FETC 2014

I just returned from FETC 2014 in Orlando, FL. Conferences are a great way to take the pulse of the education technology industry, and FETC is the first major event of the year. Companies tend to be debuting their latest and greatest in the exhibit hall while the thought leaders in breakout sessions cover new trends in pedagogy.

Here is what I found over the course of the week:

The Overall Health of the Industry

To say the education technology ecosystem is growing is an understatement. Not only did the exhibit hall have the full complement of the big players there, but for the first time FETC set up an “incubation corridor,” where ed-tech start ups presented their fresh, new ideas. These companies included:

  • Mapstory, using Google Maps and Street View to create visual representations of events
  • Learning Bird, an intuitive tutoring solution
  • TeacherMatch, helping administrators place teachers using an algorithm
  • Zyante, providing computer science and coding courseware

Backchannel Chats

I must have stumbled into 3-4 sessions that leveraged backchanneling. For the uninitiated, backchanneling is providing a safe chat environment for students during a lecture or video, so they can react to the information without disrupting class.

As more classrooms and schools move to 1:1 environments or BYOD policies, more backchanneling will occur and solutions will become more robust. These solutions can range from a free chat website like todaysmeet.com to simply establishing a Twitter #hashtag before class.

Augmented Reality

Just as augmented reality has recently moved from the edge of possibility to a legitimate use of technology in mainstream life, so to is the education industry taking notice of products like Google Glass and a wave of new apps for mobile devices.

Several people were walking around with a Glass, while there were a few companies in the exhibit hall whose future plans for their LMS or content product included the augmented reality space. It’s still so new that the applications haven’t been fully realized yet, but these tools will be appearing in your classroom sooner rather than later.

Facilitating Flipping

A lot of the “tips and tricks” sessions tended to focus on media creation. Everyone was sharing video editing sources and podcasting sites, like PowToon, TubeChop, and Easel.ly, for one purpose: to facilitate flipped learning. The movement has gone from merely explaining what it is to helping teachers flip more efficiently and effectively. The barrier to entry for flipping a classroom is shrinking, meaning that more and more teachers will be able to take the leap.

The Next Level

Did you go to FETC? Did you come away with new ideas to implement in your classroom? Share your thoughts in the comments section below or via Twitter @KidblogDotOrg

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About the Author
Five years of experience as an English teacher in middle and high school, technical writer and product specialist for a medical software company.

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