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Futuresource ISTE 2019 Show Review

This year’s ISTE conference and expo, exploring the latest developments in education technology, attracted more than 20,000 attendees in June. Futuresource Consulting’s EdTech research analysts were there to explore and report on the key innovations, topics and trends.

From robots and esports to interactive displays and security, Futuresource expert insights are now available in a free 29-page show report, ready for download from the Futuresource website. With 550 exhibitors, thousands of products and more than 20,000 attendees, here’s a preview of some of the information that can be found in the report.

A Change of Direction

ISTE 2019 revealed a shift in focus from its previous role as an information source for IT decision makers, towards a teacher conference, exploring the practical aspects of using technology in the classroom. This resulted in an increase in floor space dedicated to freemium apps, classroom tools and professional development solutions, as well as reducing the show’s value for hardware, software and content exhibitors. Some notable brands missing from the exhibitor list included McGraw Hill, Dell, HP, Lenovo and BlackBoard. However, the vacuum was filled by an influx of universities, promoting degrees and other qualifications for teachers.

Platform Rivalries

Despite some companies choosing not to exhibit, Microsoft and Google both occupied substantial floor space. With the US education PC market entering its first major replacement cycle, both vendors made announcements concerning their education productivity suites and associated tools. Microsoft placed emphasis on accessibility within its core platforms, and new features for both Microsoft Teams for Education and Flipgrid. Google’s key announcements included the launch of its new App Hub and updates to its quizzing and gradebook solutions.

Esports Makes an Appearance

Acer was the only major international PC hardware manufacturer exhibiting at the show, with esports the main focus of its stand. Esports has been on the fringe of gaming culture since the late 1990s, but its popularity has skyrocketed in recent years, attracting a growing audience to the world of competitive gaming. A recent Futuresource survey revealed that 70% of large universities in the US are already hosting esports activities, with over 140 universities offering scholarships for esports competitors, on similar terms to those seen for football, basketball and other sports. Futuresource expects that esports will begin to cascade down into the K-12 sector, and this was echoed by demonstrations on the Microsoft and Best Buy booths, as well as a range of conference sessions promoting the educational opportunities offered by esports.

Robots Everywhere

The ISTE website listed over 75 suppliers offering robotics solutions, and the show featured a plethora of dancing humanoids, maker kits and processor boards. However, the deployment of robotics kits at scale across US districts continues to present a challenge. As a result, the leading suppliers are focused on developing ties to the curriculum and the promotion of early adopter programs to drive awareness and customer buy-in.

Alexa Returns Despite Amazon’s Privacy Concerns

Last year’s ISTE show included Alexa skills announcements from software suppliers like PowerSchool and Frontline Education that would provide users with easy access to information and updates on key metrics. This year, the focus has moved to Alexa skills for learning. Testing organisation ACT announced a new skill that would help students prepare for upcoming tests, while Kahoot showcased a skill allowing students to answer quiz questions verbally. However, the role of voice assistants in classrooms remains unclear, as Amazon has publicly stated that Alexa should not be used in classrooms due to privacy concerns.

Security and Management Software Gaining Ground

Solutions for mobile device management, student safeguarding and curriculum management were showcased across ISTE by specialist vendors, LMS and SIS providers, distributors and system integrators. The focus was not only on improving learning for students, but also on reducing the administrative burden for teachers, especially through classroom management features and digital assessment tools. A major focus this year was on web filtering and access management, to ensure students can only access safe and appropriate web content in the classroom. However, most vendors still struggle to subdivide content on major websites such as YouTube, leading to these popular sites having to be blocked altogether for classroom use.

Interactive Display Market Continues its Ascendance

There were 24 interactive flat panel display (IFPD) brands on display this year, up from last year, with all vendors reporting increased activity. Industry opinion suggests that recommendations and demand from schools continues to influence district purchasing decisions, ensuring ISTE remains a key event in the IFPD industry calendar, despite the focus shift. There was a strong feeling of optimism and expectations for a successful next 12 months, with the replacement market providing substantial opportunities, as many of the early IWBs are now over 11 years old.

Get the Full Report

For a more detailed picture of all the news from this year’s ISTE show, download your free copy of the Futuresource show report, available here>>

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