FETC 2006 – Learning in Orlando

Updated with Photos

By all rights, this should be a series of 4 or 5 blog articles.  Instead, I’m going to make the classic blogging mistake and cram it all into one post.  But I had so many fantastic experiences at FETC that crossed over so many lines, I don’t think I could seperate them if I tried.

My Florida trip began with a preconference event organized by Karen Seddon and Danielle Abernethy, the DEN regional managers for Florida.  Since it’s spring training time in Florida, the theme of the event was baseball.  I was the ‘top of the ninth’ so I had some time to actually attend a few of the workshops and snap some photos of the event.  The day began with a welcome from Executive Vice President, Ron Reed.  He definitely set the tone for the day.  Afterwards, we split up into three blocks of concurrent sessions.  There were a total of about 6 or 7 to choose from, covering Inspiration, Google Earth, unitedstreaming, iMovie and much much more.  Some were presented by other DEN regional managers, while others were presented by teachers from the Florida area.  Scott posted more details at the DEN National blog.  After lunch, the implementation team answered some questions and Shelley from product development gave everyone a sneak peak into the future of unitedstreaming.  After a quick break for peanuts and cracker jacks, I spent half an hour sharing the new Discovery Educator Network website and telling everybody about Discovery Educator Abroad.  Lots of good buzz there, people seemed real excited about the possibilities there. 

Brannan shows off Discovery Health Connection

What blows me away is that what I just described was a 100% free full day of professional development for 100 teachers in Florida. That’s why I love working for Discovery.  What other company really GETS what it’s like to be a teacher and provides support like this for their products?  If there’s another company doing it to this extent, I haven’t heard of them.

After leaving the preconference event, I spent some time in the Discovery booth and then met up with David Warlick, Will Richardson and Rob, one of Will’s co-workers.  We grabbed a quick bite to eat and then rushed off to make sure we could get seats to Apple’s Podcast Palooza.  We all remembered what it was like at NECC, when the line continued on for as far as the eye could see, so we wanted to get there early.  Turned out we didn’t need to.  There was great energy in the room, and there were definitely plenty of people there, but they didn’t come close to filling the room.  Will kept leaning in to me and saying, "Well, you were around when podcasting began and looks like you’re here to see the beginning of the end!"  Sorry Will, but I don’t think podcasting is going anywhere anytime soon!  As he pointed out on weblogg-ed, "There must be at least 134 sessions on podcasting…"  Tim Wilson was the one doing the presenting and he had a smooth informative session.  Obviously, like all ADE’s, he used Keynote instead of PowerPoint.  Aesthetically, gotta admit that Keynote makes things look pretty!  But he definitely followed my own style of presenting.  Let the stuff on the screen serve as background and keep the audience attention on you.  If there’s something important to say, say it.  But don’t force people to split their attention.  He included some great suggestions for incorporating podcasts in the school environment as well.  Tim wrote about the session here, and also provides links to listen to the entire presentaiton, which was recorded of course.  Warlick did quite a few informal interviews before the presentation and came to an interesting conclusion.  While there were fewer people attending the session than we would have expected, one the whole they were a very educated group when it came to podcasting.  The majority of the people he spoke to not only knew what a podcast was and had listened to a few, many had created their own already.That’s always encouraging.  It’s not that I think everybody must be podcasting, but the more people taking chances and experimenting with new technologies and evaluating their educational use, the better.


The next day began having breakfast with Warlick and Scott.  Turns out that David is going to be doing some presentations for the DEN Regional Institutes.  You can read more about them at the link, but suffice to say that they are free regional institutes over the summer that are going to have the likes of Hall Davidson, David Warlick and Will Richardson presenting at them.  As Wesley Fryer says, "Anytime innovative and passionate educators get together to learn at events like this, it’s bound to be worthwhile!" 

Immediately following breakfast, I raced to find an internet connection because there was going to be a live videoconference between Josh Wolff, our Discovery Educator Abroad, and a school in DC.  Josh stayed up until 1:00am in Sydney so he could share some of his experiences with the stTeach42 – Education and Technology, by Steve Dembo › Create New Post — WordPressudents in Mrs. Reynold’s class.  Everything worked perfectly and they had an incredible conversation despite a few thousand miles seperating them.  Josh shared some stories, answered questions and got some feedback about things for him to research.  He blogged about it the next morning as well.  Such a fun project to be a part of.

From there, I raced back to the Discovery booth to spend half an hour sharing DiscoveryEducatorNetwork.com.  What always amazes me is how many people stop by the booth, not to find out more infomration about our products or to ask about pricing or even to ask for help.  The majority of the people that I spoke to stopped by just to say how much they loved unitedstreaming and how much it brings classroom experiences alive for their students.  I know it sounds like I’m just plugging the company, but it’s so true it’s almost spooky. 

Lance agrees that DiscoveryEducatorNetwork.com is the greatest website ever

After a little booth duty, Scott, Betsy and I raced across the street to a luncheon hosted by eSchool News to celebrate the four winners of their Best of Education Blogs awards.  I had the honor of hosting a little panel discussion with Wesley Fryer, Frank LaBanca, Sara Mead and Bill MacKenty.  What I really loved about the discussion was that they all came from such different perspectives.  From a EduPolitical blog to educational theory, to classroom perspectives, to just partical blogging with students, the winners really reprsented the multitude of ways that blogging can be used in education.  You can read more about the discussion at eSchool,or  Moving at the Speed of Creativity, but I think Scott summed it up pretty well when he said, "this brief 30 minute discussion may have been the best professional development experience I have had in years."  ’nuff said.  They did video tape the entire thing, hopefully they’ll get it cut and published soon.

After getting a little bit of work done in the lobby of the hotel, I joined Will, Tim and Steve Burt (virtually) for the next episode of EdTech Coast To Coast.  We had a nice conversation about the usual sorts of stuff:  EdTech, where’s it going and what should we be doing about it?  I say the usual stuff, but every time we talk about it, I always feel like we’re getting just a little closer to figuring out some answers.  If the solutions were easy, then there wouldn’t be much to talk about.  It really made me realize just how much I miss podcasting.  I gotta get something published soon.  Good time, good conversation. 

As soon as they stopped recording, I sprinted downstairs and hitched a ride to the Dixie Crossroads where we were hosting a DEN dinner.  It was to celebrate FETC, as well as honor the blog award winners.  Frank and Wes came by, as well as a few surprises.  Tim and Will came by, but the big surprise to me was Dean Shareski, who blogs at Ideas and Thoughts from an EdTech.  I’ve been a big fan of his work for quite a while now.  The theme for the night was to spend some time casually chatting, but also learning from each other, and there was PLENTY of that going on.  I saw Will, Tim and Dean break out the recorder and pass it around, which means something good was going on down there!  I chatting with Dawn Strunk, Frank and a few other Discovery Educators.  I spent a little bit of time explaining to the group what RSS was and what an aggregator was.  It blew me away that Frank, an amazing blogger who was doing extremely innovative stuff with blogs and students, had never heard of an aggregator.  Seems crazy to me, but the point is that you don’t need to be a complete blogging geek to make great educational use of the tool.  One thing I found extremely comical was that everyone in the group was what I would consider pretty high tech, but we all had a piece of paper in front of us and were frantically scribbling down notes of things we wanted to look into later.  We got a few nice photos of us with all of our low tech notes.  Good thing pencils haven’t been banned yet. You can read more about the event here, here and here

Low tech, but effective.

That was about it for me.  Two days were busy enough to last an entire week.  Honestly though, it was probably the most stimulating few days I’ve had in quite a while.  Lots of great conversations, lots of learning, lots of sharing, and best of all, lots of connecting face to face with other passionate educators.  That’s what it’s all about when you get down to it.

I want to throw out major kudos to Karen and Danielle.  They really kicked off the DEN in Florida with a bang.  To cheesily go along with the baseball theme from the preconference event, they hit a grand slam.  Now I just need a week off to assimiliate it all!

If you actually read through this entire blog post, leave a comment for me letting me know.  Every person that comments will get a shout out in my next podcast.  It’s coming soon, I swear!  Seriously!  It is!  Stop laughing!  I mean it!

By | 2006-03-27T13:24:56+00:00 March 26th, 2006|Conferences|15 Comments

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  1. Tim Wilson 3/26/2006 at Mar 26, 06 | 2:20 pm

    Steve, you certainly get around! It was great having you as a guest for ETC2C. I have to admit that I haven’t spent as much time as I should looking over the Discovery Educator Network. It definitely looks like you’ve got some cool stuff going on. -Tim

  2. Bud Hunt 3/26/2006 at Mar 26, 06 | 2:46 pm


    I made it through. Sounds like Florida was the place to be!

  3. Frank LaBanca 3/26/2006 at Mar 26, 06 | 6:54 pm


    It was great to meet with you and share some amazing ideas. And I am soooo glad we had the opportunity to talk about RSS & aggregators. My perspective at the end of this great trip: I am a science teacher, and I use technology as one of many instructional tools, but it is crticial that educators stay with the technology curve because our students need us to expose them to what is current. Society is moving fast and educators are obligated to move with it!


  4. Graham Wegner 3/26/2006 at Mar 26, 06 | 9:46 pm

    Have to admit that the conference sounded very good and I wish we had stuff like that happening here down under. To interact with the people you read f2f is a big, big bonus and your own personal growth can only be accelerated if you’re hanging around with bloggers who I can only read (and comment to, of course!!) If DEN are thinking about expanding to the Australasian region, then maybe we might see you down under at one of our few edtech conferences.

  5. Kelly Dumont 3/26/2006 at Mar 26, 06 | 9:57 pm

    Great post! Can’t wait to the the new episode. It sounds like DEN is doing some great things. That had to be a couple of dinners where not much was eaten.

  6. Steve 3/27/2006 at Mar 27, 06 | 4:44 am

    Hey Graham, check out this out! DEN just accepted their first Australian Discovery Educator on Wednesday! Also check out DiscoveryEducatorAbroad.com, where a US Discovery Educator is currently spending 5 weeks in Australia.

  7. Ray 3/27/2006 at Mar 27, 06 | 6:49 am

    Props Steve…it’s cool to see how you can never keep up, never learn enough, and how even a junkie like you can spew out a bunch of info and still not get too much on himself. Thank God for paper and pencil.

  8. Pam Nielson 3/27/2006 at Mar 27, 06 | 8:01 am

    Steve–I first discovered you at the IL-TCE March 2-3. I have been a fan ever since and have joined DEN as a result. I love reading about all of your experiences and I feel like I am getting free professional development everytime I read your blog or the blogs of David Warlick, Tim Lauer, Will Richardson and others. Thanks for all of the great insight and for motivating me to buy an iTalk for my iPod to start podcasting with my Spanish students. Keep up the great work!

  9. Dean Shareski 3/27/2006 at Mar 27, 06 | 9:02 am

    Great to finally meet you. I hope it’s not the last time. You’ve been a major part of my PD and I’m sure will continue to be just that.

  10. Karen Seddon 3/27/2006 at Mar 27, 06 | 10:56 am

    Thanks for the great replay of FETC. I, too, am still trying to process all that happened. I loved the part about the “cheesy” Spring Break theme, but it really worked. It reminds me of doing “cheesy” things with the kids in school and they roll their eyes, but LOVE it. This was the first time in 15 years I had been to FETC as a member of the Discovery Team rather than a teacher and I had so much fun meeting new teachers and the constant flow to the Discovery Booth of unitedstreaming fans! Discovery is an amazing company who really understands teacher support. It is a privilege to be a part of the team. Thanks Steve!

  11. Steve 3/27/2006 at Mar 27, 06 | 11:19 am

    For the record, I wasn’t saying that the EVENT was cheesy, rather that my copmliment to you guys (the ‘grand slam’ crack) was a cheesy pun! Seriously, the theme really gave a fun tone to the day, and when everyone came through the door and started hurling peanuts and cracker jacks into the crowd, I laughed so hard it hurt! Good times…

  12. Jannita Demian 3/27/2006 at Mar 27, 06 | 10:12 pm

    Of course we would read all the way through it! After all you are THE STEVE DEMBO!!! Great post! I always enjoy reading your messages.

  13. Dawn Strunk 3/28/2006 at Mar 28, 06 | 6:17 am

    This was a GREAT post and summary of a jam packed few days. I had to come home and sleep most of Saturday to recover. Now that I read about it, I think I may need to take a mid-morning nap to recover again!

  14. […] My only regret is that I didn’t have more time with Steve Dembo and have him in on this conversation. Steve was sitting down from us and was busy having his own great conversation. […]

  15. Lee Kolbert 4/21/2006 at Apr 21, 06 | 11:21 am

    Great meeting you at FETC! I’m still working on my podcast from FETC on all things Discovery also, but mine will surely be out long before yours….er, when are you planning on finishing yours? ūüėČ
    Karen and Danielle’s Spring Training event was the best event I’ve EVER been to at FETC! I’ve been to many FETCs, too! I’m trying hard to promote DEN within Palm Beach County, as we are just getting rolling. Thanks for your enthusiasm!

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