ISTE’s Scott Merrick shares how Minecraft and 3D modeling are changing K-12 education.
Every summer, the International Society for Technology in Education, better known as ISTE, holds one of the largest education conferences in North America. This year, over 21,000 teachers, administrators, and technology specialists came together in San Antonio, TX to learn and collaborate about innovative ways to integrate technology into classrooms.
I always look forward to the annual ISTE conference, so I was disappointed that this summer I was unable to attend. Nevertheless, I was fortunate to catch up with Scott Merrick, Co-Chairman of the ISTE Virtual Environments Network, and technology teacher at Metro Nashville Public Schools. Scott is an esteemed member of ISTE and is always pushing himself to bring innovation into the classroom. His perspective provides insight into not only what ISTE is all about, but what important trends we might see on the horizon.
Barbra: At the annual conference, ISTE announced that the new Chief Executive Officer is Richard Culatta. Richard has a background in education. What excites you about this?
Scott: I found him to be eloquent and impassioned. I believe that his background in education and focus on community will bring the heart back to ISTE. Richard spoke of a vision that will be developed through the community in which the schools can create next-generation learning environments. I’m excited about his role with ISTE.
Barbra: What innovative ideas do you feel might transform the future of education and/or classrooms?
Scott: There were a lot of virtual reality concepts this year. One session allowed students to use virtual reality goggles and controllers to create a virtual painting environment that was well received. The use of Minecraft and 3D modeling were very popular. Dr. Wesley Fryer (Director of Technology for Casady School in Oklahoma City) connected these concepts using Minecraft and 3D printing in his session and it was exceptional. There was a much bigger push to reach younger students as well. Many poster sessions were elementary teachers presenting ways to integrate technology into the classroom. Again, using 3D technologies seemed to be big at these sessions. Additionally, coding and badging were very popular this year with BloomBoard and Classcraft demonstrating how these concepts can easily be tied to competency-based education (CBE).
Barbra: What trends do you foresee?
Scott: The maker movement will be huge. Based on the presentations that focused on Minecraft and 3D printing, those will be very important integrations. Another welcome change was the shift from STEM education to STEAM which added the Arts as a priority. Building technology aptitude at the foundational level so students advance sooner is going to be important. Students are going to need this to have the higher order thinking and technology skills that are needed for the future.
Barbra: As a teacher, what was your biggest takeaway from ISTE? Will you be implementing anything new because of it?
Scott: I think the important thing is that we are not in a silo. It is too important—and I can’t say this enough—for us to remember that collaboration and communication are key. I think that is one of the things that the new CEO was saying as well. Community is vital to teachers. I hope to bring the spirit of community to the schools I serve. I hope we can create collaboration spaces for teachers to grow and learn more from one another.