I recently had the opportunity to go to the Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) in Orlando, Florida, thanks to the Thatcher Faculty Development Grant. Rebekah Kinney, Taylor Boyle, Jen Luitwieler, Ashley Evans, and Kimberly Human were also able to attend the conference with me. It was such an honor to attend such a large conference with so many amazing educators.
On the first day of the conference, we were able to hear from keynote speaker Sal Khan, creator of Khan Academy. On the second day, the keynote included a TechShare Live! showcase with presenters: Adam Bellow, Co-Founder of Breakout EDU, Hall Davidson, Global Learning Initiatives and Discovery Education, Leslie Fisher, Crumbaker & UNC Ringbeller, and Kathy Schrock. This was fabulous! It was a fast-paced session that showcased cutting-edge tools and devices, as well as gadgets, apps, and software that will definitely help our students be more successful. Our third keynote, was “Pursuing the Extraordinary” with Mae Jemison. This was exciting, because one of our students, Sasha Wood, was actually Jemison in the third grade Wax Museum two years ago! According to her bio from the FETC website, “Audacious and pioneering, polymath Dr. Mae Jemison is at the forefront of integrating the physical and social sciences with art and culture to solve problems and foster innovation. She leads 100 Year Starship®, an independent, non-profit global initiative to ensure the capabilities for human travel to another star within the next 100 years. Jemison served six years as a NASA astronaut and was the first woman of color in the world to go into space. She founded two technology companies and the non-profit Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence, which designs and implements STEM education experiences impacting thousands of students and teachers worldwide.” I enjoyed hearing her speak of the importance that Math and Science play in education. She also pointed out that technology is more than just screens. What an inspirational speaker!
Throughout the conference I attended many other sessions, as well as the Expo Hall, to try out new and exciting tech products. My favorite hands-on part of the conference was the “Tech Toy Sandbox” where I got to play with new technology/connected toys that our students will LOVE. There were companies there from all over the world. I really enjoyed learning about Robo Wunderkind, and the idea of our younger kids learning to code it with Python! Most of our toys use Java programming, so I am definitely excited to give this a try. We have also pre-ordered the Sphero Specdrums, so getting to play with them and learn new ways to integrate them into our teacher’s curriculum was very exciting! I loved watching Mrs. Human and Mrs. Evans play with these toys and make immediate connections to how they will use them in class!
My favorite actual session would have to be “Google for Struggling Learners” with Eric Curtis. He gave us so many amazing resources and Google extensions that we started using immediately. I know these resources will help all of our students from the youngest to oldest, here at Darlington. Mrs. Luitwieler said she has already started using them in the Upper School Learning Center. There are so many amazing connections we have already made, in just two weeks, from this conference.
If you are interested in learning more about any of the sessions we attended, please let me know. We will be sharing these throughout the year at a variety of platforms. Thank you again to Darlington and the Thatcher Professional Development Grant for allowing us the opportunity to attend this conference!