Professional Development

Coming Soon: PD Mega Event From ISTE/ASCD

By Alyson Klein — March 26, 2024 2 min read
Attendees walk around the expo hall, where technology companies showcase their products, at the 2022 International Society for Technology in Education conference in New Orleans on June 28.
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Get ready for a K-12 mega-conference: The International Society for Technology in Education, or ISTE, and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, or ASCD, will be hosting their conferences together, beginning next year in San Antonio, Texas.

ISTE, a nonprofit that helps K-12 teachers make the most of digital tools, and ASCD, one of the oldest and largest K-12 professional development associations, announced plans to merge in 2022.

Bringing the two conferences into the same space is a huge step for the combined organization—which still doesn’t have an official name. The move is meant to help serve school districts better, since it will allow a district’s education technology team to travel with their colleagues who focus on professional development and curriculum, said Richard Culatta, the CEO of ISTE/ASCD.

“Part of the reason we did this merger in the first place is that we believe [in] bringing teams together to help create experiences in schools,” Culatta said. “We are creating an opportunity where teams can actually come together and learn together.”

Having both conferences in the same location will also be a boon for the many district leaders—particularly in smaller systems—who might oversee technology alongside another department, such as curriculum and instruction, Culatta added.

“If you wear multiple hats, you can switch your hat and go to different parts of the event, all in one place,” Culatta said.

While attendees will have to register for one conference or the other, they’ll be able to attend sessions at both, Culatta said. And while each organization’s event will have its own identity, there will be some shared programming, he added.

“There will be some moments that we are intentionally designing to have some connections happening,” Culatta said. That might include some mainstage sessions, shared themes, and events that will be listed in both programs.

How will people navigate the bigger event?

ISTE usually attracts about 15,000 to 20,000 people, already making it one of the largest K-12 conferences. In fact, when the conference was held in Philadelphia in 2019, the Panera Bread across from the street from the event space ran out of food, according to an Education Week reporter who attended the conference. ISTE’s conference has typically offered about 1,000 sessions.

Adding ASCD’s usual conference attendance—about 3,000 to 5,000 people—will obviously make the event even bigger. ASCD’s conference typically offers somewhere between 250 and 300 sessions.

Richard Culatta

How will people be able to navigate an event that size? The combined organization has done a lot of thinking about that, Culatta said.

“The biggest thing that we have been working on is how to make sure that it doesn’t feel overwhelming,” Culatta said.

One example: The event will give attendees who have something in common—say, similar roles in their school or district—a physical space to connect. And the event will offer a “design desk” staffed with people who can offer advice on which sessions to attend, based on what an educator wants to get out of the conference.

ISTE/ASCD will be looking for feedback on how the co-located event works for attendees, and make adjustments if needed.

“If people say, ‘man, we love this. This is a great model.’ We’ll run with it,” Culatta said. “If people say ‘we wish there was more overlap,’ we will adjust those dials. And if people say ‘we wish there was less overlap,’ we can adjust those dials.”

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