Back in January, I enjoyed the amazing privilege of going to FETC in Orlando. I have attended FETC twice before, once where I went to a few sessions, once where I just hit the vendor hall. But this was my first year attending where I was on Twitter, where I was beginning to get just how significant EdTech can be in my library. This was my first year understanding that FETC is a national conference, not just something for Florida. I wish I had gone more than one day.
As in previous years I had attended, the vendor hall was amazing and a bit overwhelming. It could be easy to focus on all the amazing technology and feel like it would be impossible to ever afford it. But instead, I chose to focus on my mission for my library: utilizing technology in hands-on learning to get my kids excited about STEAM and give them a chance to be creative. And to make my library a comfortable, dynamic environment where students of all learning types can grow.
Of course, much of this was related to Makerspaces, and I was disappointed when many vendors had no idea what I was talking about (one vendor with 3D printers even had a copy of the Makerspace Playbook and Invent To Learn, yet was clueless when I asked him about products he had that would be good in Makerspaces). Despite that, I found many helpful and wonderful vendors who were a great resources. I got to play Minecraft for the first time (working on grants to get licenses), I got to see 3D printers galore (SO cool!), I got to check out the K’NEX Education – Renewable Energy Set at the K’nex booth (just got that through DonorsChoose). And I got to talk to local furniture vendors for help with grants for new media center furniture.
I also went to quite a few sessions. I focused mainly on STEM and STEAM sessions. Some were better than others, but I ended up with some great ideas, inspirations, and resources. My favorite session was probably Brian Crosby’s “STEM: What does it really look like?” session. Brian is the author of the Learning is Messy blog, and told inspiring stories of how he transformed his ELL students’ experiences by incorporating hands-on STEM activities with digital activities like blogging, uploading photos, making videos, etc. The most inspiring part of his talk was about one of his students who was homebound with leukemia. His school raised money to get her a computer and internet connection, and she was able to participate with her classmates every day through Skype. When she was well enough to return back to school, she was able to jump right into things.
All in all, FETC was an amazing experience, and next year I’m definitely planning on going for the whole week. After all, Orlando is only an hour away. The next big conference I’m excited about: ISTE 2014! My school SAC committee agreed to pay for my registration, and I’m splitting the hotel room with some other media specialists from my district. Since it’s just in Atlanta, we’ll be carpooling there. I can’t wait! I’ve already started planning out my schedule – there’s SO many sessions and workshops I’m interested in. Awesomeness.
What education conferences have you been to? Did you find them beneficial?