During the past summer, I was driving across North Carolina on a 4-day road trip where I was part of a team providing professional learning to teachers on the Digital Learning Competencies (DLCs). I was stuck in rush hour traffic in Charlotte and my colleague Lisa Simmerson called. She informed that one of our proposals “Engaging and Empowering Through Instructional Coaching” had been accepted to FETC. We were excited. About 20 minutes later, I learned that our second proposal “Motiving Students Through Scavenger Hunts” was accepted as a skill builder session at FETC. While I was uncertain about what a skill builder session was, I was elated that both our proposals were excited and we represent our schools and school district at one of the largest national conferences on Educational Technology.
When we arrived in Orlando on Sunday, we were greeted by a lot of rain and clouds. But we did not let this dampen our enthusiasm about the conference. Upon arriving Monday morning, we eagerly split up ready to learn. Well actually, we were not quite as eager as I have indicated. My colleague and I have been fortunate to attend many conferences in the past. Recently, some of the more prominent ones that we have attended have left us feeling underwhelmed. We love learning about new technology tools but we both have progressed beyond the “glitter and sparkly feel” of a new tool that ultimately fizzles out when used in the classroom for more than a month. In our role as instructional coaches, we work extensively with the implementation of various tools to enhance instruction. Sometimes, a new tool turns out to be very effective. But there are times when a fancy new tools fails to deliver with time upon implementation. As a result, we actively seek to make sure that tools we recommend are worthwhile and directly benefit either students or teachers. We also seek to make sure that we are good stewards of the money that we receive.
We spent the next three days exploring every aspect of FETC rating from sessions, keynotes, networking, and the vendor hall. As we flew back home late Wednesday, we reflected on the experience and both felt that FETC was a great experience. What I found most exhilarating about FETC was the sessions that I attended, far and wide, stimulated my thinking and creativity. Granted, there were some “how to” sessions but most of the sessions allowed us to interact with the presenter and others in attendance to go beyond the tool and actually share ways for implementing the tool. We loved that we were challenged to grow in new ways. We learned about new tools but, more importantly, we returned back to school with ways to use them the very next day. Below are my most important “take aways” from FETC 2019:
1) Creativity has become a focal piece for moving beyond using technology simply as an enhanced substitution. All students have the ability to be creative. Students look at the world in different ways. By encouraging and engaging in creative tasks, students have the ability to share their thinking in a way that is new and unique to them. In the opening keynote, Jennifer Womble shared that “Creativity is innately human and will not be replaced by automation.” Jennifer’s statement is so true and we must cultivate creativity with our students. This is what will give them the leading edge during their lifetime. Creativity will be the currency for our student’s economic evaluation and personal satisfaction.
2) Students must create authentic work that relates to the real world. Technology is simply a tool that will allow students to create. But so is a paper and pencil. Regardless of the tool used, students must create. This is truly a human experience. In having students create, they get to learn more about themselves as well.
3) As we become increasingly more connected, we must be mindful of taking time to disconnect from our devices and focus on taking care of ourselves. This may mean that we don't receive breaking news or be the first know. But that is not always be a bad thing. Instead, we need to invest in taking time to focus on ourselves. As one presenter shared: “There is a reason why airlines tell you that in the event of a loss of pressure, masks will automatically be dispensed and to put yours on before helping another person.”
4) We must continue to harness the power of our personal learning networks (PLNs). I met some amazing people at FETC such as Andrea Chavez-Kopp (@adkopp760) and Jennifer Williams (@JenWilliamsEdu). As we grow our PLNs, we must be certain we are using our PLNs effectively to create amazing learning and growing opportunities. Jennifer cohosts a twitter chat on Thursday at 7 PM using #CreateEdu which I attended this week for the first time. This chat was incredible. We had individuals all over the world participate. I got several good ideas and was inspired by this week’s chat. Be sure join us in the future.
5) Michael Cohen’s book “Educated by Design” is an amazing book that has only been out for a few weeks. It was a huge topic of discussion at FETC. I attended a session with Michael and he was amazing. He was part of a session with five other presenters. In fact this is where I met Jennifer Williams. It was amazing to see the work that these six individuals where doing with Adobe Spark and creativity. I gained new ideas about how to use this totally free tool where students create. As a side note, Cohen’s book is a definite must read for educators who want their students performing authentic work that matters. I also was able to get Michael to sign the book (a definite plus).
6) Data Privacy for students and educators continue to grow. We must move our digital citizenship lessons to the next level. While most everyone focuses on cyberbullying and the importance of not giving out personal information over the internet, most agree that we can and should do more. I was able meet one of my digital citizenship heroes, Susan Bearden (@s_bearden). Her book “Digital Citizenship: A Community Based Approach”is an important read for all educators. Further, we must ensure that all classroom teachers are fully supported in teaching and supporting digital citizenship in their classroom. Too often, classroom teachers report not feeling fully prepared to teach digital citizenship. Those in instructional support positions must work to provide support and learning opportunities for classroom teachers in digital citizenship.
FETC was a tremendous growth opportunity for me as I learned so much and found many new resources. I encourage you to continue the learning by sharing various resources and ideas using the #FETC and @fetc. To those who organized the conference, thank you for a great learning experience. It was just what I needed to be inspired.
The ideas shared here are my own and do not necessarily represent my employers, associations, or organizations. These thoughts are entirely my own.