TCEA 2019 Giddy Up (I mean, Roundup)

TCEA 2019, one of the largest educational technology conferences in the U.S., convened in dusty San Antonio last month and certainly did not disappoint. The Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) conference is a bellwether of change in the U.S. education market, driven by Texas’ always supersized influence. The following memes emerged from this stout conference, from breakout sessions to the exhibit hall floor.

wild west poses fy1HDYSO LThe Town Marshals.
The sharpest spurs at this conference were worn by blended learning and classroom Google tools, dominating all other themes. Blended learning refers to the mixing of online and face-to-face instruction, with some degree of a student’s control over the time, place, path or pace of that learning. And, of course, we all know what Google classroom tools are.

The Trusted Steeds.
In the exhibit hall, it was surprising to note that both VR and AR corralled “best of show” awards, separately. In the ‘classroom’ category, the award went to the MERGE Cube, an AR solution. In the ‘school’ category, the award went to a perennial winner, zSpace, for their new AR/VR Laptop.

The Prospectors.
There’s an old cowboy saying that goes something like this: “The quickest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back into your pocket.” That would have been easy at TCEA, because according to two lamenting technology leaders, “There’s not a lot new or truly innovative in the exhibit hall. Just same old, same old.” “No gold strikes”, they squawked. Of course, I found that all was not fool’s gold at this western conference—you just had to pan around a bit in the exhibit hall to find the real McCoy. I’m going to report in coming articles on two very nice gold nuggets (both exciting new AR products aimed at the ed market) I found at TCEA. Stay tuned.

On the Range.
Another cowboy phrase mulls the question “If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen are defrocked, shouldn’t it follow that cowboys would be deranged?” A number of developments evidenced ferocious derangement at TCEA 2019, using both senses of the word:

  • cowboy boots and hat MJ13 GiuVR is generally on the decline in the exhibit hall, booth-wise. I am seeing this hold true for the last three ed-tech conference exhibit halls, but this was especially so at TCEA. Still, the strongly featured VR exhibit hall presence from Lenovo, showcasing their all-in-one solution and accompanying ecosystem, was appealing.
  • VR overdose in the conference sessions. Whoa! Did I say that right? I sure did. Not to confuse you about the previous bullet point, yet, in the regular breakout sessions, VR was everywhere. One day, seven VR topics competed for the same time slot in in overlapping presentations. I’ve never seen so much VR in conference sessions, with well over 24 sessions offered. Mighty suspicious, Clyde.
  • AR evidenced a smaller footprint than VR, to much chagrin. Again, I have seen this same pattern repeat itself in three recent ed-tech conferences. Makes one wonder as to what’s waiting in the wings, doesn’t it?

The Townsfolk.
I’m obliged to comment that the sheer quantity of well-spoken, crisp thinking, well-rounded educators was impressive at this conference. No more hayseeds or naïve chawbacons, pardner. Rather, educators are maturing as customers and becoming discriminating decision makers and it’s never been so clear to me.

Overall, the TCEA conference produced some noteworthy observations. When looking for solid and actionable business trends, remember the well-worn cowboy platitudes: “Keep your ears to the ground” and “always drink upstream from the herd.”—Len Scrogan