Category Archives: oetc

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!

FREd Talks at Ohio Educational Technology Conference

Ohio’s annual educational technology conference, known as OETC, took place February 12-14, 2019, in Columbus.  This year, educators from all over Ohio took part in a series of pre-keynote presentations called “FREd Talks”.  “FREd” stands for Finding Real Education, and is the brainchild of Ohio educator, Toby Fischer.

FREd Talks have much the same format as an Ignite talk, where a prepared set of 20 slides is set to auto-advance every 15 seconds.  Five minutes.  No problem, right?

Michael delivers his FREd Talk on stage at OETC 2019.
photo from Natalie Rinehart, @NatalieRinehar3

I was honored to share the stage with two other long-time friends in education to deliver a FREd Talk before Wednesday’s keynote panel discussion of current and emerging applications for artificial intelligence.  Marcia Kish, Ryan Collins, and I are veterans to the FREd scene, having taken part in previous FREd Talks at past OETCs when it was a separate session.  Video of each of the FREd Talks is coming soon.  My talk was a five-minute version of “Five Rules of Design Thinking to Reach All Students”, condensing my workshop materials from

Can you deliver your message in five minutes?  The process of preparing for a FREd Talk is not a simple one.  I find it to be much more difficult than preparing for, say, a 45-minute or 60-minute presentation.  There is no time for an ad lib, no time for wandering off on tangential thoughts.

Preparing your 20 slides and rehearsing your five-minute presentation is a great idea, even if you don’t have an invitation to speak somewhere… yet!  What would your message be, if you only had five minutes?



2017 Ohio Educational Technology Conference (OETC)

The 2017 Ohio Educational Technology Conference was held February 14-16, 2017, at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.  Thousands of educators from Ohio and beyond gather each year to learn more about technology and the role it plays in supporting educational opportunities for all students.

The Greater Columbus Convention Center is undergoing some renovation, so there were a lot of extra walls in the hallways, and some of the traditionally-available spaces were closed off.  This made finding my way around a little more difficult this year than in years past, and it seemed to have other effects on the overall conference experience as well.

Still, the Ohio Educational Technology Conference plays to its strength of being a showcase, not just of shiny tech tools, but of innovative practices that engage learners and make it possible for them to do things they never could before.  That is when implementing educational technology has its most, and best, impact.  Here are my favorite take-aways from OETC17!

  • Learning about coding an Arduino without actually having an Arduino! – – An “Arduino” is a small, programmable, open-source computer.  Through a simple programming language, anyone can learn about coding and electronics, and the associated skills of logical thinking and troubleshooting (a.k.a. “learning from failure”).
  • Tech-infused project-based learning should not be an “extension” activity made available only to those students who are already exhibiting sufficient achievement in the existing curriculum.  Many students who blossom in such environments would never get the chance to participate if they had to “qualify” by testing high enough in a traditional classroom setting first.  And such opportunities and materials are available and affordable enough now that they do not have to be restricted to just a few students based on phony readiness criteria.  Fredi Lajvardi’s story (chronicled in the documentaries “Spare Parts” and “Underwater Dreams“) is one of high expectations and extraordinary accomplishment.  The untold rest of the story is equally heartbreaking.
  • Open Educational Resources are there for anyone who wants them.  Only our own mindset regarding traditional approaches to curriculum acquisition and management is stopping us from tapping into a vast repository of materials.  Check out OER Commons to get started finding quality materials that you can use, reuse, and remix however you like!
  • There were a lot of people I missed seeing and talking with.  Not having an official OETCx “unconference” was a bit disappointing, but it actually put the responsibility back on me to create and foster those experiences for myself.  I also learned about a couple of upcoming edCamps in my area.
  • Instructional Strategy trumps Tech Infusion every time.  A well-crafted and well-delivered lesson that uses little technology is better than an ill-crafted and poorly-delivered lesson that is soaked in technology.  My goal as an Instructional Technology Specialist is to foster quality instruction first, and then tap into ways to use available technology to improve and reinforce that instruction.  The great confluence of these two concepts happens when we identify ways we would like to teach, but have never been able to before without the use of emerging technologies.
  • Praising effort vs. praising intelligence:

    Of course, you want to know some new (or “new-to-me”) tools that I saw at this year’s OETC, so here they are!

  • – a completely online programming environment with a virtual Arduino!  Get comfortable with the Arduino programming language before you get your hands on an actual board.
  • – Go beyond simple polls in your presentation slides.  Mentimeter allows you to dynamically generate word clouds and ask more evaluative questions of your audience, such as 2×2 grids and slider scales.
  • – When applied properly, Response to Intervention is a powerful framework for raising achievement for all students (not just those identified for special education).  Intervention Central contains a host of resources, strategies, and guides that any classroom teacher can use to make their classroom instruction as effective as possible, closing achievement gaps while maintaining high expectations for all.
  • I also need to say a strong word of thanks to the great people at IPEVO.  For my “Free Google Tools to Support Access to the General Curriculum for All Learners” session, my employers at Forward Edge graciously provided a couple of IPEVO cameras as giveaways to some lucky attendees.  I use them to scan paper documents into Google Drive to execute OCR (optical character recognition).  The representative at the IPEVO booth gave me even more cameras to use as giveaways in my session, which made a few more of my attendees even happier!  If you’re looking for a good quality camera at a reasonable price to use as a document camera, or for taking advantage of the OCR capabilities in Google Drive, look into what IPEVO has to offer!

The Ohio Educational Technology Conference is not afraid to put forward ideas and approaches that challenge the way things have always been done (Case in point: Cable Green, Director of Open Education for Creative Commons touting the virtues of Open Educational Resources and how much it would reduce the cost of buying books, a couple hundred yards away from a vendor hall where publishers have paid for space to sell their textbooks).  I look forward to that energy continuing to inform the direction of OETC, and continuing to influence the choice of keynotes, breakout sessions, and incorporated events.