F.E.T.C 2000

T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education), February 2000 | Go to article overview

F.E.T.C 2000


The Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) is putting on its 20th Anniversary conference at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., on Feb. 29th through March 2nd. FETC is one of the largest conferences in the United States dedicated to educational technology. This annual event began in 1981 when a few Florida teachers and administrators gathered to learn more about emerging technologies and how they could be used to improve classroom instruction. Since then, the conference has grown immensely, with last year's conference attracting more than 12,000 participants and 3,000 education vendor attendees.

The conference provides more than 200 hour-long concurrent sessions, allowing participants to choose from a variety of discussions designed to examine specific strategies on how to effectively incorporate technology into their curriculum. In addition, hall and full-day workshops will be offered to provide a learning experience through supplemental training and awareness. Over 350 companies will occupy more than 840 booths, filling almost 200,000 square feet of exhibit space. Attendees will have the opportunity to preview and purchase the latest educational technology hardware and software to enhance teaching and learning at all levels.

The keynote speaker of this year's opening session is Soledad O'Brien, an award-winning newsperson who has received national recognition for her coverage of technology and education issues. Currently, O'Brien serves as co-anchor of MSNBC's Weekend Today, anchors the news talk show Morning Blend, and reports for NBC's Nightly News. She also contributes to MSNBC.com and is the contributing technology editor for USA Weekend Magazine.

Other speakers include Sara Armstrong of the George Lucas Foundation, Frank Barker of BellSouth, Gary Becker from Seminole County Public Schools, Gene Bias and Chris Carey from Orange County Public Schools, Dr. Gary Bitter from Arizona State University, Hall Davidson from KOCETV, Chris Dede from George Mason University, Ted Hasselbring of the University of Kentucky, Bob Hughes from the Educational Technology Exchange, Cheryl Lemke from the Milken Family Foundation, Pioneer New Media Technologies Director of Marketing Perry Reeves, David Thornburg from Compaq, and many more.

Interviews

T.H.E. Journal had a chance to speak to a few of FETC's featured speakers. Following are their comments on various issues in educational technology today.

T.H.E.: How can virtual reality and other types of immersive, interactive environments be used to help special needs students?

Dede: It is hard for special needs students to succeed when conventional pedagogy is based on their limitations, rather than on ways in which their "trapped" intelligence provides strong learning capabilities. Textbook-oriented learning is the predominant instructional approach in many classrooms, particularly at the secondary level. However, students with learning disabilities typically exhibit problems with reading fluency, text comprehension skills, vocabulary learning, and abstract reasoning from textual presentations. In fact, students with learning disabilities read complex subject matter, such as science textbooks, at only about half the fluency rate as students without disabilities.

Immersive, interactive environments of many types -- including multisensory 3-D "virtual reality" -- can aid special needs students. Through simulations that enable guided inquiry, collaborative learning, and mentoring, virtual environments provide access to complex concepts and skills across the curriculum for students with learning disabilities. With guidance, special needs students can bridge qualitative understandings from sensory experiences to more abstract, quantitative representations in textual and symbolic form. Special needs students often "find their voice" in these shared virtual environments, becoming active, motivated learners as they are freed from the verbal/textual focus of the typical classroom. …

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