Saturday, January 30, 2010

FETC 2010 - Outside the Lines

One day after receiving an invitation to submit a workshop proposal for FETC 2011, I'm sitting down to tap out what will probably be my final post on the 2010 edition of FETC.

In the months leading up to this year's conference - my first FETC - I waited in eager anticipation for the trip to the magic city. While I was eager to see what the workshops and concurrent sessions would have to offer, what I was really looking forward to were the personal connections that would be made "outside the lines" - in the exhibit hall, the restaurants, and, best of all, at the Thursday night Tweet-up. This came to mind this past week as I talked with colleagues at my school about reporting our FETC experiences for professional development points. Our school district offers points for time spent in workshops, and even time spent in the exhibit hall talking to vendors.

What is more difficult to document is time networking with fellow teachers that, until recently, you had only met online - through their blogs or their Twitter feeds. That's a real shame, because that is some of the most valuable time logged over the three days in Orlando. Though I enjoyed James Gubbins' session on Twitter, and the Teaching with Video session by Steve Katz; the lasting impressions of FETC came from talking edtech with these guys and Jerry Swiatek (@jswiatek) at TGI Fridays over a cold beer. Sitting through sessions with Jenna (@2sonsup) or Elizabeth from SimpleK12 (@SimpleK12) was as rewarding as the sessions themselves.

Even reconnecting with teachers from my district that I seldom see at home - folks like @artykel, @fernandezc4, and @educatore - provided added value to the conference experience.

So now, as I begin working on session proposals for FETC 2011, I am again looking forward to renewing those personal relationships - and making new ones. One thing that I'd like to see added next year is a more formalized "unconference" infrastructure - a blogger's cafe perhaps. What would you like to see changed or added in 2011?


Alpha Wolf said...

Great post Steve. We definitely need to have another Tweet-up but we'll need a larger venue for sure! I'd also like to start a rumor that Leon County Schools will have a reception one evening for all of us to meet the folks from our district attending. There were important admins from our district there and I would have loved to talk with them. One thing I would like to see added next year is a session on the "use of Webinars". I personally have been using them for my own PD over the last year, in the summer and in the evenings. I'd like to explore this more and determine if this is something we can do within in our district. Cana Nudi

Heather said...

While I learned a lot at FETC, I would like at least one session on truely integrating tech throughout daily lessons. Maybe is was just poor session selection on my part (it was my first tech conference after all), I felt that much of what I saw was cool sites and cool projects, but I would like to know more about how to really make that translate into ongoing discovery throughout the year and how do I assess that discovery in a way that communicates growth to parents and administrators.

Heather said...

Maybe that wouldn't be through sessions though, but through the more informal gatherings you are talking about.

James Gubbins said...

Thanks for the mention Steve. I agree it's these conversations that "make" any conference. Meeting you, @stevkatz, @jswiatek, and @fernandezc4 among others was the highlight of my trip. These conversations are where the technology becomes tangible and you get to hear how people from other districts, states and countries are applying the technology we are all so excited about.

I encourage you to make plans to attend IETC or ICE up here in Illinois one year (if we can drag you away from "The Sunshine State.") Again, while there are some great keynotes, stellar workshops and excellent breakout sessions, it is the conversations that happen outside these small rooms that make a conference so engaging. Some of the best edtech conversations I have had are in "impromptu" sharing sessions.

You know what I think would be fantastic? What if people had the opportunity to share one great piece of tech that they are currently using? Much Thursday's brownbag, but open for all? I may do something like that at ICE this year, just grab my flip and walk around asking people what one tech tool they couldn't live without?

Also, earlier this year I had attempted to start a Friday night "Digital Decompression" session for edtech folks to gather online and discuss what had happened during their week? Anyone interested in revitalizing this, please contact me at

I've rambled enough for this post. Hope to see you at a conference again in the near future!

Stephen C. Veliz said...

Cana - I think that we should get something going next year that would attract the district folks to a gathering. There is too much going on in some of the classrooms around our district that no one ever hears about. We drive four hours to Orlando to talk tech with people from around the world, but never talk to the people right across town. That's a shame.

James - I may have to look into making that trip north for a conference. When do they take place? I like the idea of carrying the flip around the conference and getting those "man on the street" interviews. It would make for a few good blog posts and, probably, lots a great ideas.

Heather - You're correct. There are quite a few sessions that just throughout cool web apps, but fail to make connections to the classroom. I was lucky to have found several great sessions. When planning which sessions I would attend, I looked for names that I recognized as being part of my PLN.

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