Speakers and trends to watch at FETC

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The Future of Education Technology Conference, better known as FETC, kicks off its 36th annual gathering this week in Orlando, Fla. – attracting flocks of administrators, curriculum designers, tech directors and district-level leaders to get a peek at the newest products and innovative ideas for the classroom and for school districts.

Attendees this year can expect to learn about a range of emerging trends and technologies, from game-based learning, makerspaces, mobile learning, infrastructure and instructional design. They’ll also hear from leaders shaping education policy.

Here is our round-up of what you should watch this week as the conference gets underway at the Orange County Convention Center:

Power speakers

Reshma Saujani, who started the nonprofit organization Girls Who Code in 2012, will be the first keynote speaker of the conference. The hugely successful entrepreneur and former deputy public advocate of New York City has scaled the program since its inception and has said she wants to teach a million young women to code by 2020.

Saujani wants to close the tech gender gap and eventually get girls, who can enroll in the summer program as rising juniors and seniors, placed in the millions of computer science jobs that will be available in the next five years or so.

“Reshma has been influential in closing the gender gap in STEM and coding and empowering girls to pursue careers in technology and engineering,” said Mike Eason, FETC General Manager, in a press release. “We are confident she will inspire the thousands of educators and tech leaders attending FETC 2016.”

Visitors might also also want to hear from NASA engineer and astronaut, Leland Melvin, whose career includes having twice flown to the Space Shuttle to help build the International Space Station, but more recently has co-chaired the White House’s Federal Coordination in STEM Education and has become a leading advocate for STEM and STEAM education programs.

In addition, top leaders from school districts from around the country will participating in a wide-ranging agenda, sharing what’s working in their districts in the areas of communication and collaboration, digital teaching tools, emerging technologies and maker tools, infrastructure design, mobile learning and professional development.

Policymaking presence

The conference will mark the first time that the new acting director of the Office of Educational Technology helms sessions around federal policy. Joseph South took over for the previous director, Richard Culatta, and will be holding sessions on the office’s signature effort on Future Ready schools.

There will be three sessions around the Education Department’s Future Ready initiative – one on its framework, one on reimagining the role of technology and another on personalized professional learning. A recent hire in the department, Andrew Marcinek, will lead a session on the agency’s new #GoOpen initiative on open educational resources.

Productpalooza

The event features hundreds of the most innovative technologies and products that are on the market today, including ones from BrainPOP, DreamBox Learning, Samsung and PBS Learning Media. Other traditional textbook companies will be shopping around their wares as well, including McGraw-Hill Education and Pearson. The floor is sure to attract educators and tech leaders who are eager to get their hands on the latest tools and try them out in person.

Read more of EdScoop’s coverage of FETC starting on Wednesday, and email or tweet us your tips while we’re there!

Reach the reporter at corinne.lestch@edscoop.com or follow her on Twitter @clestch and @edscoop_news.

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