‘Future of Ed-Tech’ Focus of International Conference in Florida
Learning “what’s hot in ed-tech” was central to the 37th annual Future of Education Technology Conference held here this week, with nearly 10,000 registered visitors and 450 exhibitors.
The four-day meeting and showcase, which had been known as the Florida Education Technology Conference until this year, drew nearly 10,000 teachers, media specialists, administrators and IT leaders from the U.S. and 40 countries, who want to find out about the latest technology, how it’s being deployed in classrooms, and what might be useful in theirs.
Hundreds of attendees gathered Friday morning, on the last day, to see a “tech share” keynote. Speakers drew audible “wows” when the audience heard some of their discoveries. Among them:
- Cameras that allow students to take their own 360-degree videos for use in virtual reality headsets;
- A class where students went on a scavenger hunt by asking questions and getting answers from Amazon Echo and Google Home, which use artificial intelligence;
- EarSketch, which takes the concept of music and applies it to coding; and
- A special font called OpenDyslexic that was created to increase readability for people with dyslexia.
Coding was a common theme, and Adam Bellow, CEO of Breakout EDU, shared his favorite coding sites and “build your own” materials to create computers and code robots. But as important as the technology is, Bellow said it’s essential for educators to make sure that students’ coding assignments are relevant. “The problem has to matter; that’s the most important part…as you challenge your kids,” he said.
Bellow also emphasized the work that has been done by the department of education to help school leaders and teachers. He referred the audience to recently updated materials from the U.S. Office of Education Technology, including the National Education Technology Plan and the #GoOpen initiative.
Attending the conference, “gives a distorted sense of reality,” said Steve Dembo, a consultant, school board member, and former teacher who served on a panel at the end of the conference.
Much of what brings a “wow” now is taking years to get into schools. What was considered “high tech” in ed-tech four or five years ago is what’s getting some traction in schools today, he said.
“Inertia is doing more harm to schools right now than anything else: just waiting for that right tool, that right PD, that right gadget,” said Dembo, who believes that educators need to move forward, faster. “How do you hack the classroom as it is, instead of waiting for the future to come to you?” Dembo asked.
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