Thursday, February 10, 2022

In Person Again, FETC 2022

Figment of my imagination.
In my first return to the new normal, I spent the last week of January in Orlando attending FETC. This was not only my first time attending FETC, it was also the first in-person conference I have attended since the initial shutdowns began. It was exciting to be with my peers again for the first time since January 2020, but it was also a little scary. The world has changed a lot in the last two years, but one thing remained the same - teachers attending conferences to learn new tricks, tips, and programs to bring back to their local communities.

My trip to FETC began with a day where Murphy's Law ruled. The entire morning represented the expression "whatever can go wrong, will go wrong" but eventually I arrived at the airport and checked-in for my flight. When I landed in Orlando, I knew everything was looking up when Figment greeted me at the airport. You don't know Figment? He's the underappreciated mascot of Epcot, a Figment of my Imagination. Eventually, I arrived at the hotel and made a plan for the next day.

Day 1 (False Start)

MIEExpert Road2E2 jackets
seen in the wild.

One thing I learned, a little too late, is that the first day of FETC is all premium workshops. This means that you needed to register and pay for a premium registration to attend. Therefore, after I checked in and got my nametag, there wasn't anything for me to do. So what did I do? I spent the day relaxing and maybe I did a little shopping.

Before long, it was time to meet up with my MIEExpert family for dinner and a reunion. Our dinner lasted so long it was amazing the restaurant didn't kick us out. Not only was it the MIEEs, but we were joined by the awesome teams of Flipgrid and Wakelet as we all caught up on two years.

I not only reunited with friends and peers. I also made new friends and connections. 

Day 2 (The Real Start)

Wednesday morning revealed the true FETC beginning. I started my morning by trying to attend a session on making professional development engaging but it was standing room only so I ended up leaving. Made my way over to Microsoft's room and found that was standing room only also, but there was enough room near the door that I stayed to listen to Leslie Fisher talk about Teams and OneNote.

Collage from the expo hall.
The keynote was much better in the sense that there was plenty of space to social distance. The speaker focused of SEL and encouraged positive psychology to help students and colleagues (and self) through the stressful times known as Covid-19.

I spent a good amount of the day in the expo hall learning about new products and features of products I already knew before trying to attend a few other sessions. One thing I will say about FETC is that because it was the first in-person conference and because I was really nervous about being in crowds I missed out on a bunch of sessions I wanted to attend because they were all popular. 

Wednesday night, I was invited to an event hosted by Nearpod and it did not disappoint. I am not part of Nearpod's PioNear program like I am with Microsoft's MIEE program, but they welcomed me at their dinner anyway and made me feel like family.

Day 3

Day three started with another Keynote and more networking. In the afternoon, it was my turn to present a session on Digital Whiteboarding. My session was scheduled for one of the mini theaters in the expo hall which was great because tons of people were stopping to watch for a few minutes between checking out the vendors.

A Canva template.
I had planned demos of a few different whiteboarding apps to compare them and show how teachers can use certain templates, such as those from Canva, with a variety of whiteboard softwares. For example, if a teacher wanted to use Canva's template for a Team Check-in as the background for both Microsoft Whiteboard and Google Jamboard. It can also be used in programs such as Nearpod and Peardeck.

Murphy's Law reared its ugly head again as I had a lot of wifi issues during my session. Luckily, Microsoft Whiteboard is not 100% cloud-based so while I couldn't demo the cloud and collaboration, I was able to demonstrate the Windows 10 whiteboarding app. While the cloud was not cooperating, I did have my slide deck in PowerPoint so I was able to also show screenshots and discuss some pedagogy including the awesome templates on Canva.

After the Conference

Miami Beach
Due to the snowstorm in the Mid-Atlantic, airlines warned about flight delays and cancelations, so I managed to change my flight home from Friday to Sunday and from Orlando to Miami. I then got a ride from another MIEExpert that was heading home to Miami and spent the weekend with my aunt. Since I was following his schedule for Friday, I did leave FETC before the final day was over but luckily I was able to accomplish everything I had hoped to while attending FETC.

Disclaimer: As a Microsoft Innovative Education Expert (MIEE), I was fortunate to have my registration and travel covered by Microsoft as a presenter using Microsoft tools. 

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