Sunday, February 6, 2011

FETC 2011 Has Come and Gone: Now what?

Three days (four for some), 7,500 attendees, over 200 concurrent sessions, 75 paid workshops, and an exhibit floor featuring more than 500 companies. The 2011 edition of the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) is now in the books. It always takes a few days to recover from the marathon PD experience, and now it's time to sit down and reflect.

Now what?
Millions of dollars spent by school districts, education-minded organization, and individuals just to get to the annual edtech conference in Orlando, FL, not to mention the millions in sales generated by the massive exhibit hall, and single most important question that comes to mind is: "What will all of this mean for American students?" How much of the professional development that took place will result in real changes by real teachers, for real students, in real schools? How much of that new technology showcased on the exhibit floor will be used to transform classrooms into 21st century learning laboratories?

This was my first year presenting at FETC - a three hour hands-on workshop on transforming the classroom with web 2.0 tools - and my hope is that each of the 15 teachers that attended my workshop would take at least one tool discussed and integrated into their curriculum before the end of this school year. Is that a realistic goal?

The more interesting question is, I think, how many teachers attend conferences (any conference) purely for the professional development or as all expense paid mini-vacations? I hope that the number assigned to the latter is small, but I know that it isn't zero. How are schools or school districts deciding who to send to conferences? How does your school or school district decide? In the lean economic days, the process is probably worth taking a hard look at in many schools/districts.

iDevices Take Center-Stage
The technology that stole the show this year was definitely Apple's iPad. I've already devoted an entire post from this year's conference to the iPad, and it was the one gadget that seemed to be on everyone's mind. The two most lively sessions that I attended this year both featured the iPad and its potential as a learning tool. Look around at any session and ipads were as ubiquitous this year as laptops were in 2010. While I think that most would agree that iDevices are game-changers in education, most probably left with more questions than answers about how to put them into widespread use. This should making the coming months/years an exciting time to be in education.

A Time to Connect
As always, one of the most rewarding things about FETC is that it gives attendees an opportunity to connect face-to-face with members of their PLNs, as well as add to it. Since last year's inaugural TGI Friday's tweet-up, I've looked forward to spending time with colleagues that have become friends. Though I applaud FETC for embracing social media this year (Edmodo served as the official social network), their opening night tweet-up on the exhibit floor ran contrary to the spirit of what these meetings should be about - unscripted, spontaneous, and member-driven affairs. I will give them an A for effort for embracing the idea.

The Big Take-Aways
  • Mobile devices will drive edtech innovation in the coming years.
  • Despite the promotion of Edmodo as the official session back-channeling application, Twitter remains the app of choice.
  • How school districts can safely engage in social media remains a BIG question.
  • Web 2.0 tools are still a big draw for concurrent session presenters.
  • If the size of a company's presence on the exhibit floor is indicative of their position in the marketplace, Promethean is putting distance on the rest of the field. I wonder if the numbers bear that out.
Do you agree? Disagree? Have some take-aways of your own?

Once again, I look forward to next year. The call for speakers for FETC 2012 will open on March 1.


Donna Baumbach said...

Thanks for sharing! I DO miss FETC and all it has to offer. I get a little "homesick" this time each year!

If every teacher would go home and share ONE thing with at least ONE other teacher (if not more)...that would make a greater ROI (return on investment) by schools and districts...or maybe use a new tool to share what they saw or learned (tweet it, blog it, share bookmarks, make a ToonDoo or GoAnimate or Animoto report--[Thanks for yours!])...and DEFINITELY use a new idea or tool in the classroom and then share the process, outcome and reflection....WOW!

I'm still digging through the Edmodo stuff from the conference. It's not like being there, but it is definitely full of great resources, ideas and conversations.

mkithcart said...

Stephen, good recap of the event. This was my first time at FETC and I enjoyed the conference, energy and information.

I'm with you about your comment on the large booths. I've been to a few trade shows over the years and was taken aback at the size of the booths and how many there were. They were some of the best and most well set up booths I have seen at any show. My estimation is that some companies had spent over $100,000 to be at the FETC event.

I do have a question about your post. You state that this is the year of the iDevice. I was wondering if teachers would be more excited about having an iPad in class or a Netbook? Initially I had thought an iPad would be all the rage; however, I'm not sure as I am seeing teachers using Netbooks at my child's school now. Any thoughts on this?

Stephen C. Veliz said...

@mkithcart - I guess my answer is "I don't know." While I think there are great arguments for both netbooks and iDevices as the device of choice in 1to1 situations, I love the durability/stability of the iPad format (or at least what I've seen so far). I think that the real answer may never surface, as it will a lot to do with the preferences of individual districts. We'll see. It is an exciting time.

Mariann said...

I have taught in South FL and in Tallahassee and I have learned one thing: If the schools in FL do not get more technology into the classrooms, our students will be left in the dust by students in other tech savy states. We need more interactive teaching and learning! We do not need students sitting at desks reading out of textbooks, taking notes and answering questions for hours a day. That is NOT how they learn! I had a Promethean Board in my classroom for only one year of my teaching and my students that year were more engaged and excited about learning than all other years combined! And, they understood concepts quicker because they were using more of their senses to learn. The possibilities are endless with those boards! I was driving my collegues crazy sending them new flip charts and ideas. It can be very time consuming for the teachers at first to learn all there is to use, but it is well worth the time put in. I believe with all my heart that every classroom should have a Promethean Board or something similar. I did not have use of the IPAD, but I am sure that would have been a very powerful tool too.