Robots that respond to your every command, hands-free communication on a homemade device, coding a robotic sequence with a set of ordinary classroom markers, and over 50 kid-tested Makerspace projects. Participants in the FETC workshops may have been asking themselves, “Did I just time travel?” Nope! It’s just the future of technology in education.

Over 8,000 educators from around the world gathered in Orlando, Florida, for the 36th annual Future of Educational Technology Conference (FETC). This international event drew record crowds to explore the potential of technology in learning, and Explo's year-round Curriculum and Instruction Department sent two of its own to check out the latest learning tools that tech has to offer.

Assistant Director of Curriculum and Instruction Kristi Jacobi, and Senior Curriculum Developer Laura Farmer spent four days immersed in the FETC world of future learning possibilities. Here are some of their favorite takeaways from this cutting-edge event.

FAIL = First Attempt In Learning

Oops, that didn't work! To be a Maker, you've got to expect to fail, and all week, we heard the mantra that failure is really just your First Attempt in Learning. If your spaghetti tower falls down, what could you do to make it stronger next time? If your littleBits circuit didn't make a light turn on, how can you move things around to light things up? Exploring how and why we have failed is an important step in discovery and understanding, and one we should embrace.

At FETC, we learned that the majority of the neurons in our brains are connected to our hands. Which makes perfect sense, when you consider how often we're tinkering, building, and figuring out active ways to explore and learn.
Case Study: How Failure Created an Astronaut

Leland Melvin — astronaut, professional athlete, Maker, and STEAM educator extraordinaire — showed us the power of failure firsthand. During his talk, Leland shared how his failures (at school, on the playing field, and at NASA) got him to where he is today — and how important it is to foster a sense of drive, grit, and determination in today's students. To find out more about Leland's story, watch this video:

The Future of Education Isn't Tech; It's Us

Throughout the conference, we were excited to experience a blending of high-tech and low-tech resources that made simple projects come to life. From combining conductive tape and LED lights to create a pop-up cityscape to smushing together homemade conductive, insulating dough into an electrified squishy circuit, the possibilities are endless.

Yet, one of our favorite workshops, Sylvia Martinez, co-author of the acclaimed Invent to Learn and co-creator of the GPS satellite navigation system, kept us all grounded by reminding us that the future of education doesn't depend on technology. The future of anything depends on us! Since the dawn of time, Sylvia said, humans have possessed an innate drive to share — food, tools, ideas, experiences, and more. But, according to Martinez:

...the greatest advantage of this recent technological renaissance isn't a fancy printer or a slick mobile app, it is the resurgence and evolution of a making and sharing culture.

To Expand Learning, Collaboration is Key

What happens when you bring thousands of innovative educators together? Teamwork! This conference offered endless chances to meet and collaborate with other teachers and learners from around the globe. Whether it was figuring out a tricky Alice coding sequence or racing the clock in a theme park design challenge, working together was an integral part of FETC. The experience underlined to us the fact that, in our new world of technology, collaboration and team building skills are a must.

With so many dynamic exhibits, workshops, and sessions to experience, we walked away even more excited about the future of educational technology and jazzed to continue the Maker spirit at Explo.

Explo Maker: A New Focus Program for Makers

This summer, we're launching Explo Maker, a new Focus Program designed for makers, tinkerers, creators, doers, and curious students entering grades 6+7. With its own Makerspace on the campus of Wheaton College, Explo Maker embodies the type of problem solving that Explo has been championing for the past 40 years.