Networking, learning and fun at CETPA 2011

Networking, learning and fun at CETPA 2011

What is the ONE professional development experience no educational technology leader should miss? The annual CETPA Conference, of course!

The 51st Annual CETPA (CA Educational Technology Professionals Association) Conference was held over four days in beautiful Long Beach, CA beginning November 8th and it was packed with valuable learning experiences for California technology leaders. Networking opportunities were everywhere, sessions were powerful and interesting, the keynote speakers were fantastic and the sold-out Exhibitor Show had something for everyone.

The opening and general session keynote speakers continued in the long tradition of fun, moving and thought-provoking speakers for which CETPA is known. Joel Zeff, a national workplace expert, author and humorist used improvisation and comedy to provide insight on creativity, communication, balance and teamwork. I watched with pride and surprise as my normally soft-spoken and unassuming network engineer volunteered to join Joel on stage with several other members in a hilarious and moving improvisational sketch in front of a packed house. Howard Behar, former Starbucks President and author of the popular leadership bookIt’s Not About the Coffeebrought tears and laughter to the audience as he shared his insights on servant leadership. His admonition that the person who sweeps the floor should choose the broom provided fodder for many conversations throughout the rest of the conference.

This year’s sessions expanded on strands that members have enjoyed and come to rely on in past years. Over 200 sessions were offered under the four strands - New Learning Environments, Policy and Programs That Impact Education, Technology Tools for Education, and Secure and Reliable Infrastructure. Highly relevant and emerging topics included cloud and mobile computing, managing shrinking budgets, organizing for change, desktop and server virtualization and e-textbooks.

CETPA offered three hands-on lab environments focusing on desktop, laptop and mobile technologies on the Windows, Mac/iOS and Linux/Android platforms. Members sat at their own workstations to manipulate the technologies that were being taught in the lab environments by experts from industry and the educational technology community.

A wonderful new concept was introduced this year and was enthusiastically received by everyone. Three "Technology Shootouts" were offered, one each on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Each Shootout presented three different vendors offering similar technologies on the same stage. In the weeks leading up to the conference, members were polled to determine which topics held the greatest interest and which vendors they most wanted to see. After reviewing all responses, Shootouts were scheduled to present Wireless Networking, Classroom Collaboration Applications and Virtual Desktop . Presenters were given 15 minutes each to present their solutions and then all three sat together on stage to answer audience questions. These were rare opportunities to compare and contrast similar technologies in the same context in an honest yet invigorating environment. One vendor really got into the act and actually wore a Stetson and a holster with a cap gun!

If I were asked what I value most about this conference, I would say the greatest benefit is the opportunity to network face-to-face with long-time colleagues and to develop new professional friendships with other technologists throughout the state. These conversations are everywhere – during sessions, in hallways, in the hotel lobby, during meals and in the evenings. Throughout the conference, I find kindred who have faced down and conquered whatever I am struggling with and their advice and experiences are invaluable. Likewise, I find ample opportunities to “pay it forward” and share discoveries and solutions that have worked for me.

All in all the 51st Annual CETPA Conference was a whirlwind of networking and learning that was presented with class, intelligence and a good measure of surprise and fun. I can’t wait for next year to join my old friends and friends-to-be at the 52nd Annual CETPA Conference in Monterey, CA!

Steve Thornton is the Director of Technology for the Menifee Union School district in Menifee, CA