By Author(s) Name(s): Rachelle Dené Poth
I recently attended my fourth TCEA conference. This year marked the 43rd year of the TCEA (Texas Computer Educators Association) Convention and Exposition which was held in San Antonio, Texas at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. Since the first time I attended TCEA in San Antonio in 2017, it has become one of my must-attend conferences each year. With more than 700 sessions to choose from on a variety of important topics, TCEA provided a great learning experience for educators again this year. There were also lots of spaces for educators to connect and build their network. Luann Hughes served as the 2023 Convention Chair and sent emails each day with an overview of the day’s schedule, some “Sessions to Savor” and other helpful information to get attendees excited for the day!
The people: It is so nice to be able to join together in person at events like the TCEA conference again. For some people, this may have been the first time meeting a friend face-to-face or the first time seeing a friend in the past few years. For me, I love the opportunities to spend time with friends, make new connections and build our learning networks.
The mock schedules: Deciding on sessions to attend can always be a challenge especially when there are so many choices. One of the things I love about TCEA is that they put together mock schedules focused on the different roles of educators. The conference planning team reviews all sessions being offered for roles such as classroom teachers, IT, leaders, and librarians, or with a specific focus on SEL or STEM, special populations, and other important topics in education. Being able to look at a sample schedule helps any attendee but definitely, a first-time attendee to build a schedule focused on their specific interests and needs for professional learning.
Power Hours: There were a variety of session types and events during the conference. Each day started with a Power Hour with a featured speaker. On Monday, Dr. Adam Saenz focused on “The Power of a Teacher” and how important it is to remember the “why” behind the work that we do and the importance of focusing on relationships. On Tuesday, Dr. Michael Hinojosathe spoke about “How to Leverage Educational Technology as a Learning Strategy.” He has more than 40 years of experience in public education, as a teacher, coach, and superintendent/CEO. On Wednesday, the Power Hour “Keep it REAL. Keep it FUN. Keep it UP!” with Joe Dombrowski, an educator who has studied the art of improv comedy. He shared ideas and personal stories about how he uses improv to boost student engagement. His goal is to help students “want to be in school rather than have to be in school.” There was a lot of laughter during his inspiring session.
Thursday’s Power Hour was with Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis, a former Sandy Hook Elementary teacher and the founder and executive director of Classes 4 Classes. She inspired educators with her message focused on making choices with “purpose, passion, perspective, resilience, and hope.”
One of many interesting spaces in the center.
The sessions and topics
There were several hot topics this year. Attendees were very interested in learning about AI and in particular, ChatGPT, and its implications for education. Blockchain, NFTs, and the metaverse were also of interest, with several sessions available covering each of these. I presented a few sessions on artificial intelligence, emerging tech like NFTs, blockchain, the metaverse, and augmented and virtual reality. I also presented and attended several sessions on SEL. There were so many great sessions to choose from. As a presenter, I learn so much from attendees and I look forward to those opportunities to connect. The interactions in sessions lead to new connections and spark interest in new areas for teachers who walk away feeling more confident in diving into some of these new topics and trends.
One of my presentations focused on Chart A New Course: Teaching Essential Skills. Sharing methods and tools like BookWidgets, StoryJumper, Marty the Robot and many more!
Jaime Donally had a great experience for anyone looking to learn about augmented and virtual reality during her sessions such as “Top AR/VR Trends to Transform Learning” and the Digcit VR Journey. Rabbi Michael Cohen (The Tech Rabbi) presented a few sessions on Cryptocurrency, Blockchain, NFTs, and web 3. Also, a big focus was on SEL, with a great session for teachers presented by Jenallee, the eTwinz, and Scott Bricker. Many sessions covered these topics and drew large crowds. Monica Burns had so many ideas to share in her “15 Ways to Collect Actionable Formative Assessment Data” session. She presented quick ideas and also digital tools that help educators gather important data about student learning.
Strategies for Teachers Session by Jenalee and the eTwinz
There were a variety of sessions focused on specific tools such as Google from Dr. Desiree Alexander who had a lot of great tips for streamlining Google Drive. Holly Clark and Matt Miller presented on AI and ChatGPT and shared some ideas for how educators can explore this technology and ways to help students understand it and its implications for learning now and working in the future. Another engaging session was “Three by Thursday! Electrifying Strategies to Ensure Engagement in Learning” by Stormy Daniels and Wendy Hedeen. These are just some of the many topics you could explore and sessions that provided actionable strategies and many resources and also helped with building confidence in taking some risks in our classrooms.
The poster sessions: At each conference, poster sessions are a great way to take in a lot of new ideas in a short amount of time. Being able to interact one-on-one and ask questions specific to your needs in these topic areas really does make a difference. There were poster sessions for CTE, Librarians, Professional Learning, STEM, CTE, and content areas. Sometimes it can be tough to decide which sessions to attend at a conference, but there were opportunities everywhere, especially through the poster sessions.
Panel and Roundtable Discussions: There were roundtable and panel discussions held each day on topics such as equity, personalized professional learning, sustainability, and really relevant focus points for educators. Each day had a variety of panel discussions focused on issues relevant to classroom teachers, educators, and librarians and provided an engaging space to ask questions and make new connections.
Presenting on AI and sharing Marty the Robot
The big topics: Some of the big topics in emerging technology this year were blockchain, cryptocurrency, the metaverse, NFTs, and also ChatGPT. There were also a lot of sessions focused on SEL for students and ideas for educators for their own well-being. TCEA even had an SEL room available for educators to take time to relax in a calming and relaxing environment. It was also a space where educators could learn more about SEL practices and gather some resources.
The Exhibit Hall
I enjoyed exploring the exhibit hall this year with so many companies present and different opportunities to interact with cutting-edge technologies and new ideas for STEM and emerging technologies. Some of the favorites were the Escape Room bus, the Esports area, and of course the endless swag that was available to attendees. There was a lot of interest in STEM-related resources such as Ozobot, Sphero, Marty the Robot, and more hands-on learning materials for younger students like this awesome learning mat from Active Floor.
It is also another great way to learn some new ideas by checking out the different technologies and solutions or catching some of the booth demos given by educators. It gives attendees the chance to learn about a lot in that one space and also to walk away with some fun swag too!
Esports was popular this year with several sessions happening as well as a space in the expo for attendees to take in the esports experience. Throughout the hall, there were booth demos by educators sharing their experiences of using some of the tools like Book Creator, Edpuzzle, Kami, and Spaces EDU, and many booths with live presentations happening every 15 minutes.
Attendees could also step inside and take a tour of a fully renovated, 43-foot school bus that has become a makerspace on wheels. It’s a STEAM dream come true!
The Quest Escape Room bus
The space that TCEA creates
Arriving at TCEA each year, attendees are welcomed as soon as they enter the space. There are volunteers ready to assist you and lead you in the right direction, make sure you are enjoying the experience and check in on presenters to make sure everything is set to go. Don’t worry about attending this conference alone. It is a welcoming space and you will meet and connect with educators right away!
Meeting up with friends at registration to kick off the week!
Planning for next year!
If you have been thinking about attending a conference, I definitely recommend TCEA. It has become a favorite event each year. The topics and strands focused on different roles for educators, the variety of sessions, and the welcoming TCEA staff and volunteers, really provide a tremendous learning experience for all attendees.
Next year’s conference will be held February 3-7, 2024 in Austin, Texas.
About the Author
Rachelle Dené is a Spanish and STEAM: What’s nExT in Emerging Technology Teacher at Riverview High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle is also an attorney with a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. Rachelle is an ISTE Certified Educator and serves as the past president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network. She was named one of 30 K-12 IT Influencers to follow in 2021.
She is the author of seven books including ‘In Other Words: Quotes That Push Our Thinking,” “Unconventional Ways to Thrive in EDU”, “The Future is Now: Looking Back to Move Ahead,” “Chart A New Course: A Guide to Teaching Essential Skills for Tomorrow’s World, “True Story: Lessons That One Kid Taught Us” and her newest book “Your World Language Classroom: Strategies for In-person and Digital Instruction” and Things I Wish […] Knew.
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