It was a great week for the 40th year celebration of FETC, (the Future of Education Technology Conference), held in Miami this year. There were attendees representing 68 countries with opportunities to choose from more than 6,000 sessions and explore 450 exhibits. Having attended the past three years, I was definitely looking forward to it, and especially curious about experiencing it in a new location. For me, the number one reason I attend conferences is to have the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and meet face-to-face for the first time with friends made through Twitter, Voxer, and other educator communities.

I was honored to be one of the featured speakers for the Ed Tech Educator Track. There were 44 featured presenters this year in six tracks including Administrator, Coach, Educator, Inclusion and Special Education, Information Technology, and Library Media Specialist. Conferences like FETC offer a fantastic space for educators to immerse in so many learning experiences and make it easy to find exactly the type of professional development they are looking for and need.

David Lockett, Founder of @CampSTEM, Michelle Zimmerman, author of Teaching A.I., and me after my A.I. session

Below, are my top five highlights from the conference.

1. Conference Kickoff and Keynotes. A marching band welcomed everyone to the opening keynote with music and dancing and then later led attendees to the opening of the exhibit hall. We heard from Alberto M. Carvalho, Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, who shared unbelievable statistics about the success of these schools and inspired educators to continue to seek more for our students Jennifer Womble, FETC Program Chair, shared some of the exciting events to look for during the week and then introduced the long awaited and highly anticipated opening keynote, Daniel Pink, who spoke on the topic of “Leadership, Innovation, and the Surprising Truth of Human Motivation.” Hearing Daniel Pink speak was one of my main goals for the conference this year. Many educators look to Daniel Pink for inspiration when it comes to solving the puzzle of motivation for student learning. The closing keynote was Justin Shaifer, Executive Director of Fascinate Inc., speaking on how to build under-represented student interest in STEM.

2. Sandboxes. I was excited to lead an AR/MR/VR Sandbox with Jaime Donally and a group of educators facilitating six learning stations and also several AR & VR companies presenting in the space. A Maker Education Sandbox provided hands-on opportunities to learn about 3D printing, programming, robotics design thinking, and learning space design. The iTeach MakerBus in the expo hall was another great example of this. The Elementary Digital Tools Sandbox had a lot of resources for educators exploring technologies for young learners ages 3 to 10. The sandboxes really were a great opportunity to learn more through hands on and interactive learning.

At the AR/MR/VR sandbox

3. Esports Gaming Arena. This was a hugely popular area for many! Superintendent Carvalho spent time in the gaming arena, which was powered by CDW-G. Each day there were theater sessions held where people could see live gaming and competition to better understand what Esports is all about and how it impacts student engagement.

4. School Tours. The Miami-Dade County Public Schools were hosting school tours during the conference on Tuesday and those who signed up were able to visit five local schools. Each of the schools are recognized for their work and programs focused on innovation, robotics, STEM, biotech, and engineering. People who attended expressed how impressed they were with each school and that having the opportunity to explore was so helpful for taking ideas back to their own schools.

5. Expo Hall. There are always many learning opportunities in the expo hall ranging from 30-minute Skill Builder sessions, to STEM theater presentations, to the Startup Pitchfest, to the 20-minute Learning Labs as well as many booths holding live presentations by organizations such as Microsoft, Nearpod, or BrainPOP. The Startup Pitchfest is an opportunity for edtech startups to showcase their ideas for bringing about change and improvements in education. This year, the winner was Saravana Pat Bhava, CEO and Founder of Pikmykid, a school safety solution.

FETC is a conference that does not disappoint with such a variety of learning opportunities, thousands of sessions and speakers, and six tracks to choose from. Learning really is everywhere!

If you have not yet attended FETC or could not attend this year, I recommend checking out the Twitter stream #FETC and start planning for next year when FETC returns to Orlando from January 26-29, 2021. See you there!

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