Professional Development | Viewpoint

A Presenter's Highlights of FETC 2012

Jenna Linskens

Each person who attends the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) arrives feeling the same buzz. For those who have a hunger to learn about technology and its effectiveness in education, it's like a natural high. People everywhere, all friendly faces, some you know from social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, while so many more are new faces. All are open opportunities to engage in great conversations focused on one goal: to become better educators.

For me, the greatest joy comes from talking with so many other educators, at the Tweet-ups (thanks to @stephenveliz and @Fernandezc4 for organizing the TGIF tweet-up), between sessions in the halls, in the exhibit hall, at a bench outside the convention center eating lunch, or at the annual coffee cup giveaway. This year even featured a sit-down area in the exhibit hall for having those great conversations.

The day I left Wisconsin for FETC, snow and slush at the local airport covered the ground and the temperature was 7 degrees below zero with the wind chill. There was a short delay at the gate so the ground crew could de-ice the plane, but a little winter weather will not stop my excitement. I was headed to Orlando. This would be my third trip to FETC, the first back in 2010.

This year was going to be different from previous trips. I just knew it. I had that special feeling you get when something big is going to happen. Twelve years of teaching elementary school and three years as an assistant professor in the Master of Arts in Education: Educational Technology program prepared me for what was going to happen during my days at FETC.

I could feel the excitement among my team members, fellow assistant professors from Marian University in Fond du Lac, WI, who also attended. Not only did we get to soak up some Florida sun, we were going to network with teachers from around the globe. We were going to listen to experts in education speak with passion about their favorite topic: using technology to enhance and engage students.

FETC also provides another kind of high for me. It all began in 2010 when, with great passion and excitement, I wrote my first proposal to present at a national conference. Sure, I was comfortable with presenting to small groups--my graduate students, local educators, even at the state level--but this was going to change my life forever. I was accepted to present on my favorite tech topic, using the iPad in the K-12 classroom, and, in January 2011, I presented a 50-minute concurrent session on iPad Apps to an over-capacity crowd.

It was so well attended, I was asked to present the same session a second time that same afternoon. Again, the room filled up. Like all great educators, I reflected on my experience and my presentation: How could I make it better next year? What could I do that would excite so many educators to go back to their classrooms and want to immediately begin using the tools to help impact their student's learning?

The 2012 proposal was immediately put together: an iPad App Shoot-out. I also put together a list of other topics I thought would be a great addition to the FETC 2012 line up. This year, when the acceptance e-mail came, not only would I be able to present my iPad App Shoot-out, it was to be the closing session with Hall Davidson and Gail Lovely. Needless to say, my excitement about attending FETC 2012 increased more than tenfold. Whose wouldn't?

Several months of planning, a long conference call with Hall and Gail, a lot of e-mails and ideas later, and here we were, the three of us on the stage in an empty meeting room, getting our AV details taken care of, computers hooked up, iPads on the big screen, microphones, lights, and several bottles of water lined up. I need to take a moment to give kudos to the AV crew that day. Hooking up those iPads to the big screen took a lot of trouble-shooting--not to mention cleaning up the spilled soda on my laptop.

The last piece of advice that I got before the lights came up and I stepped onto that stage in front of more than 3,000 educators was, "Soak it all in; it goes by really fast." Thank goodness my two ed tech colleagues were in the front row taking pictures or I might not remember much of my 40 minutes in the spotlight. It was better than I ever could have imagined.

It was definitely an app shootout. In less than 10 minutes I shared and demonstrated 13 apps, along with a plea to the audience to contribute 50 cents each to my coffers so I could purchase the Proloquo 2 Go App. Gail Lovely was next and shared another 10 or more apps, "accidentally" leaving a game app on her screen to kick off her segment of the shoot-out. Hall Davidson wrapped up with his quick wit and humor, demonstrating a variety of apps for creative projects. The session was truly a shoot-out of our list of hot apps in education. With those bright lights it was difficult to measure the reaction of the crowd. However, a quick glimpse at the top of people's heads and after reading the tweets, I would say the Closing Session App Shoot-out was a huge success.

When I stopped teaching elementary school in 2008 my mother, a dedicated teacher for 35 years, questioned my career change, wondering why, since I was such a good classroom teacher, I would want to leave. My response came from the heart. It was because I wasn't making enough of a difference in the lives of my students. I wanted to do more. Well, I've done more. When I present to educators on educational technology topics I am impacting every one of the students you teach. See, I am still teaching.

This natural high I experienced on the stage at the Closing Session App Shoot-out was not because I was in the spotlight, it was because I was able to share my knowledge and enthusiasm of educational technology with thousands of educators who have hopefully gone back to their school districts to share their new knowledge and enthusiasm.

The whole experience was magnified by the fact I was able to attend multiple sessions over two and a half days delivered by skilled educators with a passion to share their knowledge with the FETC 2012 attendees. The sessions I was able to attend (and it's always hard to choose from so many great ones listed in the program) were outstanding.

If you haven't been to FETC or if it has been a while since you last attended, I want to encourage you to add FETC 2013 to your list of professional development activities. The 2012 Florida Educational Technology Conference was a year of connections for me. I had the opportunity to connect with educators from Kansas, Florida, Illinois, California, and Puerto Rico. We talked about successes as well as brainstormed solutions for using technology in the classroom. I know those conversations will continue--they always do. E-mails and tweets have already begun going back and forth.

FETC just ended, but I am looking forward to next year, to reconnecting with my "old" friends as well as making new ones, and hopefully being accepted to share some more of my knowledge and passion of educational technology with educators from around the globe. Will you be there? I will. Just look for me in my blue Marian University shirt.

About the Author

Jenna Linskens is a full-time instructor for the Educational Technology Department in the School of Education at Marian University. Primary classes she teaches include: Integrating iPads in the Classroom, Action Research, Online Learning, Using iPods in the Classroom, and E-Portfolio. Linskens is currently earning her Ed.D. from Northcentral University with a focus on Technology and E-Learning. She has also presented for staff development on topics including: Effective use of iPads, iPods, Podcasting, Web 2.0 Tools (incl. Social Media, Wikis, and Blogs), and SMARTboards.