Education conferences are so full of exciting learning opportunities that they tend to go by in a flash and FETC in Orlando, Florida is no exception. There are so many great sessions to attend, events check out, and conversations to have that it can be difficult to know where to start and what to prioritize. After years of attending FETC, we’ve developed a handy guide to the conference so you can focus on enjoying yourself.
At Studyo, we’re all about helping students and teachers plan their days so that they can maximize the potential of every moment. In that spirit, we’re sharing our tips and tricks with you to ensure that you walk away with the knowledge, skills, and experience that you’re looking for. Here are 10 effective ways to make the most of FETC for yourself and for the school you represent!
Be your school’s ambassador
You’ve been presented with a unique opportunity, so take some time to reflect on your goals for FETC. What new ideas do you want to learn about? What challenges do you want to overcome? Make a short list of topics you’re going to commit to investigating while you’re there. At the conference, you’ll have three main sources to learn from: the program’s sessions and workshops, your peers – fellow educators and leaders who have their own stories to share, and the edtech vendors in the expo hall who have their own experiences and innovations to showcase. Be sure to make time to investigate your topics from all three of these valuable perspectives.
Don’t forget, if you are one of the lucky people from your school attending, ask your colleagues about their interests and challenges as well and do your best to report back. Be your school’s ambassador!
Plan just enough
Go through the program a few days in advance and highlight the sessions you don’t want to miss. Be sure to leave some empty space in each day to make room for serendipity to strike, connecting with other educators, and walking the expo hall to find out about exciting new tools and innovations. A nice balance of planned and spontaneous activities is a sure-fire way to enjoy the conference.
Do your research on Twitter
Beyond the program, Twitter is great online resource for researching the conference. Comb through Twitter using the official hashtag #FETC or the unofficial but often used hashtag, #FETC2018. Look for intel on sessions, interesting giveaways and contests, and networking meetups. Make a note of these in your calendar, register for any events or giveaways you may need to, and setup chats and lunches with Twitter connections you want to meetup with (in person!).
Start your day with all the information you need
Attend the New @FETC session delivered by the program chair, Jennifer Womble. She’ll be able to offer additional insight on the program and the many special events taking place over the course of the conference. This session will also be a great opportunity to meet and welcome teachers who are attending FETC for the first time. Let’s all make sure to welcome new teachers who are prioritizing their professional development!
Be active on Twitter. Share what you learn, and connect with the new friends you make so that you can stay in-touch all year long. Post pictures and highlights, capture magic moments, and share and compare your experiences with your online community. Let your professional learning network (PLN) know what your learning goals for the conference are. They’ll be able to point you in the right direction.
Hang out at the bloggers cafe
Visit the bloggers cafe or lounge – a great spot to connect with your professional learning network in person and meet new people who share your interests. Bloggers are great people to talk to because they often have the inside scoop on great sessions to check out and events to drop by. They are also a font of edtech knowledge. Bouncing ideas off someone with their pulse on the online community can only help you achieve your learning goals for the conference. If you’ve got your list of learning goals and topics on hand, be sure to gather input on who you can learn more from, what books to read, and if there are helpful online communities for you to explore.
FETC loves Q&As
Going to sessions and actively listening is a great way to participate, but don’t be afraid to get more involved by asking questions in sessions. There will likely be a bunch of knowledgeable people in the room who have great insight to share, so speak up. Refer back to your list of important topics, and crowdsource that room! People who share your concerns and challenges will be drawn to you and conversations will grow within the session and beyond.
When you attend a session and learn a new valuable skill, make sure to practice it as soon as you can. If you don’t have time within the session, then make sure to revisit the skill before the end of day in order to reinforce that fresh new knowledge. Adults need practice to commit training to memory and these exciting new skills stand to improve teaching significantly. So, don’t wait, replicate!
The expo hall is a site for learning
Browse the exhibition hall with intention. Pay special attention to your goals and look for vendors that might be able to help you. Ask questions about the benefits of integrating tools into your specific classroom context. Share your struggles with vendors and look for help with tools you are already using. You can also feel free to offer feedback to the vendors about the tools you are using on how they can make them better. You are an education expert and don’t you forget it!
While you’re in the neighborhood, don’t forget to say ‘hi’ to the Studyo team at booth #1853. You can also check out the Studyo session, Work Smarter not Harder, which will be delivered on Wednesday at 4PM. We’ll be offering practical tools and recommendations on how teachers can develop their work-life balance and a year’s worth of free access to our School and Life Achievement System application. Come by and give it a test run!
Save your appetite
With all this learning and networking under your belt, you’ll have worked up a serious appetite. Get your colleagues and new connections together for an enjoyable night on the town.
Cafe Tu Tu Tango is tasty, fun and has a really creative ambiance. Artists paint throughout the night, and shows are performed to the patrons’ delight! You can even purchase a painting while you’re there to commemorate the occasion. This hotspot definitely requires a reservation.
Senor Frog is a casual FETC eatery to swing by. It’s a short walk away from the convention centre so you’ll likely bump into other folks attending the conference. Push those tables together and enjoy the company of your peers amongst food and drink. Discuss your goals for the future, exchange strategies and new tools, and just enjoy your time around a bunch of likeminded people.
Chat it up over dinner
Some of the best ideas are thought up between peers sharing food and drink. Grab a bite to eat with someone who seems interesting, and ask them about their story. You’ve probably come from different walks of life, but ended up at the same conference. Everybody has something to teach you, and while the conference will be ripe with knowledgeable speakers and presenters, don’t forget about people just like yourself who are in a position to understand your experience, while offering insight from their own. Ask people about their lives, about where they come from, about the challenges they face and the solutions they’ve found. Ask people what their dreams are: you never know when a new idea will spark a lifelong passion!
No matter what you do at FETC, don’t forget this is your time. This is time for you to learn, to connect, and to grow as an educator. Attending FETC is such a great learning opportunity, so make sure you get the most out of it by living in the moment…and most importantly, enjoy!
Roxanne Desforges is a former high school math and entrepreneurship teacher. She currently teaches pre-service teachers on how to use educational technology at McGill University, where she also conducts research on education and the future of work. She is a strong advocate for the professional treatment of teachers and focuses on helping the next generation of teachers to be better and more holistically prepared for the job.