Monday, January 26, 2015

#FETC 2015 Recap

I had the opportunity to attend the Future of Educational Technology Conference (FETC) in Orlando Florida this past week. FETC is one of the largest EdTech conferences in the country with over 10,000 attendees from around the world.

FETC is a HUGE conference with lots of big names and big ideas. Here are my top take-aways from the 2015 conference:

1. The maker movement is growing
I can't tell you how many sessions there were  on 3D Printing, makerspaces, tinkering, hacking, etc. The 2015 Keynotes included the COO of Makerbot, designers of one of the top 3D printers in schools today.
The vendor hall was filled with products and companies supporting and connected with the maker movement.

2. The future of technology links the digital and the physical
I sat in a great session from Brad Waid and Drew Minock (Two  Guys and Some iPads) that showcased the latest in Augmented Reality (AR). The blending of the digital and physical world is very cool and powerful for classrooms, especially those like science that study the physical world. 3D printing, programming physical objects and makerspaces connect our devices and everyday physical objects.

Unlike consumer shows like CES, there wasn't a whole lot of buzz about wearables in the classroom (just one session on Google Glass - may it rest in peace). Google Glass, smart watches, etc aren't being touted as the next educational frontier. Teachers and students don't need more devices to connect and configure, but they are interested in linking the physical classroom (papers, books, objects, lab-ware, etc) to the devices they do have.

3. Cool Product of the Show - Swivl
I walked through the entire vendor hall at FETC and two products captured my attention:

Swivl - Think Roomba for your iOS device! Swivl is a rotating "robot" that follows you while capturing video and audio. Swivl can also sync your slide presentation with video. The final product is a picture-in-picture video with your slides and you! Swivl has great application for the flipped classroom and for anyone who creates a lot of training videos and podcasts.

Air Squirrels Mirroring - First, you have to love the name! Who wouldn't want with a company called "Air Squirrels?" Air Squirrels is the creator of the reflector app that mirrors your iPad to your computer. They also just launched "Air Parrot" which can mirror your Chromebook to your Apple TV (no audio support yet), Chromecast, or Reflector App. This is a great product for anyone needing to creating training videos and instructional guides on the use of Chromebooks.

4. Educators Can Influence Companies
I had an opportunity to talk with members of several large tech companies about their involvement in education and how certain practices and strategies might NOT be wise for them to continue. I was grateful at the willingness of these companies to hear "our" recommendations and their sensitivity to our needs.

Educators should partner and connect with tech companies to help shape their products, services, and marketing strategies. We need them; they need us.

5. Gaming in the classroom
The "gameification" of the classroom is still a widely discussed topic, but classroom gaming still hasn't founds its place. Gaming still feels like an "add-on" to existing classroom practices rather than something deeply integrated into the curriculum and instructional strategies.

I'm not sure I see a future where "school is a game" ever coming to pass. Rather, I see some of the core elements of gaming (problem/task based challenges, "multi-player" learning, badges, and "leveling") making their way into existing practice. This idea was buried in the short concluding keynote of Lucien Vattel, CEO of GameDesk.

As we move into conference season, I would love to hear the trends that you observe as you attend conference near you. Do you agree with these trends? Are there additional trends that you see gaining momentum?


  1. Mr. Sowash,

    My name is Erika Owen and I’m a student studying elementary education at the University of South Alabama. I really enjoyed reading this post. I am currently in EDM310, which is a micro computing systems course. It has helped open my eyes on how technology has evolved and is being used in the classroom today. It must have been a great experience to attend the FETC. I love the idea of bringing in 3D printers for learning purposes! I agree, that could be useful for teaching science. It could also be used for an art classroom as well. I just recently became familiar with “flipping the classroom,” and I would be interested in trying it out with using the Swivl. Plus the fact that it moves like a robot makes it even more fun. Thanks for sharing!

    -Erika Owen

  2. Hey John! Great review of FETC! We were also there, with Handouts, the simple classroom workflow app! It addresses the creation, distribution, annotation & grading of assignments for the tablet enabled classroom. No more photocopies!
    Anyone who joins us now will receive Handouts PRO free for their school for 1 year:

  3. Mr. Sowash,

    My name is Kaley McManus, and I am majoring in Elementary education at the University of South Alabama. I am currently in an educational media class called EDM 310. We have been discussing and blogging on topics covering the importance of technology in the classroom and the many benefits of classroom collaboration. I enjoyed reading your post, and I am very impressed with your list of top take-aways from the FETC. As a future educator, the Swivl really got my attention. I could see myself using the Swivl for the "flipping the classroom" method of teaching, or even using it as a resource for my student's parents to inform them on what is being instructed in class. Thanks for sharing and looking forward to future posts.

    URL for class blog:
    URL for class:

  4. My Turner Mason I am a student in EDM 310 at University Of South Alabama. It must have be very exciting to think about 3D printers in the class room! I am A Physical Education major so i was wondering how a 3D prnter could help me. But i guess we will see


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