The ed-tech conference season in the U.S. kicks off at the start of each year with a strong event, the Future of Education Technology Conference, which rotates it venue from Orlando to Miami, Florida and this year to New Orleans. FETC always sets the tone for the year, showcasing what’s up and coming for educational technology in the U.S. market. The conference is now in its 42nd year and they appear to be rebranding as National FETC.
Ed-tech conferences during the Rona have not led us in particularly novel directions, but rather focused their attention on pandemic painkillers, like remote learning, social-emotional learning, and equity. This year, however, a careful analysis of FETC 2023 conference sessions uncovers some intriguing developments, clearly reflecting the words shouted in the above hip-hop chorus.
Flip the track
You’d certainly expect something different to emerge, having agonizingly dragged ourselves out of the pandemic era, but , no, conditions are taking on the shape of a simple ed-tech ‘reset’ at FETC 2023:
- The most conference sessions featured the typical ‘biggies’: Google-related (38 sessions), Coding (36 sessions), and Blended/Remote/Hybrid Learning (34 sessions).
- Gone was the last year’s unsurpassable dominance of sessions focusing on equity, SEL, and coaching educators.
Bring the old school back
This year’s offerings appeared to usher other ed-tech topics tech back into balance:
- Typical session topics included: eSports (27 sessions offered), gamification (23 sessions), equity (21 sessions), cybersecurity (20 sessions), SEL (18 sessions), STEM (16 sessions), and professional development (14 sessions).
- Perhaps most revealing, Apple has returned in a meaningful way after being a no show in so many ed-tech conferences for so many years, sponsoring a flurry of sessions AR-related focus sessions. It is clear they are readying themselves for some sort of reentry into the collective mindshare of educators. The mystery unfolds.
This is how we do it
There were many other interesting developments at FETC, whether you read between the lines or interpret the tea leaves:
- It was hard to ignore Adobe, who was cajoling its way into a normally crowdsourced roster of offerings with deep-pocketed sponsorship muscles. We saw a huge full court press of offered sessions for using Adobe Xpress (28 corporate-sponsored sessions). Great tool, but this was a tsunami of offerings.
- Then there’s the power of ten. Ten sessions offered, that is, in these key areas: chromebooks, making videos, coaching, and artificial intelligence.
- Canva, a freemium online graphic design tool, appeared to be a grassroots darling at FETC 2023, with 10+ sessions offered, emphasizing the ‘free’ part of the portmanteau.
Well, this is where we are with FETC 2023. A sort of reset, if you will. A return to pre-pandemic normal, perhaps. Finding equilibrium in a disjointed age. In a follow up article next month, we’ll try to find meaning behind an unexpected upsurge in AR and VR at FETC 2023.