Jan 28 2022

Innovation and Collaboration Permeate Conversations at FETC 2022

IT leaders are looking ahead at new types of learning spaces for K–12 education. From esports to asynchronous learning, here’s what the future of ed tech might look like.

This year’s Future of Education Technology Conference brought educators and IT leaders together in Orlando, Fla. The annual event gave attendees the opportunity to meet in person, shake hands and forgo problematic videoconference mute buttons.

It comes as no surprise that innovation and collaboration were two major themes at this year’s conference. In sessions and workshops, presenters shared ideas for moving forward and working together. Here are a few of the ideas discussed at the four-day event.

Bringing Collaboration to Students of All Ages Through Esports

Esports sessions at FETC discussed the possibility of starting games at the K–5 level to build not just students’ skills but also community. Douglas Konopelko, esports lead for CDW•G, suggested starting with internal competitions at this level. This would include competing within the school or even within the classroom.

Click the banner for content and advice to help you build and advance a K–12 esports program.

In his presentation, “Esports: from Kindergarten to College and Career,” he quoted Christopher Emdin, a professor at the University of Southern California. “Anything students can consume, they can create,” he shared.

Konopelko also talked about the ways that esports can bring older students together and the spaces that help facilitate their collaboration and cooperative gameplay. Thanks to the popularity of streaming services and the work of organizations like the North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF), esports arenas are popping up in K–12 schools across the country.

Many districts are innovating to build these arenas, and they’re altering their curricula to include esports in other focus areas, like math and language arts.

Innovative Spaces Allow for More Educational Flexibility

Figuring out how to create esports arenas isn’t the only physical change being considered in many K–12 districts. In the workshop “Creating a Makerspace? Start HERE!” attendees learned the importance of makerspaces and the ways they facilitate engagement and collaboration. The workshop included questions to ask for districts planning their own makerspaces and examples of these modern learning environments in practice.

Makerspaces and esports arenas both reflect a shift toward what Pat La Morte, global education solutions lead at Zoom, calls “student choice” in an interview. This entails allowing students to choose their paths and what they want to learn — and how they want to learn.

RELATED: What does the flipped classroom look like in K–12 education today?

“The student voice is something that we have to listen to, and it always was listened to at the college level, but now we need to at the elementary level as well,” says La Morte.

Flexible technology options can help support student choice and asynchronous learning. La Morte points to the way Zoom is evolving its technology to offer classroom audiovisual devices. Zoom Room appliances, for example, provide a way for a physical room full of people to join a virtual meeting. One device features cameras, microphones and speakers, and it can be mounted on a wall or used on a cart.

Despite the changes impacting K–12 education, administrators and IT leaders should continue driving toward the innovative and collaborative possibilities of the future.

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