For decades, FETC has been one of the most important educational technology conferences. Originally, FETC stood for the “Florida Educational Technology Conference,” but it long ago outgrew Florida and is now the “Future of Education Technology Conference.” Usually held in Orlando, Florida, the conference draws attendees from every state and many countries. In the past, the registration fees, travel, and lodging expenses were a barrier to attending for many people. This year, however, the conference is virtual and attendee registration is free.
The dates are January 26–29, 2021, and registration is required in advance. I encourage you to register as soon as possible so you can begin selecting your sessions and planning your virtual visit. Register at FETC.ORG.
So, what’s the same as the previous face-to-face conferences?
Just about everything attendees have come to expect from previous FETC conferences is available at the virtual conference—except for the sore feet from hiking miles and miles through the Orange County Convention Center. You’ll have opportunities to select sessions, attend keynotes, and browse through all the vendors and products in the virtual exhibit hall.
So, what’s better at the virtual conference?
LOTS! At first I wasn’t convinced that the virtual experience would even be worth my time and effort, but the more I’ve explored the virtual conference platform, the more impressed I’ve become.
Make connections that count. For many, the opportunity to network with others who hold similar positions and interests is even more important than the sessions and keynotes. FETC has always been a great opportunity to share with others the successes (and failures) that we encounter as we try to better integrate technology in education. But making those initial contacts is usually a hit-or-miss thing at a physical conference. Maybe you connect with someone who asked an interesting question at the end of a session. Or maybe you noticed a job title on an attendee’s badge. Or maybe you just happened to sit next to someone interesting on the hotel shuttle. But no matter how many great connections you make at a physical conference, you can be sure that you missed many, many more connections that could help you in your professional role.
The virtual conference makes connecting easier and more efficient. When you register for FETC, you’ll complete a profile including your position title and an “About Me” section to tell about yourself. You’ll also start to select sessions and complete other activities in the virtual conference. Behind the scenes, artificial intelligence is reviewing what you said in your profile, updating what you’ve been doing at the conference, and then using that information to suggest new connections for you. When you click on the “Attendees” tab in the virtual conference, you’ll see people like yourself that the system thinks you’d value connecting with. OTOH, you can also use the matchmaking system to connect with people who are unlike you. Perhaps you’re a teacher and you’re interested in connecting with technology coaches because you’re considering moving into a coaching position. Just type terms related to the type of person you’re seeking into the “Get Better Recommendations” box to receive an updated list of suggested connections. And, of course, you can also search directly for people with specific interests or job titles. This is much, much more efficient than scanning name tags for information as you rush from one session to another in a physical conference.
Check out exhibitors without getting sore feet. The FETC physical exhibit hall has always been a bit overwhelming. It takes hours to work your way through all the aisles. It’s no wonder the exhibit halls at previous FETC conferences usually had booths for shoe supports and foot massagers alongside the ones for 3D printers and digital curriculum.
With the virtual conference, you can quickly sort the vendors by categories such as:
- Accessibility & Differentiation,
- Adaptive Technology & Curriculum,
- Administrative Technology,
- Artificial Intelligence,
- Assessment & Standards,
- Automated Systems,
- AV Integration—
- and that’s just the A’s!
You can check out the products at a booth, pick up brochures and other documents, ask questions, or schedule a 30-minute 1:1 videoconference with a staff member there. As someone who has worked FCIT’s booth at FETC for decades, scheduling meeting times and being able to talk 1:1 without all the surrounding noise and confusion will be a pleasure. And for those of you who like to load up your conference bag with exhibitor goodies, there’s also a virtual swag bag for you to collect freebies, gift cards, and other vendor swag.
Please stop by the virtual FCIT booth to say hello, ask a question, or schedule a videoconference. We look forward to seeing you there!
Be sure to register in advance at FETC.ORG. Do in now! It’ll just take a few minutes of your time.
A Blast from the Past
If you’re afraid you miss the crowds, confusion, lines, and chaos of a physical conference, you can travel back in time with these photos of the FCIT booth at FETC in 2007. Enjoy!
Roy Winkelman is a 40+ year veteran teacher of students from every level kindergarten through graduate school. As the former Director of FCIT, he began the Center's focus on providing students with rich content collections from which to build their understanding. When not glued to his keyboard, Dr. Winkelman can usually be found puttering around his tomato garden in Pittsburgh.
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