#FETC Day 1: Ideas & Inspiration

My first day at the Future of Education Technology Conference (@FETC | #FETC) was jam packed with ideas on how to use technology to improve student learning. From past experience I’ve realized that many ideas that seem promising during a conference either collect dust on a bookshelf or are forever lost in Google Drive after the conference if I don’t do something with them right away.

So, I was hoping that if I do a better job of recording what I learn, reflect on it and share the ideas with others, I’ll be more likely to actually implement them. So, here it goes:


The keynote included presentations on augmented reality, Microsoft Education, Discovery Education and others. One that stood out was Summit Learning an LMS and school-wide program with funding from Facebook, has an approach that could be useful to many other schools:

    • Students regularly meeting with teachers/mentors to set long term goals for the year and then crafting daily/weekly goals that help reach those goals.
    • Mentors & students jointly decide which activities will help them reach their goals by utilizing an online platform which includes concrete concept modules and higher level project based learning
    • Teachers/Mentors track progress towards goals through a comprehensive dashboard and intervene as necessary


A few takeaways from conversations with vendors:

  • Flipgrid: Leverage students interest in, Snapchat, to encourage students to have meaningful video based discussions. Teachers begin the conversation wiInteresting fact: students re-record themselves 4 times before finally posting meaning they’re revising their words and thinking to ensure they’re showing their best selves to their peers. This could be a great tool for ELLs to practice their English in a safe way but with authentic audiences and centered on a particular topic.
  • Miscellaneous notes: Buy district wide licenses from WeVideo but only pay for the amount you actually you use with the cost declining the more you buy. GoGuardian allows for strong web filtering, monitoring of students work and device deployment. Lenovo has a number of new Chromebooks that can run Android apps, have a stylus, etc.

Poster Presentations

Blended Professional Development by  Kristie Burk (@KristieLBurk): How to use a blended model to deliver effective PD and leverage instructional coaches at a low cost.

  • They use Schoology for blended professional development (but any platform can work like Canvas, Moodle, etc) and modules can be topics like formative assessment, note-taking, cooperative learning, etc. that are taught throughout the year (not just for “new” teachers to the District.)
  • Teachers voluntarily join the monthly PD program with a 2-year commitment and complete activities online before/after the sessions to make the most of the limited face-to-face time they have. Most of the teachers who volunteer for the program are veteran teachers who want to enhance their skills.
  • During their monthly face to face meetings they:
    • Discuss what the research shows is best practice and methods of applying it to various subject areas
    • Create a lesson plan demonstrating that tool or strategy (e.g. group rotation model)
    • Their “homework” is to teach the lesson or activity they designed and reflect on what went well or could be improved.
    • When teachers teach that lesson, instructional coaches come into the classroom and observe, support and give feedback to the teacher who implemented a lesson or tool for the first time.
  • Some courses at school are taught in blended learning format because it:
    • It helps alleviate the problem of not having enough classrooms
    • Gives students opportunity to experience and prepare for a more college like environment (they don’t have to be in classroom for all periods during all days of the week)
    • Allows students to take additional classes that they normally wouldn’t be able to fit in their normal schedule
  • Instructional coaches keep careful logs on hours spent, projects completed, teachers assisted, etc so their value to the district is well documented. Teachers present activities they’ve done using technology or with help of instructional coaches to demonstrate 1:1 ‘s value to school board.

Augmented Reality Women’s Heritage Walk by: Karina Kolb (University of Florida)

  • Tools like Aurasma can be used to add supplementary multimedia material to physical objects by using augmented reality
  • AR can provide a more immersive experience in history (e.g. when students scan an image the app plays sounds, speeches, etc that took place at that location in history)
  • It would be especially powerful to have students create an Aurasma tour because they would have to decide what material to include and then create the multimedia.

BOGO: Bring one, Get one  by Jennifer Owen Hencken & Jennifer Baselice (@JenBaselice)

  • A low tech but high impact idea: have teachers share teaching tips in a common area, other teachers can share one/take one.
  • Use Post it Plus app to scan all the post its and then rearrange and categorize them.

Literature Circles enhanced by Technology by Terence Cavanaugh

  • Students pick which book they want to read with literature circle after reading 1st chapter of various books so they don’t just choose a short or easy book and choose one they’re interested in.
  • Students fulfill roles that can improve all students comprehension of the text: Graphic Illustrator (depicts main ideas & themes) , Vocabulary Elaborator (create a list of key terms & help group define them), Graphic Organizer (creates a concept map) , Background Researcher (researches  when & where writing occurred) , Mapper/Tracker (map charting location of activities of key characters). 

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