, Roland Rios, and Instructional Technology Specialist, Jeannine Freeman, who have been using Cubetto in their classes, were also kind enough to lend their time. Not only did the kids help with leafleting and sign-posting attendees to our stand, they were also world-class Cubetto controllers, demoing for passers-by while we grabbed a breather!

ISTE, Giorgia from Primo Toys

Cleo, a pupil from Fort Sam Houston, showing off her Cubetto skills!

Things we learnt!

1. Teachers want something for their younger ones.

We kept hearing of all the amazing products and resources educators have for teaching programming in middle and high school, but what about their kindergarteners and pre-k students? Lots of teachers were after something for their early learners, most of whom still lacked a basic introduction to coding and technology.

2. Educators love low-tech and screenless devices.

Whether they had a background in Montessori education or in teaching IT, the consensus among all the attendees we met was that coding skills need to be introduced early, but in a playful, child-friendly environment, away from screens and the internet.

3. There is a need for cross-curricular resources.

We were constantly being inspired by the teachers we met who saw alternative ways of implementing Cubetto in their classroom. We met a drama teacher who wanted to use Cubetto to introduce acting and storytelling. We met an English teacher who includes Cubetto in her coding and literacy programme. We met a Maths teacher who instantly saw the inherent numerical benefits of using Cubetto. The cross-curricular suggestions were endless!

4. Middle school and high school teachers want Cubetto too!

ISTE is for educators of all ages and abilities, so naturally we spoke to many teachers who taught above and beyond Cubetto’s regular age range. But even these teachers saw the educational benefits of Cubetto, and were either recommending it to their colleagues, or asking about how to buy one for their own kids!

ISTE Cubetto map

Jeannine Freeman (right) and Ava from Ft Sam Houston ISD, presenting their very own Cubetto map.

5. Cubetto’s on the map!

Our brand new Swarmy Swamp and Polar Expedition maps were proudly on display at ISTE, and we got tonnes of compliments. We even met some of our current Kickstarter backers, who were looking forward to receiving their new Adventure Packs in September! As ever, people were really keen to lend their creative ideas, suggesting all kinds of new maps we should get to work on. Jeannine Freeman from Ft Sam Houston ISD , who already uses Cubetto in her classroom, even showcased her very own Cubetto maps and activities. We love them!

We were truly overwhelmed by the response to Cubetto at ISTE, and loved making so many friends stateside. We can’t wait to go back next year!

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