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International technology conference motivates educators to rethink current educational practices

Brady Thomas, at right, a UCPS Instructional technology facilitator, examines interactive technology at the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) in Orlando.

Union County Public Schools was well represented at the annual Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) in Orlando last month.

Fifteen educators from UCPS, including Superintendent Dr. Mary Ellis, Deputy Superintendent Dr. Mike Webb, principals, and instructional technology facilitators (ITFs) attended and presented at this international conference designed to share ideas about the integration of technology in K-12 classrooms.

UCPS participants said they were impressed with the conference’s magnitude as it was attended by approximately 9,000 individuals from more than 44 countries and all 50 states.

Dr. Anne Radke, principal of Piedmont Middle School, was a first-time participant. “I was surprised by both the scope and size of the convention itself, and the fact that UCPS is so far ahead of folks from 44 different countries. We are leading the movement in 1:1 laptop initiatives.”

Principal of Marvin Ridge Middle School, Dr. Jay Jones, agreed. “Union County Public Schools is truly an innovative school system when it comes to our commitment to meeting the needs of our students through instructional technology.”

The conference, designed to meet the technology needs of a variety of educational professions, included workshops, poster presentations, keynote speakers, sponsored exhibits and concurrent sessions.

Union County presented at five separate concurrent sessions. ITFs Brady Thomas and Garrett Williams led a session titled Teaching Transformed: Fresh Practices for a Technology Rich Classroom.

In this session, participants discovered strategies for managing classroom technologies to cultivate a collaborative learning environment.

Their session, structured to share the implementation of research-based methods of instruction in a digital classroom environment, was well attended and received positive feedback from its participants.

Twitter feeds and evaluation feedback described this session as “energizing,” “One of the best presentations of the week so far!” and “Wish you could share with teachers and admin everywhere.”

Walter Bickett Elementary School STEM teacher Andrea Savill and ITF Casey Zvanut presented Learning Transformed: Putting Students First in a 1:1 Classroom.

Their session reflected upon the learning experiences of elementary, middle and high school students participating in the Classrooms of Tomorrow pilot program.

Presenters shared evidence of the effectiveness of taking a student-centered approach to instruction in a flexible classroom environment equipped with cutting edge technologies.

In the session So Your District is One-to-One, Now What? Ellis, Webb, UCPS Chief Technology Officer Tony Burrus, and Chief Instructional Officer for Technology Services Scott Jacumin shared UCPS’ vision of anywhere, anytime learning.

Classroom design, staff development, student achievement and community partnerships were just a few of the topics discussed that allow learners to find their place in the district’s “My Size Fits Me” philosophy.

UCPS district level participants also held a panel discussion along with Lenovo, the current Chromebook distributor with UCPS. The discussion, Designing your Digital District, focused on lessons learned when rolling out a 1:1 initiative.

The question- and answer-session included circumstances a district should consider before implementing a 1:1 program in a school district, as well as reasons that a 1:1 or BYOD (bring your own device) environment is a positive experience for students.

Indian Trail Assistant Principal Gina Chisum and ITF Suzanne McMahan shared and discussed the UCPS Digital Learning Assessment Tool, which is completed annually by the Media Technology Committees at each UCPS school.

The focus of the presentation was on implementing an assessment tool, reflecting on results, re-culturing the school climate and re-assessing each year.

This year’s FETC theme was “Inspired to Learn, Learning to Inspire,” and many participants said they were motivated to rethink some of their current educational practices.

“I have been inspired to restructure the way I deliver professional development to my teachers, including a more singular focus for the year, more online options, and more opportunities to network in and beyond the county,” Zvanut said.

Written by: Suzanne McMahanl, UCPS Instructional Technology Facilitator
Posted: Feb 18, 2015 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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