(Previously published in T.H.E. Journal – January 2013)
It is time for the 33rd Florida Educational Technology Conference in Orlando, Florida and the energy is beginning to pump through my veins. Can you feel the electricity in the air? Can you feel the excitement building? Last spring, 2012, I wrote an article for T.H.E. Journal where I said, “If you haven’t been to FETC or if it has been a while since you last attended, I encourage you to add FETC 2013 to your list of professional development activities.” I hope you took my advice and you are registered to attend, because this year’s conference schedule is guaranteed not to disappoint.
There are so many things I am looking forward to this year. Conversations with other technology using educators and experts through Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn have kept me busy as I prepare for FETC 2013. The excitement is building. The #FETC Twitter stream is full of messages about registration, sessions, workshops, keynotes, and meet-ups. Facebook and LinkedIn have websites, articles, photos and videos posted from past conferences. Once you signed up you probably started getting several emails from all of the companies and organizations that will be available for you to meet with. Do not forget the drawings – technology giveaways are always a highlight in the exhibit hall. So start looking at all of the workshops, concurrent and featured sessions, and the amazing list of keynote speakers. There is another long list of outstanding speakers and sessions planned.
Last year’s conference proved to be an amazing time for me. I had the opportunity to build on prior connections and engage in great conversations. I learned more about technology, how to use it effectively to engage and motivate students and to enhance learning. There were people everywhere, all friendly faces, some I knew from social media sites like Twitter, Facebook or Linked In, while many more were new faces. Attending FETC is an open opportunity to engage in great conversations with educators from around the world all focused on one idea: to become better technology integrating educators. For me, the greatest joy comes from talking with so many others, at the Tweet-ups, between sessions in the halls, in the exhibit hall, at a bench outside the convention center eating lunch, or at the annual coffee cup giveaway. At FETC 2012 I connected with educators from Kansas, Florida, Illinois, California, and Puerto Rico. These connections turned into personal invitations to provide additional training and support to schools around the country.
After attending FETC 2012 I was contacted by several educational institutions to discuss technology integration. In the spring and summer of 2012 I was invited to provide two separate iPad® trainings to faculty and graduate students at Florida International University, Miami. Many educators from Miami-Dade County also attended the trainings. All of the participants left with an extensive list of applications, ideas on how to integrate mobile technology into their classrooms, and the confidence to do so immediately. Another connection I made at FETC took me to the University of San Juan – Medical Sciences Campus, Puerto Rico on two separate occasions. The first was an invitation to present at the Annual Title V Symposium alongside three other experts in the field of education. I shared my knowledge of SMARTBoard technology and inspired the faculty to integrate a variety of Web 2.0 Tools into their curriculum to engage traditional and graduate students in the learning environment. My second trip to UPR was to give a weeklong intensive training on the use of iPads® for professional efficiency and lesson delivery. The response was overwhelming and the Title V project is going to be a great success. UPR faculty members are excited to utilize technology to engage their students and enhance the learning environment. I have also spent the past year providing staff development sessions, presenting at state conferences, and teaching graduate classes through Marian University, Wisconsin, and continuing to work towards my Educational Doctorate in Technology and E-Learning through Northcentral University, Arizona. By this time next year I hope to have completed my dissertation, which focuses on the impact of iPads® in the classroom. All of these opportunities are a direct result of attending my first FETC in 2010. The connections, the knowledge gained, the experiences have helped me to reach my dream.
Last spring in an article for T.H.E. Journal I shared about my career and why I transitioned from teaching in the elementary classroom to teaching online and working for Marian University. I left the elementary classroom because I wasn’t making enough of a difference in the lives of my students. I wanted to inspire others and do more to help them reach their own goals. When I present to educators on educational technology I am impacting every one of the students who you teach. I am still teaching. I get to teach all of you. I am able to share my knowledge and enthusiasm of educational technology with thousands of educators who hopefully go back to their school districts to share their new knowledge and enthusiasm, to impact the students they work with on a daily basis. After my trips to University of Puerto Rico – Medical Sciences Campus, San Juan, I have inspired the medical community as well.
There is a diverse team of experts representing Marian University, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, that will attend the annual conference. Eight of us are making the trip to the warm Florida sun and leaving the cold winter of Wisconsin behind for one week in January. I will be presenting several sessions throughout the week. On Monday, January 28th Assistant Professors Kristi Shaw and Malia Hoffmann will be presenting a workshop that focuses on using iTunesU and iBooks to design course materials for the online learning environment. You will be able to find me on Monday, January 28th and Tuesday, January 29th providing three workshops related to iPad® integration. The workshops on Monday will cover using the iPad® to help struggling readers, and using the iPad® for math intervention. On Tuesday I will provide a workshop to help administrators learn to use their iPad® effectively.
On Thursday, January 31st you will be able to find me presenting a featured session, “Your Online Class is Ready to Start: Did You do it Right?” This session will provide attendees with a list of Web 2.0 Tools used to design effective Icebreakers that can help get the online class started. Attendees will learn how to build a successful online classroom environment that supports diverse learners and promotes collaborative learning. If you are planning on integrating online / hybrid learning into your school I encourage you to join me. You will want to make sure you stick around on Thursday, January 31st for the big Closing Session: App Shoot-Out. I will be back up on the stage with Hall Davidson and Gail Lovely to share our top educational applications. It will be a fast-paced exciting informational session with mobile device application ideas that you will be downloading before you leave the convention center.
I am looking forward to reconnecting with my “old” friends as well as making new ones, and sharing some of my knowledge and passion of educational technology with educators from around the globe. Bring along your own mobile device, an open mind, and be ready to connect with educators from around the world that are just as anxious for the annual conference. Will you be there? I will, just look for me in my blue Marian University shirt.