FETC Was Great(er) Again This Year
by Charles Sosnik
Kudos to the team at FETC. Like many of you, I am a veteran of nearly one hundred education conferences and events over my lifetime. In just this past year, I found myself in Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas and Miami. All great cities. All great events.
As I get older, I am limiting my travel. But one event, the Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC), will always be on my agenda. I have attended this annual event nearly a dozen times. There have been changes – originally called the Florida Education Technology Conference, this big-time conference was rebranded a few years ago when it was purchased by LRP and became the Future of Education Conference. It was a bold move; FETC was already among the largest super-regional education events in America and had a built-in attendance in the state of Florida, reaching nearly 10,000 attendees in some years.
But LRP wanted more. Improvements were made in the programming and a concerted effort was made to get the word out. With public relations work from MindRocket Media Group amplifying presenters’ voices and making connections to the press, the whole thing has taken on a big-time feel. New attendees included more superintendents and heads of technology from around the country. Gone were the busloads of Florida teachers walking the expo with bags of free swag. The new FETC had purpose, and it turns out educators from all four corners of the globe were interested in the role that technology would play in our children’s future.
LRP and their advisors have completely rebranded the conference, and feedback from the event is overwhelmingly positive. This year’s event moved from its perennial home in Orlando to Miami and future-plans have it moving west to New Orleans and beyond. Of course, since it is always held in January, keeping it south of the Mason-Dixon Line is a great way to keep the attendance high.
One thing that has always made the conference great to attend is the fact that it is considered a major-league event in the education world and the largest in the country in that part of the year. That means that it is easy to retain in district budgets, and the same major players attend every year. For someone like me who operates predominately by phone, I get to see my friends there every year. And I make new friends.
One of my new friends is Cal Brunell, co-founder of Everyday Speech. Everyday Speech is a new kind of social-emotional learning program, using video modeling for complete coverage from Pre-k – 12. Brunell founded the company in 2012 with his partner and wife, Brittany Brunell, who is responsible for all clinical content within Everyday Speech therapy materials.
Another new friend is Raigan Irwin-McCabe from Troxell-CDI. When I think of her company, I think of a large technology vendor. But since the merger with CDI, a lot of new things are happening. Specifically, Troxell-CDI is on the forefront of the burgeoning Esports industry, providing technology and expertise to equip schools for the largest participatory education activity to ever present itself. Raigan is so passionate, and she is backed by a team that is nothing short of amazing. As Esports continues to grow, I hope more and more districts will get to know Raigan.
I also enjoyed getting to know Justin Reilly, Chief Executive Officer at Impero. His company is doing some big things with their edaware software, helping teachers and counselors keep our kids safe. Justin is a Brit who spent a good bit of time in Africa as CEO of Mwabu, an eLearning solution for students and their teachers. His dedication to learning and student well-being is inspiring. He brings every bit of that dedication to his new gig at Impero. Keep an eye out for him at the big EdTech shows this year. He is definitely a rising star now in America.
I could go on and on about all the new people I met, and I’m sure I will mention them in future columns. That’s the value in attending a show like FETC. As we know, education is a relationship business. The relationships you and I make will pay dividends for years to come. To a person, everyone I meet at conferences like FETC is packed with passion and on-fire to help children. Sure, EdTech is exciting and it’s fun to see the latest swag. But the real secret sauce is the people behind the tech. Get to know them. Explore possibilities for your districts. If you can dream it, the people in EdTech can probably do it. And the kids in our schools will wake from your dream to find a better future for themselves and their children.