Highlights from the CETPA Conference

Enhancing Education through Innovation was the theme at this year’s 53rd annual California Educational Technology Professionals Association (CETPA) Conference held November 19th-22nd at the Convention Center in Pasadena. This is the premier organization in California for Technology Leaders. CETPA also manages an official chapter of CoSN. This year’s annual conference was a tremendous success, with over 200 more attendees than last year for a total of 888 attendees and 885 exhibitors. Most education technology conferences focus on the teacher and student use of technology. CETPA is the only conference in California that is primarily for the Information Technology Leaders in the State; Chief Information and Technology Officers and Directors. The best example of this is the CTO Mentor Program, which is a yearlong program that holds monthly classes and pairs candidates who seek to become CTO’s with successful CTOs all over the State. Successful candidates receive the Certificated Chief Technology Officer title and associated certification.

Attendees at this year’s conference were treated to two keynote speakers; Gentry Lee, Chief Engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who spoke about the exploration of Mars and how important technology and science curriculum in the school is to the success of exploration and innovation, and Billy Riggs, a magician who entertains while demonstrating the value of technology in learning. Both keynotes were exceptional and helped to stimulate the conversations at the conference.

There were also had several featured speakers which gives attendees the opportunity to interact on a personal level with keynote type speakers in a session like format. Each held several sessions. Larry Rosen, Professor of Psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, Jon Bernstein, President of BSG and an expert on federal legislation and regulatory issues related to E-rate, Rob Mancabelli, speaker and author on ways which technology transforms learning, and Leslie Wilson, founding member of the One–to-One Institute, were the featured speakers. I was personally able to attend one of Dr. Rosen’s sessions and was truly astounded at the research and work around learning through technology that he and others are performing. The information is something every technology leader as well as every teacher and school administrator should hear.

Other highlights at this year’s conference were:

The Technology Sandbox. These are for the really techies among us. This is a playground for engineer types to go into the actual hardware with onsite technical support. A technology-heavy, sales-free environment for attendees to meet with engineers one-on-one.

The Technology Shootout Sessions. These highlight technologies currently impacting educational institutions. Vendors go head-to-head to show their wares in revealing technology showdown fashion. Shootout sessions included MDM, Wireless and Mobile devices. Presenters have a few minutes to present their technology and then the audience uses Poll Anywhere to pick the winners.

The Hands on labs. The three labs this year were:

Google – This lab explored the possibilities for managing and using Google Apps and Google Docs on the exciting and affordable Chromebook platform.

Apple - Always a favorite with teachers and students. Attendees were given hands-on experience with the latest innovations for the IOS and OSX devices.

Network Management and Security - These sessions focused on using tools like SCCM, Meraki Management, Powershell and others to successfully manage and secure devices on your network.

One of the favorites and always well attended events of the CETPA conference is the Presidents Reception on Wednesday night. This is an opportunity for networking with colleagues and vendors in a comfortable and casual environment where everyone let’s down their hair. A hosted bar, plenty of food and a live band had everyone in a great mood.

The vendor show is limited to Thursday. This gives attendees the opportunity to spend time with vendors and really talk about how their products can help their school districts without pulling them away from the sessions. I find this a very valuable day and always enjoy finding out what the latest and greatest toys are available or are on the horizon.

The last day begins with a few final sessions and ends with the traditional CETPA Golf tournament. The tournament is truly designed for all levels of players and a fun time for all.

I highly recommend this conference to leaders and teachers alike whether you live in California or not, you will be glad you attended. Next year’s conference will be Nov 18th-21st in Sacramento.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Robert Gravina is the Chief Information Officer from Poway Unified School District, CA.