The two main days of FETC were filled with seminars, opportunities to visit with vendors, and collaboration with colleagues.  A number of other Adventist educators were at FETC from across the country.  It was great to visit with them, share experiences, ideas and plans.

One of the Eye Opening Keynotes on Wednesday was given by Rem Jackson.  He talked about leading with vision and how to make a difference in your school whether you are an teacher, technologies, or administrator.  While his presentation was geared toward technology the same principles can be applied to other academic areas and our spiritual life.  Here are a few thoughts from his presentation:

  • The changes in technology and how they will affect our lives have been drastic and will continue at a rapid pace.
  • “In times of change the learners will inherit the earth, while the knowers will find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists. ” – Eric Hoffer.  Thought provoking quote in this time of change – technically, socially, politically and spiritually.
  • If you are going to lead others you must first lead yourself.  Where do you want to go?
  • “If a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory.” Robert Pirsig – This reminds me of Luke 11:24 ““When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’”  This applies to school change as well as spiritual change.  Just tearing the old down will not solve the problem.  We must first change make changes in the core philosophy of what we do.
  • Mastermind Alliances
  • Students should be thought not as a product of a factory, but a seed that is growing that needs nurturing.
  • Recommended books:
  • Web Site:  weblessons.com – Free 1 year trial keyword: REM

There were dozens of additional workshops on teaching strategies and technology innovation.  iPods seemed to be the rage, however there are still challenges in making them useful as the sole technology platform and in the backend IT management.  Android tablets are also coming out and becoming popular.

Paperless Classroom

One seminar that caught my attention and imagination was called “Paperless Classroom: A Personal Learning Environment.”  The presenter told of his experience in teaching a paperless unit with researches monitoring the process.  For them, paperless was completely that – including no textbooks.  He is now teaching in a small multigrade school (22 students in grades 4-12 in one room) that is doing the entire curriculum paperless.

The Cloud

Buzzword:  Yes, the iPod was buzzing but the bigger buzzword of the convention was “Cloud.”  This is a huge transformation in what we do.  The term cloud can be confusing, so let me share some “cloud” tools that are common today as examples.

  • Google Hosted Services – Quite a few Adventist schools use this (or other similar services) for e-mail instead of having their own servers in house.  In addition this includes services like Google Docs (think Word, Excel), Picasa web photo albums, Google voice (your own roving phone number with call screening), and more.
  • SIS.  Most schools are using cloud based Student Information Systems rather than hosting it in house:  STI iNow, Power School, etc.
  • DropBox – online files storage and sharing.
  • Mozy – Online file Backup
  • Facebook
  • ShutterFly: Photo printing and storage
  • Evernote – Online note taking

One of the significant aspects of the cloud is that it is usually cross platform/device.  DropBox is a great example of this.  You can save a file on your PC, then open it on your iPhone, Android, iPad, Mac, Linux box, or other platform.  Edit it there and save it again for use back on your PC.  It’s also great for file sharing as you can create a folder and share it with other users to collaborate on projects.  Those users can be on any platforms.

Smart Phones

That brings up another buzzword:  Phones.  More and more students are using “smart phones” and bringing them into the classrooms.  Most schools treat them as poison and ban them from the classroom.  The big challenge will be how to turn them into educational tools.  How do we safely embrace phones in the classroom.  I don’t have answers, but it is a discussion that needs to take place.

Security

One of the last seminars I attended was by Ernest Staats, IT Director of Georgia Cumberland Academy.  It was about IT Checklists.  There were a lot of great things that were shared.  One of the first areas that was addressed dealt with the cloud.  If you begin using a cloud services, how do you know your data is secure.  A lot of the things we put in the cloud contain confidential information.  How do we know it is secure.  Just because someone else is using it doesn’t mean that it’s a good thing – even if it’s a sister or parent organization.  The guidelines Ernest shared were developed by the government and security experts and should be used when evaluating any cloud based application.  Not doing this could put you and your school in violation of state and federal laws.

I’ll post copies of Ernest’s presentation and others as they become available now that FETC is over.  In the mean time, here is a link to Ernest’s check list resource.

Vendors and other cool things

Here are some other cool things I came across in the exhibit hall.

  • Lenovo is releasing a ThinkPad X120E laptop that is more powerful than a netbook but smaller and lighter than a regular computer.  This is one to check out and watch.  Their L Series Thinkpads are also a great affordable line of products.  Well thought out and very education friendly.  If you are buying laptops for your school or office, this is a line that is worth your serious consideration.
  • AverMedia has a video conferencing system that is much more affordable than most.
  • SchoolTripline.  While one part of this product deals with bullying, it also has a cellphone text messaging system that is one of the most affordable solutions I have seen.  This can be very useful in emergency and non-emergency situations.
  • AeroHive – Controllerless WiFi units.  Solves many of the problems with basic WiFi in classroom situation but is easily scalable.  I won’t bore you with the technical detail, but I will say this looks like a great product and I will be looking at testing and implementing this product.  A couple of us spent quite a bit of time questioning them about the product and were left with a very positive impression.
  • nComputing.  Need to setup a lab, but don’t have lots of money?  Look into nComputing.  Turn 1 computer into 10 or more workstations affordable.  We have implemented a 30 workstation lab at BMA using 3 computers and are very happy with the results.