FETC! The Future of Education Technology Conference! Being that I have attended conferences of similar magnitude, I had high expectations for FETC. For me, this conference lived up to the hype and left me chomping at the bit to return to my school to begin conversations about how to move our school forward. My teachers that attended FETC with me were first timers. They have heard about FETC but have never attended due to just not having the opportunity. I knew that they were excited leading up to the start but I wasn’t sure that they would leave the same way that I have at previous conferences. Well…within the first few minutes of the event I was comfortable putting that concern to rest because of the pure awe and excitement each of them felt. I mean look at those smiles from early on Day 1!!! Attiya Batool (4th grade), Kelly Addeo (4th grade), Ryan Morda (4th grade), Joey Goodman (3rd grade), and Traci Arnemann (3rd grade) dove into everything that is FETC alongside each other and myself. So here is a brief recap of our time at the conference followed by what we are doing about it now…
Connections – Immediately after checking in to the conference and picking up our ID’s we headed over to meet up with the amazing people from Participate. This was the first taste of FETC for all of us and it was a perfect way to get started. We were able to hear about the exciting things that Participate is currently working on and they made us feel valued by soliciting over input from a teachers point of view. This also served as an opportunity to start meeting some of the people that we have followed on Twitter and connect with them face-to-face. This was just the start!!! Before the Opening Keynote we also were able to visit with CDW to experience some learning spaces ideas and also connect with other educators. Walking through the Expo Hall en route to the Opening Keynote, we also were able to make personal connections with our friends from Buncee and Nearpod.
Opening Keynote – Sir Ken Robinson did a masterful job at setting the tone for the conference. His message about redesigning schools resonated with myself and the team. Our team completely agreed with how schools are designed for conformity but the world is based on diversity. Additionally, we heard the message loud and clear how students need more opportunities for creativity and play. It was a powerful message that really created a well defined purpose as we set forth on the next two days of the FETC.
Expo – Making our way through the maze of the Expo Hall was tricky. However, finding companies that we wanted to learn about and then watching a demonstration was very helpful. Also, seeing companies whose product we currently use was great because we were able to form or solidify relationships. Some of the highlights were Nearpod, Buncee, Vocabulary City, Lenovo, Bloxels, Canvas by Instructure, CDW-G, Science4Us, Sphero, Squirrels, Wonder Workshop. Just to name a few.
Learning in Sessions – We went our own ways to attend sessions that we felt were beneficial to each of us individually. For example, I attended a great session about learning spaces presented by Principal Derek McCoy. Another great session was presented by Eric Sheninger. One message that stood out to me was how we don’t want to prepare our students for something, we want to prepare them for anything. Our entire group did attend a Nearpod session and learned about some great features to their product. Part of each evening was devoted to debriefing each of our learning experiences in the sessions we attended.
Presenting – I am very grateful to CDW-G, Katrina Keene, and Amy Brown for inviting me to serve on a panel to discuss topics surrounding the redesign of learning spaces. I loved the experience of being able to celebrate my teachers and classrooms by sharing the process and successes of transformation. Being a principal on a panel that included a district technology coordinator, superintendents, and classroom teachers, I was able to express what this change looks like from a school’s perspective. Challenges, milestones, strategic decisions made, and even opportunities missed were shared with the audience.
Debrief and Planning – The greatest moments of FETC typically happened after the conference shut down for the night and we were enjoying some dinner as a team. Hearing the excitement of the day’s learning from each of our team just fired us all up. We shared experiences, ideas, goals and aspirations. FETC provided an amazing opportunity for us to strengthen connections with each other. It was refreshing to hear how each of us wants change, we each want to provide a greater learning experience for our students. In my mind, the most difficult part is now behind us!!! We have established a core group who believes in the change and is willing to lead the charge. Now we just have to determine how we are going to get there. We started sorting through all of the information to begin formulating a plan to return back to our campus.
Turning FETC into Action
Immediately upon our return from FETC, the teachers who attended starting implementing some of the changes into their classrooms. Ryan Morda started using Nearpod. Attiya Batool had class meetings to discuss and make changes to the learning space. Kelly Addeo started redesigning her classroom. Traci Arnemann has been getting deeper into Buncee and working to try everything to see what works with her students. Joey Goodman has been getting into Storybird with his class. All five of them have started to use Flipgrid and some are utilizing Socrative. Additionally, I have started using Flipgrid to deliver operational type of updates to faculty that traditionally would be done in a Faculty Meeting. Now we are able to free up some of that time in our Faculty Meetings to focus on best practices, sharing of ideas and professional growth.
However, there is so much more to the learning than just moving around desks and trying new programs or apps. It is a mindshift. It is a focus on the future of our schools and classrooms.
So our FETC team began meeting and deciding on how to bring in the other teachers at our school. We recognize that our faculty is ready to try something new and implement a major change and shift. They are ready to do differently for their students. We each identified one thing that we learned at FETC that could be practical if shared with the faculty at large. Something that can be implemented in someone’s classroom pretty much immediately. We decided that we would move our Faculty Meeting back one week to give us a little more time to prepare and organize any videos, documents, images. These would all be placed together into Canvas Course so that they could be readily accessed by faculty during the meeting and at any point after.
Our goal when we met with the entire faculty was to let them see our excitement. We also made it clear that what they are currently doing isn’t wrong but to know better is to do better. We want to advance our methods of teaching. We want comfortable learning environments that are conducive to growth. We want student voice and student choice. We want to utilize some amazing technology that brings learning to life for our students. Again, to know better is to do better. At our initial meeting with faculty, teachers seemed very positive about these new tools. We discussed how taking control of your own professional growth is the only way to go. So many learning opportunities exist at your fingertips via social media. Our team explained how social media has changed their practice and has reignited their passion for teaching!!!
So many great things are to come at Nova Blanche Forman Elementary!!!
Be sure to follow us on Twitter:
Nova Blanche Forman Elementary School – @NBFelem
Russell Schwartz, Principal – @Russ_Schwartz
Kelly Addeo, Teacher – @MissAddeo
Traci Arnemann, Teacher – @techtraci2000
Attiya Batool, Teacher – @batool_attiya
Joey Goodman, Teacher – @JoeyBGoodman
Ryan Morda, Teacher – @ryanmorda