Two students playing Makey Makey instruments.

OETC In-person Returns!

The Ohio Educational Technology Conference has returned to a face-to-face format for the first time since 2020. This has been one of my favorite experiences of the year for a long time, so returning to some of the familiar format and experiences was something I was quietly looking forward to.

For those who remember the heyday of OETC, 2023 was significantly smaller in many ways: fewer attendees, fewer vendors, fewer decorations, fewer sessions. But the heart of an impactful experience is still there, despite the changes. The Ohio Department of Education is now in charge of organizing and managing the conference, after many years of oversight by Ohio Board of Regents (Thanks, Kathy and Betsy for so many years of hard work on OETC). Some logistical challenges always come with changes like this, but I have nothing but respect and admiration for Jamie and his team at the ODE office of ed tech for what they were able to do in such a short time.

Let’s get to the highlights….

Slide from Dr. Jane McGonigal's presentation, showing increased brain activity with active participation over passively receiving content.This year’s keynote speakers were Jane McGonigal, Justin Shaifer and (Ohio’s own!) Eric Curts. These were excellent choices for the “rebirth” of OETC. From different perspectives, they carried forth the theme of starting with excellence in education and then applying judicious use of innovative technology to support it. Dr. McGonigal’s presentation was conducted remote, but haven’t the last two years taught us how to more effectively execute such situations, and how to more effectively engage with such situations.

One unmentioned shift I noticed… I didn’t see anyone use PowerPoint for their presentation slides in any workshop I was in. For the sessions where I could tell what they used, I’d say it was about half and half between Google Slides and Canva. (Always the rebel, my solo presentation was done using a system called “Remark” – thanks again to my longtime friend Duane at indeed for introducing me to it).

Social media presence seemed light, even with the smaller attendance for this conference. Check out the #OETC23 tweets for some of the best of what happened.

The company I work for, Forward Edge, sponsored a presentation room this year. We were in a line of rooms next to Apple and Lego… so… wow! Especially since my solo presentation contained an early reference to Lego’s impact in schools since the mid 80’s. I turned that bit up a little extra loud hoping they would hear me next door!

Two students playing Makey Makey instruments.I was fortunate enough to get to present a Playground presentation as well. This is probably my favorite format at conferences – both as a presenter and as an attendee. At a Playground, there are several displays set up, and participants get to choose which ones they would like to learn more about. My playground presentation was pieces from a high school music class using Makey Makeys to invent their own musical instruments! Educators and students alike spent some time with my cardboard guitar, pencil-drawn drums, and the classic banana piano!

Finally, I have to say that I was not at all prepared for how nice it felt to be face-to-face with some old friends from around the state of Ohio who are doing the good work in education and educational technology. I’m sure I’ll miss some, but BJ, Simon, Toby, Ryan, Ryan (yes, two Ryans), Jeremy, Deb, Deb (yes, two Debs), Matt, Kara, Caryn, Roger, Judy, Sarah, Heather, John…. At one time, I felt like the networking opportunities and informal discussions that happened with these thought leaders was the catalyst for deeply implementing the great things I was learning about. I had forgotten how meaningful those interactions are.

My presentations from OETC:

I already cannot wait for OETC 2024!


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