The Details That Make an EdTech Conference a Success
An interview with FETC Program Chair Jennifer Womble
Jennifer Womble, Program Chair for the Future of Education Technology Conference® (FETC®), is excited about celebrating the 40th anniversary of the conference this year. The conference will head south from Orlando to Miami for the first time and she looks forward to attendees experiencing the city’s unique culture as part of the backdrop to this year's conference. More importantly, she’s proud to involve Miami-Dade schools in conference programming, which includes field trips for attendees to visit schools and student music performances.
Data evaluation is part of the conference prep process and Womble is proud of how FETC is continuously trying to build the very best professional development to meet the needs of all districts. "We do a lot of research on what we have offered in the past. We analyze what content people are going to see. We do surveys and a lot of in-person interviews," she says. She spent the spring interviewing superintendents about what technology needs were happening across the country and used that information to alter FETC programming to meet the real-life interests of school districts.
"This year, we saw a huge increase in school districts’ understanding educators’ need for on-site training and the need for 'just-in-time' mentoring on campuses. There's been a big movement in education to include more coaching. We see instructional coaching, technology integration specialists, technology coaches, and reading coaches. And it's really exciting because, in education, mentors are making a big difference in student learning on campus and teachers can practice strategies."
FETC has built a new track around coaching that will be unveiled as part of the summit pre-conference, in addition to a new track for librarians and media specialists, based on feedback from past attendees. The role has been evolving in school districts over the last 10 years. As Womble points out, "In some schools, they might be known as the 'librarian,' but in other schools, they're the 'director of the maker space.' In other schools, they're the 'IT person.'" These educators have a significant impact on technology choices and curating of resources.
Womble is excited to see that people are spending time in sessions, as well as on the Expo floor. FETC is a conference that brings the convergence of innovation and information to help provide a solid background of knowledge and build overall skills. "Superintendents tell me that they send faculty to our conference to learn how to use products in their district,” she says. “They also learn how to master them and integrate them into their classroom. They want to see a return on investment.”
This year's conference will feature keynotes from Daniel Pink and Justin Shaifer. The challenge in choosing keynotes, according to Womble, is finding speakers who can address the changing culture in education, speak about increased innovation, and offer useful feedback, that are attributes shared by both individuals. "Daniel Pink really was the perfect fit because he talks a lot about human behavior and has done the research and brings a lot of that research to site. Whether you're an administrator, educator or coach, there are pieces of all of his books that can be employed in education to boost student performance, give better feedback, improve motivation, curiosity, and autonomy."
Shaifer is an up-and-coming keynoter whose story resonates with many students. As Womble explains, "He taps into what's happening with young people and helps those in education reflect on what happens inside the classroom that builds curiosity. [He understands] how to engage students and the way STEM propels all students into future careers."
The 40th anniversary Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) will take place January 14-17, 2020 in Miami, Fla. Registration is now open at https://www.fetc.org/register
About Jennifer Womble
Jennifer Womble is Program Chair for the Future of Education Technology Conference® (FETC®). She is responsible for the oversight of content and presentations for FETC, the largest independent edtech conference in North America that specializes in developing innovative, hands-on experiences to engage audiences and promote learning experiences. She implements activities and practices for successful event session presentations and educational technology workshops.
Womble is also part of the editorial team for LRP Media Group, with editorial duties for education topics for LRP Media and District Administration including: Administration and Management; Curriculum and Instruction; Facilities and Security; Student Success and Brain Based Learning; Technology and Cybersecurity. Follow her on Twitter.
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