7 ed tech tools to note from ISTE 2016

Programmable STEM robots, interactive 3D apps and other tools you'll want to keep an eye on

This year's International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference certainly felt bigger and better than ever, leaving the task of taking in everything on the showfloor at Denver's Colorado Convention Center a daunting task to say the least.

To highlight a few products you may have missed at this year's show, and for those unable to attend, we've compiled the following list of what jumped out at us. From programmable STEM robots to powerful adaptive, personalization and analytics platforms, these are 7 tools you'll want to keep an eye on.


You might recognize Sphero as the robotic masterminds behind last year's hot "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" BB-8 toy, but the company also has its hands in the education space. The company's new SPRK+ robot, powered by the Lightning Lab app, aims to teach students to code, complete hands-on activities and share their work globally while encouraging curiosity, creativity and invention.

The spherical robot features a scratch-resistant polycarbonate exterior, tap-to-connect Bluetooth, inductive charging, an accelerometer and gyroscope, shock resistance, programmable sensors and LED lights — and it's waterproof, too. The SPRK Lightning Lab app also works via smart devices and desktops, and it comes packed with more than 150 hands-on learning activities and an improved programming interface.

Wonder Workshop

Sphero isn't alone in using robots to teach students to code. Wonder Workshop offers a robotic duo, Dash and Dot.

Dash is mobile, while his counterpart Dot is stationary. They respond to voice and touch, and Dash can also navigate objects. With Wonder Workshop's Wonder, Go, Blockly, Path and Xylo apps, students can program the robots to perform a number of activities and behaviors, including playing a xylophone.


Since zSpace first popped up on our radar at ISTE 2014 in Atlanta, we’ve been impressed with the company’s virtual reality interface for STEM. Using a special console, stylus and glasses, students can interact with and manipulate a variety of intricate 3D models, physics demonstrations, and more. 

This year’s show brought the news that not only is the company working with Google in its Expeditions Pioneer Program, integrating the tech giant’s Expeditions VR learning experience into its own, but it also unveiled Human Anatomy Atlas content as part of a partnership with Visible Body. The demonstration of the latter became particularly interesting when Education Dive navigated a virtual skull, populating in the eyes for a decidedly creepy and scientifically cool visual that looked very “Mars Attacks.”


"Personalized learning" has been a buzz phrase in K-12 for several years now, but scaling the concept has proven difficult in an age of limited budgets and overcrowded classrooms. With its adaptive platform, Fishtree aims to provide a solution to that problem and alleviate pressure on teachers and schools. 

Fishtree can be used in K-12 and higher ed, integrates with learning management and student information systems, and offers access to OER, real-time media and publisher content while easing the planning and management of curriculum. In K-12, its curriculum is also aligned to the Common Core State Standards, and its social stream feature lets students share ideas and resources and go over concepts. The platform is also equipped for competency-based education in addition to providing robust learning analytics.


Prior to this year's show, Sensavis launched its first fully interactive app for The 3D Classroom, currently available exclusively in the Windows Store for all Windows 10 devices. The app is aimed at providing a visual learning experience to help students understand complex STEM subjects like biology, geography, physics, chemistry, mathematics and engineering. 

The original version of the software launched in 2013, according to a release, and its modules can be adjusted for a single student or an entire classroom.


Powerschool continues to be a force in K-12 tech solutions following its exit from the Pearson umbrella, and at ISTE, it debuted its Unified Classroom Platform with PowerSchool 10.0. Input from hundreds of educator focus groups was used in the latest release's design and development, which includes the PowerTeacher Pro Gradebook optimized for standards-based and traditional grading, a streamlined Graduation Planner, comprehensive enterprise reporting, and new personalization and accessibility enhancements for its mobile app. 

ISTE also marked the release of results from the PowerSchool teacher survey, which included 97% of teachers saying that unifying classroom apps would save them time for teaching, 96% of teachers and administrators favoring a single online interface for student performance, and 90% of teachers reporting that access to tech is important for students and teachers in the classroom.  


Probably most widely known for routers and other connectivity devices, Belkin's efforts in education also extend beyond those products to device protection and collaboration solutions. In regards to the latter, it has teamed with California State Parks to enhance the PORTS distance learning program.

PORTS, or Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students, connects the state's K-12 classrooms to its 10 parks, giving 100 districts and 45,000 students a firsthand look at a variety of natural, historical and cultural resources. Using the Belkin Stage Tablet, park rangers are able to use specially equipped vehicles like the "EduGator" to operate via a mobile studio, allowing interaction with students in real-time. 

A California State PORTS EduGator vehicle equipped with the Belkin Stage Tablet.
California State PORTS


All-in-one learning and data management platform Edsby announced at ISTE that it is beefing up its learning analytics offerings, with customers gaining access during the upcoming school year. The upgrade is set to simplify the identification of achievement trends in real-time across populations ranging from a single class to the whole district. Educators will also be able to more easily pinpoint students at risk of failing.

The beefed-up analytics engine will also be able to provide educators with suggestions on how to alter instruction for struggling students or additional PD they can participate in. And while scale is often a concern with ed solutions, Edsby can be scaled for the nation's largest districts, like Florida's 206,000-student Hillsborough County Public Schools.


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Filed Under: K12 Technology
Top image credit: Sphero