FETC 2015 Day 3

This post is coming a little after the fact, as you might have noticed. I spent the day at Universal Studios Orlando yesterday but I don’t have much to report on that, educationally speaking.

Here are some quick overall observations from my time in Florida, which are not necessarily specific to the FETC:

  • When going to the FETC, be very careful to take note of who is giving the session. If it is on the exhibit floor, it’s usually a sales pitch. However, some sessions are researchers presenting their findings, which can be useful. Poster sessions are teachers presenting their ideas on a tackboard, so they don’t necessarily take up the whole time on the schedule; some don’t have a whole lot to say in the first place.
  • Orlando roads, while well maintained, are weirdly designed. Even if you’re watching the GPS, it’s easy to get turned around and headed in the wrong direction. If you set the GPS to avoid toll roads, expect a snaky route.
One of the neat products on display at FETC 2015 - a couch that charges the user's devices; learning commons anyone?
One of the neat products on display at FETC 2015 – a couch that charges the user’s devices; learning commons anyone?

Highlights on the Friday and last day of FETC included a keynote from David Monina Sengeh, from the MIT Media Lab. More significantly, he is from Sierra Leone, and is making an effort to encourage young Sierra Leoneans to think like community-minded entrepreneurs. He represents a contest called Inlabs Innovate Salone that has been accomplishing just that. Some of the projects that have resulted from the contest include an awareness-building campaign to help people develop proper hand washing habits to reduce cholera outbreaks, and sensors to detect elephant movements so more people can monitor their location and appreciate them. Monina Sengeh wants to tell young people that what they do and what they make matters.

I attended a personally inspiring session called Are You a Shogun? Build a Tech Ninja Program […]. Mickey Chavannes presented on how his school created a program for student techies called “Tech Ninjas”. These students applied and were selected by a teacher coordinator. They had an interest in technology, but were not necessarily experts, just students with an interest in helping out. Scattered throughout the homerooms, a teacher in need could send a request to their “help desk” or could just call out for a ninja in the classroom, who would then step forward to assist. Ninjas did everything from helping out with functionality to hardware repairs, so, while the latter would not work in my own district, I could definitely see a purpose for student ninjas on hand. The greatest benefit to the program was that nerdy students, typically lacking in leadership opportunities or ability, found their place in their school community and became more self-assured as a result.

Aurasma is a web and app-based tool that was introduced to me last year, but I still hadn’t gotten my head wrapped around it so I decided to attend Lauren Tate’s session called Augmented Reality: Bring Your Classroom to Life With Aurasma. If you’re not familiar with Aurasma, the app basically scans a picture and plays a short video or some other media (“aura”) once it recognizes the “trigger”. There are a lot of possibilities with Aurasma; Tate used it to animate Valentine’s Day cards that were sent home, making an ordinary parent gift special when it played a message from the child. As I sat at the session, I thought that creating an art show with the art works acting as triggers would allow the artist to include a recorded message on how it might have been created or a deeper understanding of the message behind the piece. Unfortunately the app is only available for iOS and Android, but this should cover most users at this time. Auras can be created on the website.

As seen at Orlando Studios, Florida.
As seen at Orlando Studios, Florida.

The closing keynote was particularly inspiring, combining presentations from former governer Bob Wise, Lucien Vattel, CEO of Gamedesk, and Adam Bellow, the founder of eduTecher and eduClipper. Wise spoke on the qualifications for schools to become “future ready”, which you can learn more about at Future Ready Schools. Vattel imagined what Earth 2.0 might look like, where students’ learning is much more experiential, hands on, and maker-based. One of the really eat things that Gamedesk is doing is called Educade, which is a free game-based learning website for students and teachers. I set up an account while he was presenting and can’t wait to explore the site. Bellow presented an extremely polished graphics-based talk. Some of the best soundbytes included “date the device, marry the abilities”, “PBL should allow the child to make a difference in the world” (somewhat paraphrased), and “break it, make it, share it”. He clearly keeps his fingers in many trends, pointing out the emergence of wearables, 3D printing, augmented reality, and BYOD and their potential impacts on education in the future.

All in all FETC 2015 was an inspiring and unforgettable experience; if you’re looking for some extraordinary PD in the future, I highly recommend it.

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