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Another January Means Another FETC

For the last few Januarys, I have been lucky enough to attend the Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC). This was my fourth year attending, and thanks to my colleague, Jenny O'Sullivan, who pushed me to submit proposals with her, it was my third year as a presenter. Each time I present it feels like the first time, yet I am getting more and more comfortable doing it.

This year’s presentation was a big one for me. I was able to present my first 2-hour workshop. These sessions cost extra money for attendees to attend so the pressure was on. We presented our Green Screen + AR session, and this time we walked everyone through the process of duplicating our First Grade Garden project. Overall it went well, but I am looking forward to our next opportunity to present it. There are definitely things we will tweak to make the presentation better. I think my favorite part of presenting this topic is the reaction we get when we show the final "product." When we presented this as a poster session at ISTE last summer, people would walk by thinking, “I already know about green screen and augmented reality.” Then they see our project in action and they turn around and ask, “Wait… how did you do that?” I love that we have provided teachers with new engaging ideas. Want to see Jenny and my presentation from FETC? Click here or go to

As far as my own personal learning, there were a few things that were takeaways for me this year:

There were many sessions about how to use Alexa Skills Blueprints in the classroom. This was surprising to me. Using Alexa, you can go to the website and create your own personal skills for your kids. Need a review for an upcoming test? Make a quiz “question and answer” session for the kids. “Alexa, ask me a question about ____.” I have a bunch of ideas! I was thinking about making some quizzes for each unit of science and social studies. Then when we transition or have 5 minutes here are there, we could take a few quick questions to make the students think. Maybe I could make a blueprint where the kids can ask Alexa what strategy to use when solving math equations. “Alexa, which math strategy should we use?” Then it will randomly pick one of our strategies we have learned so far. As we learn new strategies, I can add them to the list. So many possibilities…

AR, or augmented reality, was HUGE at FETC this year. I have a couple things I am leaving thinking about regarding AR. First, as we plan this year’s Garden Project, Jenny and I are in search of a new augmented reality app to replace the soon-to-be "revamped" HP Reveal. So this is a long story I’ll save for another post, but let's just say that we were leaving to present a two-hour workshop to TEACH how to use this tool and we got an email saying, "Hi! We are shutting it down." Again, I will save the rest for another post later... Anyway, I think we have a lead on a possible replacement – a product called Thyng. Let’s hope it will work. Stay tuned… 

The other AR related product I want to try is the Merge Cube. I know I am behind on this trend, but I definitely am ready to give it a try. Seems to provide a variety of learning opportunities. I love when products start off as "toys" and, once teachers get their hands on them, turn into amazing educational tools. I know it will increase engagement, but I am looking forward to seeing if Merge Cube can help increase mastery. 

#ThreeTechieOwls + #BrainPopMoby
Overall, I think my favorite part of FETC this year was going with friends and colleagues who push me to be better. They push me outside of my comfort zone. I am a firm believer that ALL teachers need to be surrounded by people who do that. As we were brainstorming new ideas and building upon others, I was reminded of this quote from Robert John Meehan about the importance of collaboration between teachers:
The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration, our growth is limited to our own perspectives. 
                                 - Robert John Meehan

Man, I love working with amazing people. Here’s to next year, FETC!


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