6 reasons why education leaders should attend FETC 2020

A roundup of the six tracks at the Future of Education Technology Conference® that will maximize your learning and time
By: | January 11, 2020

The Future of Education Technology® Conference features more than 600 learning opportunities that are organized into six tracks. This year, participants can attend two additional offerings at FETC, to be held at the Miami Beach Convention Center from January 14-17.

Here is a rundown of what educators and district leaders can expect to learn in each track.

1. Administrator track

Designed for all leaders at the district and school levels, the Administrator track will highlight technology-based best practices that embrace technology, engage successful learners and build capacity among teacher leaders.

The Administrator track is FETC’s fastest-growing offering, says Jennifer Womble, program chair of FETC. “We offer more administrative content than any other conference in the country, which is why we were excited to buy District Administration.”

New technologies: FETC will introduce administrators to emerging technologies, such as augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, blockchain and digital tools.

Implementation: Many sessions will explore the ways in which leaders can implement critical programs, such as STEM and esports. Others will share the logistics of implementations, including how to lead evaluation processes, identify associated cost and formulate professional development opportunities.

Faculty and student relations: District leaders will learn the ins and outs of professional relationships with faculty and staff, from recruiting the best employees to organizing effective meetings. Other sessions will help administrators understand the current student population and Generation Z.

Workshops: This wide range of hands-on presentations will include how to maximize technology to communicate, evaluate, build innovative school culture, coach staff, and boost district success using learner analytics.

2. Educator track

This track’s workshops and concurrent sessions will highlight technology-based best practices that administrators need their educators and staff to know.  The Educator track is the largest, most vast offering at our conference, says Womble.

Tools and technology: Educators will learn how to use a vast array of digital tools, from Minecraft and Google tools to Apple apps and Microsoft programs. A popular topic will center on augmented and virtual reality devices. More schools are building lessons and curricula around AR/VR technologies as solutions such as Google Cardboard and Oculus Rift become more accessible, says Womble.

Learning environments: Presenters will discuss various learning models, including personalized, blended and flipped learning. “Flipped learning has become increasingly popular as more homes either now have internet access for the first time or have adopted more reliable Wi-Fi services,” says Womble.

Hot topics: Last year’s trending topic—creativity—will be a focus of many sessions, such as sketchnoting and design thinking. Other related themes include unlocking creativity and how students can produce more creative products. “Educators are seeing the arts disappearing from K-12 so they are bringing that back into the classroom,” says Womble. Other highlights include coding, STEM, esports, gaming and robotics.

3. Coach track

This new track is designed for coaches who help other teachers implement technology into their classrooms. Coaches will learn how to teach educators about:

• using the latest effective instructional technologies in the classroom, from mobile devices and game-based learning solutions to makerspace and digital tools

• creating and fostering online, flipped, blended, personalized and hybrid learning environments

• improving interactive communication, digital assessment, feedback, support and content delivery

“The most popular speaker will be Matt Miller, author of Ditch That Textbook,” says Womble. “He does an amazing job getting people excited about integrating tech by providing shortcuts and ways to improve the process.”

4. Library Media Specialist track

This new track will focus on the responsibilities of the library media specialist, a role that has evolved in the last two to three years, says Womble.

“We added this track because libraries now serve as the main tech contact for schools, and districts are looking for ways to maximize their role as media centers,” adds Womble. “They have a huge impact on tech initiatives in schools. Many libraries have been transformed into makerspaces and STEM labs.”

Library media specialists will learn about:

• developmentally appropriate technology tools
• how and when to incorporate technology into their programs
• product and purchasing information for emerging devices
• developing innovative learning spaces, such as makerspaces

Hot topics include: implementing digital citizenship and equitable access and managing and using technology to communicate with colleagues, parents, students and the broader community. “Digital literacy and how to become digital literate are in almost every session,” says Womble.

5. Information Technology track

“This year, we focused on providing topics for every attendee, whether you are a CIO, individual contributor or technical lead,” says Lenny Schad, chair of FETC.

The Information Technology track will offer solutions in a variety of formats.

Leadership perspective: These sessions will discuss the qualities that are necessary to become a transformational leader, the changing role of the CIO, how to create a culture of customer service, understanding cybersecurity, and organizational change management. “Change management will discuss the emotional component because these processes are much more extensive than just project management,” says Schad, chief information and innovation officer of District Administration.

Small-district focus: Leaders of smaller-sized districts will share how they solved certain challenges. “While districts all face the same challenges, the size of a school system does affect how leaders solve certain problems,” says Schad, who is also technology editor at large for DA. “These sessions will provide a more nuanced explanation.”

Hands-on with tech: Participants will discover how to leverage and manage various technologies, from email platforms to Google Suite apps and Microsoft programs.

Project guide: Learn every aspect of a project that many district leaders manage, such as 1-to-1 implementation. “This process involves much more than just devices,” says Schad. “Technology is actually the easiest piece of the puzzle.” Other projects include implementation of student information systems. “Having done that three times, this is probably the hardest system I have ever had to implement,” says Schad, who was most recently CIO of Houston ISD, and previously served as CIO of Katy ISD in Texas.

6. Inclusion & Special Education track

Participants who attend the Inclusion & Special Education track will learn how to use tech to create more inclusive environments and to support the social-emotional growth of students with disabilities.

Workshops: Topics will range from inclusive practices and differentiation to special ed data management and supports for students with dyslexia and autism.

Social-emotional learning and executive functioning: New this year, these sessions will explore the latest tools and techniques to assist in meeting students’ social-emotional and executive functioning needs so that students can grow into independent lifelong learners.

Inclusive tools: Another new offering, these sessions feature speakers who will share a range of inclusive tools that many students already have access to and identify these tools’ hidden accessibility capabilities that can support students with disabilities. “Many products that people are familiar with already have assistance tools built in that can make the font size larger, read the text aloud and provide different color screens,” says Womble.

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