Every year with great anticipation, I count down the days to one of the big educational technology conferences that I have the privilege of attending. Not only do I look forward to connecting with my brethren at other schools, but to sharing and learning from others all over the world. A sneak peek at all the fun and cool technologies on the edtech horizon is gravy.
Held last month, the annual Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) is one of my favorites. The Goldilocks of conferences—half the size of the largest one but still large enough to draw in over ten thousand people—it takes place shortly after the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The energy is always palpable, with participants abuzz with the insights and promises of great tech to come. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that it takes place in January in Florida (need I say more?).
Last month, FETC offered a welcome and rejuvenating experience, an opportunity away from the day-to-day tasks and distractions, an invitation to bask in the big picture. As I walked the aisles of the exhibit hall taking in the over 400 vendors showcasing the latest and greatest edtech, I reveled in discovery and innovation. It’s an experience that invites big, outside-of-the-box thinking, an opportunity to consider just where CA sits in the edtech landscape and where we want to go. And it is a welcome opportunity to share with my peers at other schools some of the amazing things our community is doing in this space and to hear their wins and lessons learned in return.
Big takeaways? Unsurprisingly, developments in virtual, augmented, and mixed reality loomed large (and not just from an integration standpoint, but from logistical ones as well—a 2022 conference would not be complete without a pandemic-informed consideration of device sanitation, after all). The emergence of products and ideas specifically targetting Middle School programs was noteworthy, whether it was more robust robotics programming, gamification platforms that appeal to younger students, or the creation of traditional maker tools that are designed for young hands. Perhaps most notable, was the progress regarding eSports and its growing popularity both in and out of the classroom. As athletic associations are starting to recognize eSports as a credited activity, competitive leagues are forming at the high school, collegiate, and pro-levels. It’s exciting to see it unfold and to consider what the future might hold.
While there was no set theme for this year’s conference, I was pleasantly surprised to see many topics closely aligned with CA’s own commitments and experiences. Conversations surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and wellness were in abundance, top-of-mind throughout presentation sessions and the vendor expo.
Emergent themes that punctuated conversations—how the move to virtual learning has brought to light whether existing resources are flexible enough to make the pivot at the drop of a hat; the crucial role that professional development and training play in maximizing existing resources—were deeply familiar . . . and also reassuring.
Like all schools, the pandemic has been a struggle, but our commitment to our mission and the groundwork—both technological and philosophical—that has been laid over the last twenty-five years, allowed us to pivot and persevere in ways that other schools could not. That is not to say that I didn’t come back with lots of ideas and things to consider or try; my gears are definitely turning.
As for the future of educational technology, there are a lot of great things coming down the pike that may or may not make their way to CA. Regardless, I am excited at the prospects and can’t wait to share with our students and the rest of the CA community. For now, I will leave you with one of the showstoppers from the event . . . just picture it . . . holographic rooms. <mic drop>