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