Skip to content

Category: Conferences

Digital Learning Annual Conference DLAC 2021: A Preview

Originally Published: 

Austin, Texas, is a place of eclectic music, beautiful lakes, superb Tex-Mex and BBQ restaurants, and on June 14-16, 2021, it will host the second annual Digital Learning Annual Conference (DLAC). 

This innovative conference will focus on online, hybrid, and blended strategies and solutions that best support the entire school community. Unlike other conferences, DLAC 2021 will not be a “sit and get” event. Instead, attendees will have opportunities to share their experiences, learn through collaboration, and network with colleagues in facilitated sessions and informal settings. The organizers believe that there is value in the hallway conversations outside the sessions and aim to maximize those opportunities while maintaining the benefits of more traditional conference programming. 

Understanding that not everyone will attend the conference in person, DLAC 2021 has thoughtfully created its conference in a flexible hybrid model, with onsite and online attendance options. The online option will occur in three segments: an online conference opening June 8; onsite sessions June 14-16 that offer online programming; and a final DLAC Encore online session on June 30. 

Session Types

DLAC 2021 guarantees that both their online and in-person sessions will be shorter, livelier, and more interactive than most conferences, “creating a high-energy gathering built on sharing and conversations.”  

Onsite DLAC includes contributed talks, workshops, panel discussions, debates, table talks, and PechaKucha talks. In addition, DLAC online presentations, discussions, and networking opportunities will include extensive break-out rooms to allow small group video discussions and text chat options.

Finally, live streaming several sessions from Austin will give online attendees a connection to the onsite conference with live moderators and real-time interaction. 


Focusing on topics relevant to the many districts seeking to create, expand, and improve digital learning, conference-goers will have the opportunity to attend sessions relevant to our new world of online schools and classrooms. Tracks will offer consecutive sessions that will provide attendees with planning and implementation strategies that support robust digital learning initiatives. 

For districts looking to create or expand their online and hybrid learning environments, the How to Start an Online School Track will dive into critical topics such as setting goals, operational and district policies, and how best to support online teachers. The twelve Online Teaching Track sessions will help the needs of both new and experienced online teachers with topics such as Building Community in the Online Classroom, Engaging Reluctant/Struggling Learners, and Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Strategies. Finally, the challenges of the hundreds of school districts expanding their use of blended learning in summer 2021 and school year 2021-22 will be addressed in The Blended Teaching Track, which will focus on creating customized learning pathways, understanding blended learning in the early grades, and, most importantly, designing engaging online learning experiences.  

Recognizing the challenges faced by rural school communities during the recent pandemic, DLAC 21 includes various online and blended learning sessions specifically for rural teachers and administrators. Sessions of interest include highlighting how a rural district addressed continuity of learning during the pandemic using various learning models, online tools, and digital content, and how to engage and provide equity for more than 150 square miles.

While in-person conferences are slow to come back, DLAC 2021 has found the secret sauce of connecting districts and educators across the country through their hybrid conference model.

When they launched DLAC in 2019, they said: “No technology has ever transformed education quickly, and we see no sign that technology is about to do so. But we see plenty of examples of dedicated school leaders, caring teachers, thoughtful providers, effective researchers, and respectful policymakers using technology to improve student opportunities and outcomes.

This commitment is reflected in DLAC’s focus on the needs of their community and providing professional development experiences that will ensure sustainable, effective, and engaging digital learning experiences for our students.  

ISTELive 21 Preview: Designing a New Learning Landscape

Originally Published:

With live, interactive, and immersive learning sessions, featured voices, playgrounds, poster sessions, and an expo hall, this virtual ISTE conference exemplifies that “the show must go on!”

For those of us still energized and inspired from attending the ISTE 2020 Reimaged Virtual Conference, we will have another opportunity to engage, experience, and connect at ISTELive 21 – Designing a New Learning Landscape, June 26-30, 2021. 

Again, ISTE is proven to create a virtual conference experience that models what educators across the country have implemented in their hybrid and remote classrooms – engaging, personalized, collaborative learning experiences. With live, interactive, and immersive learning sessions, featured voices, playgrounds, poster sessions, and an expo hall, this second virtual ISTE conference exemplifies that “the show must go on!” 

As an innovative and forward-thinking conference, instead of the usual keynote speakers, ISTELive 21 will highlight powerful voices with inspiring stories that impact education. During the five-day event, featured voices will include educators, thought leaders, and authors such as Brett Salak, Regina Gonzalez de Cossio, Patricia Brown, Dominic Caguioa, Alberto and Mario Herreaz, and Dr. Henry Turner. Critical topics such as inequity, anti-racism, global collaboration, and the pandemic’s impact on our students will be addressed by these experts, who will look to inspire us to lead change.  

No matter the roles of the attendees, they will be hard-pressed not to find sessions tailored to their challenges, areas of interest, and future initiatives. ISTE has crafted 39 professional development topics that include relevant and timely challenges such as online and blended classroom models, social-emotional programming, and student-driven game-based learning. In addition, unlike in-person conferences during which attendees must choose between sessions, the live recording, and media-rich on-demand sessions ensure that attendees can fully experience all that  ISTELive 21 offers during and after the conference.  

Fourteen topic-based session lists curated by the ISTE Professional Learning Networks allow attendees access to high-quality presenters and learning experiences.

Not to be missed are the 80 international content sessions whose theme is “listen, learn, share and stay connected globally.”

Global change-makers such as Sandra Chow, Dr. Kelly Grogan, and Dr. Jessica Hale will present “Pathways to Tomorrow: Building Global Competencies through Intercultural Experiences” to expand perspectives on competencies for our students’ future. In the “Best tools for Global Collaboration” ISTE Global Collaboration, PLN leaders Margret Atkinson and Anne Mirtschin will explore tools that can help provide successful connections, interactive problem-solving, and professional networking and development in virtual environments.

If you are a district or school leader, it is worth the price of admission to attend the Leadership Exchange. This recently added pre-conference event brings together worldwide educational leaders such as Ken Shelton, Temple Lovelace, Kumar Garg, and Adina Sullivan-Marlow. The focus of the Exchange is to provide edtech leaders with collaborative opportunities to accelerate transformational practices and explore emerging models of post-pandemic learning.  

As we are closing the books on this school year and looking ahead with hope and possibilities for the upcoming school year, ISTELive 21 is the event that will highlight, support, and rejuvenate our commitment to our students. So, take advantage of the collaborative experiences, connect with colleagues doing the work, and end this year with renewed energy and enthusiasm for a new learning landscape of SY 2021.  

FETC 2020: Stem, Safety, and Students

Student engagement and empowerment were evident at FETC 2020 in Miami, FL. Topics ran the gamut from the latest tech tools and personalized learning strategies to funding, supporting, and sustaining district technology initiatives.

FETC 2020 offered sessions and workshops, interactive spaces, an extensive expo hall, and purposefully-chosen dynamic, energizing, and inspiring keynote presentations. More than 20,000 attendees from around the world experienced unlimited opportunities to network, learn effective teaching strategies, share resources, and be inspired. Even though the Miami sunshine was enticing, attendees moved excitedly from session to session, eager to soak up all that the conference had to offer.


In the early years of STEM and STEAM adoption, students’ hands-on experiences were limited to isolated classroom activities and computer labs. This stand-alone model did not engage the entire school community, nor was it transferrable to content areas instruction.

With sessions at FETC 2020 such as “Coding, Robotics, Project-Based Learning and Mathematics” and “Cross-Curricular STEAM Integration for Every Classroom,” attendees learned how innovative educators are integrating STEM STEAM projects to connect students to real-world situations.

In the Expo Hall, companies such as Ozobot created “classrooms of today” to demonstrate how empowering teachers with a strong curriculum and products designed to engage students can help them incorporate coding and STEAM into social studies, ELA, math, and science courses. Even more inspiring was the STEM Theater, where throughout the conference, K-12 schools recognized as FETC STEM Excellence Award finalists showcased innovation, commitment, and visionary paths for their students.

Social and emotional learning

Empathy, self-regulation, responsibility, and relationship-building skills are human skills that are critical to the development of digital citizens. It can be challenging for education leaders to measure SEL programming’s success and impact on their students.

Edtech professionals at FETC were on hand to discuss how they’ve developed programming, strategies, and personalized options to allow classroom teachers, support staff, and building administrators to do just that.

Ed Tech Library Media Specialist and Future of Ed Tech Educator tracks highlighted sessions such as “Social and Emotional Learning in the Library” and “Social-Emotional Skill Building Through Coding and Robotics” that demonstrated how project-based learning increases student engagement and reduces behavioral management issues.

Software companies such as Everyday Speech were resources for school-based professionals and educators to use tools such as video, modeling, worksheets, and games to help students with social learning challenges. With new SEL content, Brainpop offered multiple sessions at FETC to incorporate social and emotional learning skills through modeling and classroom strategies.

Student safety

Student safety and student data privacy were on every CTO, IT professional, and district administrator at FETC 2020. Sessions including “What Every District Leader Needs to Know about Cyber Security” and “Cyber Security Measures and Assessments,” highlighted critical strategies that every district should implement to combat cyber-attacks. The “How to Find Technology That Improves School Safety” panel focused on the do’s and don’ts when it comes to safety solutions.

Software companies such as Impero, Securly, Gaggle, GoGuardian, Mimecast, and Managed Methods offered district tech leaders optimal student safety options ranging from protecting student data to protect students from self-harm, inappropriate content, and potential violence.


With the advent of esports in schools across the country, FETC offered conference attendees a not-to-be-missed interactive experience. Encompassing a significant space in the Expo Hall, the Esports Gaming Arena, and the North America Scholastic Esports Federation staged an esports environment easily replicated in any school setting. Middle and high school age students invited attendees to experience and learn about how this program positively supports, impacts, and engage a population of students eager for this educational environment.

Underlining all the sessions, workshops, keynotes, sandboxes, and learning spaces at FETC 2020 was the commitment of every edtech company, classroom educator, IT professional, district leader, and CTO to ensure that students have the tools and skills to own their learning and to grow and develop into the curators of our future.

FETC will be back in Orlando, January 26-29, 2021, for its 41st year.

Source: eSchoolNews

Here’s Why You Should Attend FETC 2020

Celebrating any anniversary is exciting, but this year, educators, administrators, and support staff can all celebrate the 40th anniversary of FETC- Future of Education Technology Conference in Miami, FL.

For those of you who have attended this conference in previous years, the Miami Beach Convention Center is a new venue jam-packed with “game-changing” keynotes, workshops, concurrent sessions, learning labs, and so much more.

FETC will not disappoint with its focus on innovation, creativity, collaboration, and personalized learning strategies for our students.

For anyone who has attended any large edtech conference, maximizing the conference experience can be overwhelming. FETC listened to its attendees and created session and workshop tracks based on the always-evolving edtech roles in schools and districts. Much like a breakfast buffet at one of the many hotels on Miami Beach, attendees at FETC 2020 pick and choose sessions and tracks that appeal to classroom and district interests, issues, and concerns.

The Future of Ed Tech Educator and the Future of Ed Tech Administrator tracks showcase best practices around innovation in the classroom and the work done in districts that support educators and students.

Attending sessions and workshops listed under the Ed Tech Educator track, attendees will learn from featured presenters such as Rachell Dene Poth, Ken Shelton, and Eric Curts. A plethora of topics in this track includes emerging technology trends, taking Google to the next level, AI in classrooms, STEAM/STEM projects and strategies, and tools to support struggling readers and English Language Learners.

Following the Ed Tech Administrator track, school and district administrators will learn from featured speakers such as Dr. Matthew Joseph, Dr. Michell Zimmerman, and Marlena Gross-Taylor about hacking leadership and edtech tools administrators, cybersecurity, and digital equity for all our students.

CIOs, technology directors, and other technology professionals will find sessions and workshops under the Future of Ed Tech Information Technology tracks tailored to the unique and daunting responsibilities that go along with creating dynamic learning environments for students and teachers. Featured presenters, including Marlo Gaddis, Dr. Sheryl Abshire, and Lorrie Owens, will demonstrate how transformational leadership addresses digital equity, data privacy, and funding. Educating the whole child includes the academic side and the social-emotional well-being of our students, including students with physical, emotional, and learning disabilities.

The Future of EdTech Inclusion and Special Education track supports the work being done in classrooms every day by special education professionals and support staff. Attendees will learn from experts in special education with featured presenters such as Carol Allen, Kindy Segovia, Nikosi Darnel, and Patrick Turnage. Offering over 35 sessions, presenters will focus on strategies for struggling readers, accessibility, and inclusiveness in classrooms and coding and gaming technologies to engage students with learning disabilities.

Two new tracks, Future of Ed Tech Library Media Specialist and Future of Ed Tech Coaches, spotlight the roles of irreplaceable ed-tech professionals in school districts.

Ed Tech Library Media Specialists will hear from featured presenters such as Shannon Miller, Jaime Donnally, and Dr, Adam Phyall and many other experts in the field. Energizing AI, SEL, social media, and maker spaces will support collaboration, creativity, engagement, and personalization in library media spaces across the country.

The boots on the ground edtech coaches will benefit from the Future of Ed Tech Coaches track with presentations from experienced professionals, including Casey Bell, Matt Miller, and Brianna Hodges. Essential topics for edtech coaches such as differentiation in classrooms, strategies, and resources for supporting struggling learners and skills and technologies to help all students focus on workshops and sessions in this track.

So, head to Florida on January 14 – 17, 2020, bask in the southeast coast sunshine, hit the expo floor, and overload your buffet plate with enticing, interesting, and thought-provoking FETC 2020 sessions and workshops.

Source: eSchoolNews

FETC 2020: A Focus on Stem and Underrepresented Students

FETC recognizes the challenges and roadblocks school districts and educators face when providing equitable access to STEM education for all students.

According to the National Science Foundation, students need in-depth, high-quality educational STEM experiences to succeed in the “information-based and highly technological society.” Across the country, districts recognize STEM education as a priority and implement programming that provides K12 students with hands-on, project-based STEM lessons. Based on a 2018 report, STEM education is not an equitable experience for all school districts or all students. In the case of the haves and have nots, school districts in low-income areas with limited funding resources struggle to provide students with access to computer science classes, comprehensive STEM programs, and adequately equipped science labs. Even more disturbing is that underrepresented students, such as girls, students of color, students with learning disabilities, and students in low socioeconomic backgrounds, are not regularly presented with learning opportunities that would expose them to challenging STEM. 

FETC (Future of Educational Technology Conference) recognizes the challenges and roadblocks school districts and educators face when trying to provide equitable access to STEM education for all students. Celebrating its 40th anniversary in Miami, Florida, on January 14- 17, 2020, FETC once again will prove itself as one of the top edtech conferences to attend this year. With a wealth of STEM sessions, workshops, learning labs, and school tours, attendees will experience proven strategies and solutions to combat the growing numbers of students with little or no exposure to STEM projects.

STEM Keynote

No one is more in tune with the urgency of ensuring that all students, especially those in the underrepresented categories, have an abundance of STEM educational opportunities than Justin Shaifer. Shaifer, aka Mr. Fascinate, is the founder and executive director of Fascinate, Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides culturally responsive lesson plans and experiences to students across the US. During FETC 2020, this high energy 24-year-old will engage attendees with his STEM Keynote presentation, “Bring STEM to Class: A Practical Guide to Education.” Shaifer’s goal “to be for STEM what ESPN is for sports” and to inspire young people to “embrace their inner nerd despite their surroundings.”

STEM Sessions

Echoing Shaifer’s mission to bring STEM education to every classroom and every student are the courageous, committed, and visionary edtech leaders, educators, and support staff presenting at FETC 2020. Within the six edtech strands that have become synonymous with FETC, numerous sessions focus on innovative practices and solutions to ensure students are positioned well for the yet to be created STEM positions available when they graduate. 

Sessions such as Coding in K-8 Classrooms: Empowering Creativity and Content CreationCross-Curricular STEAM Integration for Every Classroom, and Collaborating Across Curriculums Using Digital Tools and Maker Space highlight the importance of ensuring that makerspaces are not the only place students learn science, technology, engineering, and real-world math applications.

These sessions reflect the belief that coding exposes more students to STEM education when integrated across curriculum areas, resulting in students who are more engaged, energized, and active participants in their learning. 

Educators recognize but don’t always have the skillset to connect and engage underrepresented students in STEM areas. Encouraging Underrepresented Populations to Engage and Stay in STEMEngaging Students in 21st Century Skills Through an Engineering Mindset and Hero Elementary: Designing Accessible Digital Experiences to Promote STEM Equity sessions showcase how classroom teachers can champion inclusion by connecting students to content-rich STEM experiences while supporting their needs and learning struggles. 

When school districts have the necessary funding and educators have the tools, skills, and resources to provide students with multiple opportunities to have hands-on STEM learning opportunities, the playing field becomes leveled for underrepresented students. Attending FETC 2020 is an opportunity for edtech leaders and educators to learn about the struggles of underrepresented students, interact with colleagues on common issues and leave with strategies and solutions to the barriers many of our students experience in STEM education. 

Source: FETC 2020: A Focus on STEM and Underrepresented Students Tech & Learning January 2020

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Upgrade Your Conference

I felt like I’d just unpacked my suitcase from ISTE 2018 when Edsurge came out with 60+ K-12 Education Technology Events in 2018-2019. So instead of doing what a sane person would do by sticking a beach chair in the sand and soaking up the summer rays, I plugged conference dates into my Google calendar!

Much like teachers all across the country, edtech leaders like me attend conferences to learn about innovative and trendsetting edtech programming and strategies. Here is my advice for making the most of your time at conferences and bringing back valuable resources that will drive your district’s edtech decision making for the upcoming school year.

Find your people
Take advantage of the national/state chief technology officer (CTO) sessions at all the major conferences. These CTO sessions are geared toward superintendents, technology directors, and curriculum leaders. It’s a great way to meet new colleagues and share best practices and solutions to our common edtech challenges.

It’s all about me
Who has not been guilty of moving towards shiny objects on the expo floor, resulting in a very exhausting and unproductive experience? Before attending a conference, work with your district technology committee to develop a list of vendors that focus on your upcoming initiatives. Emailing or direct-messaging companies to set up one-on-one meetings at the conference will ensure that the sales reps have personalized technology solutions for your district.

It’s all about them
If you can, bring a team of teachers to a conference. Who better to drive edtech initiatives than the people who teach our students? Not only will you develop strong relationships within your district, but your teachers will come home re-energized and focused on new strategies for developing a rich, engaging, personalized curriculum. Your teachers may even represent the district by presenting at future edtech conferences—just like mine did.

Dear Diary
The sessions, the keynotes, the expo floor, oh my! We convince ourselves that we will remember everything or understand our shorthand notes when we get back to the office, but that doesn’t always happen. Find a quiet space such as the blogger or leadership area where you can take time to reflect and journalize what you have learned that day. This journaling will be invaluable when developing district tech plans or presenting to the leadership cabinet.

We are family
You should never feel alone at a conference! Join an ISTE or CoSN professional learning network, develop connections, discover available resources, and attend conference meetups. Peruse the conference schedule and follow speakers, presenters, and edtech companies on Twitter and Linkedin so the conversations and learning can continue well after the conference is over. I would suspect that you will have many new followers in return.

Feed your stomach while feeding your brain
I can’t say enough about the leadership workshops and summit events at the conferences. Check out event-planning websites such as Eventbrite for small forums and events that usually occur early in the morning or at lunchtime during the conference. These opportunities are designed so that attendees have the time to network and have small-group discussions with experts in the edtech world.

Again, it’s all about you.
We sometimes forget about the most important thing at a conference: you. Our days are long, and we are in constant motion, so prioritize self-care. Bring a pair of running or walking shoes to tour the city, drink plenty of water, and don’t skip meals. This is your time to learn, connect, re-energize, reflect, and plan for the future of edtech in your district. Finally, I give you permission to take your shoes off and sit in a lounge chair by the pool at least once during the conference.

Source: Upgrade your conference eSchool News August 2018

Top 5 Takeaways from ISTE 2018

Much like when I train for a half marathon, I train for conferences. I have a specific goal in mind, determine my pacing schedule, get plenty of rest, and drink lots of fluids. ISTE 2018 in Chicago was my latest “half marathon.” As a director of educational technology, I decided to focus on five areas at ISTE this year.


Once again, the software giants impressed me with their free educator certification programs. They recognize that it’s vital to engage and excite educators. Google for Education, Microsoft EDU, BrainPOP, and Apple all offered multi-level certification options on the Saturday and Sunday preceding ISTE 2018. Educators and future educator trainers filled packed session rooms, eager to earn the prestigious certifications and walk the expo floor wearing their “I Am Certified” T-shirts.


The new ISTE Education Leader Standards are here! These revised standards were the backdrop for multiple forums and panel discussions among district education leaders. I had the opportunity to attend the first ISTE three-day Leadership Exchange at the conference this year. The focus was on leading tech transformation in school districts. Other possibilities included the CTO Bootcamp 2.0, the CoSN CTO Forum, and the APLN breakfast forum, where forward-thinking superintendents and other educational leaders showcased their challenges and successes as they continue to drive change in their districts.


Conference attendees who step onto the expo hall floor are instantly sucked into an Oklahoma-style tornado—as visions of new products, opportunities for learning, and swag swirl around them. The Edtech Startup Pavilion, sponsored by the AT&T Foundation, was the calm eye of the ISTE tornado. It provided opportunities to have real, one-on-one conversations with small start-up companies eager to make a difference in education. Technology directors were overheard, saying that the pavilion was one of the best parts of the ISTE conference. These entrepreneurs and their products are a window into the next “big things” in edtech. Some of those I recommend checking out include LiftEd, a special education electronic medical record app, and Cirkled In, a free digital portfolio program for students.


The ISTE 2018 mobile app’s new networking feature connected attendees by a simple QR scan of conference badges. This feature allows people to save someone’s name, district, and email address to their phone’s contact list. Other networking features in the ISTE 2018 app included an attendee list and social media connections.


For me, it’s essential to have time to reflect or take a minute to regenerate during a conference of this size. I interviewed attendees who said the long lines outside of sessions and in the food court didn’t give them time to take a breath, reflect on what they had just learned, or meet up with colleagues. I found it challenging not to find a place to sit down to write an article or collect my thoughts for my upcoming presentations. We have learning spaces in our school buildings for students, so shouldn’t we provide them at conferences for educators?

ISTE is one of the best edtech conferences around. If you left Chicago with at least two positive experiences, then I highly suggest you book your flight now for ISTE 2019 in Philadelphia . . . because I am!

Source: Top 5 Takeaways from ISTE 2018 Tech & Learning Magazine July 2018

Sneak Peek at 3 New Product Launches at ISTE 2018

I had the opportunity to get a sneak peek look at some ISTE 2018 vendor launches before the ropes were dropped at the expo.

“The price of paper is cheap, but the impact on education is priceless.” –Shai Goitein, chief executive officer, PowerUp.

One of the new products being introduced at ISTE 2018 is from Power Up, a U.S. company based in Israel. This company has taken paper airplanes out of the realm of spitballs and other classroom shenanigans to a tool that educators can use to provide project-based learning opportunities for students. Imagine being able to teach critical skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and collaboration, as well as concepts such as aerodynamics and physics, all while tossing a paper airplane into the wind.

The company’s comprehensive teacher-guided curriculum addresses the ISTE Student Standards of innovative designer, empowered learner, and computational thinker.

As a district administrator, I struggle with the ‘one and done’ style of professional development. We bring in outside professional organizations who are experts in their field to lead professional development (PD) for our initiatives. However, when they leave, we as edtech and curriculum leaders are left with the follow-up and support for these initiatives. Engaging the heart and mind of our students is the mantra of the Buck Institute for Education. This project-based learning non-profit organization is changing its delivery platform. In the winter of 2019, they will be introducing hybrid PD programs where educators will have access to virtual coaching, an extensive PBL library, and online courses intended to deepen the practice. When I heard this, I actually did the tech director happy dance! Now we will have the support we need in our districts. I see this move into a blended learning model as a positive and productive partnership for school districts. Happy teachers, happy administrators!

Since 2014, OSMO’s addictive interactive iPad and tiles and block programs have helped teach students how to think critically, collaborate, and problem solve. Their 10 different apps allow teachers to design, customize, and collaborate in an online environment. Their scaffolding programs challenge students ready to go to the next step while supporting students who need more support. So how do you make this product more student-friendly and classroom-ready? By giving the people what they want: an iPad base and case! Having had the opportunity to check out these new accessories, I suspect that they will be a huge success on the expo floor and in classrooms across the country.

Source: Sneak Peek at 3 New Product Launches at ISTE 2018  eSchoolNews June 2018 

My 8 Favorite Things About CoSN 2018

If you are a tech director and were looking for a place where everyone knows your name, CoSN18 in Washington, DC, was that place. It was a gathering of more than 1,000 chief technology officers (CTOs), and the theme was Designing Learning in the 4th Industrial Revolution.

This was my first time attending a COSN conference. So not only did I look like a CoSN conference newbie but my badge ribbon “First Timer” gave me away. However, I promise it won’t be my last! How often do edtech leaders have the opportunity to spend four days sharing and discussing the great work going on in our districts? This conference was about showcasing how our districts envision, develop, and implement technology initiatives that support our students and educators.


My eight favorite things about CoSN 2018

1. The conference app. Who doesn’t love a good app? The CoSN conference app was straightforward to navigate and had a visually appealing interface. Everywhere you looked, CTOs were walking around with their eyes on their phones, looking for the session room locations and lunch schedules. My favorite features of the app were the Social Media, What’s on Next, and Activity Feeds options.

2. Innovation Central. Unlike other exhibit halls with large spaces, walls, and furniture, the kiosk-style format at CoSN18 provided an informal and casual layout that the attendees seemed to enjoy. As it was located in the main ballroom, CTOs had the opportunity to meet with the vendors before and after lunch or after spotlight sessions.

3. The Spotlight Feature sessions. Centered in the main ballroom, these sessions included authors such as Tom Vander Ark, Ted Dintersmith, and Neil Pasricha, who focused on the great work that lies ahead of us as edtech leaders. Milton Chen from Edutopia highlighted how national parks could be our best outdoor classrooms. The Deep Learning (machines) + Deeper Learning (humans) session by Charles Fadel talked about the what and whys of exponential learning for our students. Future Ready Schools continues to be the focus as Thomas Murray talked about student-centered learning.

4. How the sessions were categorized. The general sessions were broken up by tracks focusing on district type: international, large districts, and small districts. I found these tracks invaluable as I built my schedule. I attended sessions where I had rich discussions and shared information with colleagues who had similar challenges and opportunities. While these tracks identified district types, there were a few common themes throughout the conference, including connectivity, data security, and student privacy.

5. The events. In addition to the extensive general and spotlight sessions, there were other opportunities. I had the honor to attend the CoSN State Leaders Day on Sunday. I, along with my fellow Massachusetts Educational Technology Administrators board members, collaborated with other state CoSN affiliate leaders in roundtable discussions. We focused on relevant topics such as engaging rural districts, advocacy, increasing CoSN affiliate memberships, and partnerships with local businesses. We all left the event energized with resources and strategies to bring back to our states and districts.

6. Unconferencing. This increasingly popular format offers educators the opportunity to brainstorm and collaborate around topics of educational interest. How cool was it for CoSN18 to take this format and set up a CoSN Camp? Campfire settings around the main ballroom floor were complete with s’mores, lanterns, and fireside seating. Topics included Making Classroom Materials Accessible for All Students, Leading Mindfully, and Global Lessons from the Interconnected World of Edtech. Featured speakers such as Ted Dintersmith, Tom Vander Ark, and Darryl Adams spent time at the CoSN Camp, talking with attendees about innovation and the future of education.

7. The ability to laugh at ourselves. During FailFest 2018, three brave technology directors (who will not be identified to protect their reputations) stood up in front of their colleagues and humbly talked about a major fail in their district. The audience voted on the biggest failure by shouting and blowing noisemakers. We could all relate to their experiences and look forward to being crowned FailFest Champion in 2019.

8. The consistent focus on education for technology leaders. We are all in the edtech business because we believe in the development of teacher leaders and our students’ challenge to exceed even their highest expectations. CoSN exemplifies and supports these beliefs through two programs: the NextGen Leaders program, which recognizes and mentors up-and-coming edtech leaders who are leveraging technology to create and grow engaging learning environments; and the Certified Education Technology Leader (CETL) program, in which CoSN supported the high standards outlined in the K-12 Frameworks of Essential Skills for K-12 CTOs by providing certification training and onsite testing at the event. New CETLs were honored at breakfast and recognized at the opening plenary.

If you missed CoSN18, fear not! You’ll have to go to CoSN19 in Portland, Oregon, on April 1-4, 2019. See you there!

Originally Published:

What’s Happening at FETC 2018?

Originally Published:

Even if you didn’t need a reason to travel to sunny Orlando in January, the opportunity to attend FETC should have you packing your comfy walking shoes and an extra suitcase for all the swag. This is my 12th year attending FETC, and I have never been more excited about the EdTech trends being highlighted at this conference.

Security and data privacy workshops/sessions at FETC have tech leaders packing the house. With devices now integral tools in learning environments and so many of these devices in students’ hands, school districts, parents, and community members are hammering to find the right security options for their students.

Cybersecurity companies focus their attention on providing school districts and parents with insurance that student safety and privacy both at school and in the home are guaranteed.

Educational scavenger hunts such as Breakout EDU peppered many of the sessions. The sessions focused on both professional-development applications and classroom applications. Microsoft OneNote was even a presence at some of the sessions. These types of educational scavenger hunts are trending as participants must work together to solve various clues to open the Breakout EDU strongbox. The sessions I attended demonstrated the problem-solving skills needed to reach the goal, and the teacher’s energy was through the roof!

Today’s technology-rich classrooms are clawing to get at the latest game-based learning tools and digital applications. Long gone are the early 2000s edtech games such as Reader Rabbit and Carmen Sandiego. The Game-Based Learning Pavilion at FETC is a highlight for many of the conference attendees. The Agents of Discovery platform was one of the highlighted applications that transform mobile devices into augmented reality (AR) games.

Do you know those people—the ones who always have the neatest toys before anyone else? Well, teachers at FETC can be the “cool kids” on the block. This year, FETC introduced a Hands-On Technology Lab where conference participants can check out the EdTech toys that will make all the other teachers in their buildings green with envy.

Coding… coding… everyone is coding!  Sessions by exhibitors highlighted the infinite possibilities for creativity and collaboration when students are engaged in coding. From kindergarten to college level, companies such as Osmo, Ozobot, LittleBits, and Pi-Top provide teachers with curriculum-rich, standards-based lessons that will prepare students for the 21½ century.

Interactive platforms have become very comprehensive. They offer teachers engaging lessons, virtual reality (VR) and AR experiences, video options, and real-time assessments.

Students take ownership of their learning through a variety of personalized assessment and instructional choices. There are a few companies to check out, including Nearpod and Genius Plaza, which emphasize cultural relevance and the connection to students’ social and emotional development.

EdTech giants are in the house at this conference: Apple, Microsoft, and Google presentations in the exhibit hall and the session rooms. Google did not have a booth since they are at BETT in London, and they were definitely missed. These EdTech companies continue to show their commitment to providing teachers with the tools and support to integrate technology in classrooms and online. All three provided no-cost certification events for educators, and teachers were seen walking the halls with their Google, Apple, and Microsoft educator badges with pride. Not to be left out, BrainPOP, as usual, had “popping good” certification events as well. It is evident from the workshops, sessions, and special events that the trend is for teachers and school districts to use various products to provide students with technology-rich instruction.

Finally, it is time to give a shout-out to a new start-up company Hippo Video. I had time to get a one-on-one presentation from its co-founders. Hippo Video’s platform is a screen, voice, and webcam recorder that focuses on the flipped-classroom model. One of the first things that drew me to the product is that it is a Chrome extension. Once installed, it is an option in Google Classroom as an assignment and can be embedded in Google Docs. I was also impressed with the screen-recording features. Using a presentation tool, a teacher can record a lesson with both video and voice. With the same features, students can record their understanding of a lesson, topic, or project. This interactive interface provides so many possibilities for both synchronous and asynchronous learning.

I have only touched on a few of the many trending, innovative, and interactive EdTech products and tech integration applications. While I have mentioned a few products and companies, there are many more to check out at FETC 2018. I can’t guarantee that you will find every product or solution for your classroom or district at this conference. Still, I can guarantee that you will leave FETC 2018 with renewed energy and a tool belt full of innovative ideas that will have you purchasing your plane tickets for FETC 2019!

Copyright © 2022 Belastock Consulting- All Rights Reserved.