PETE & C or the Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo and Conference is a statewide event that allows teachers, administrators, and school board members to connect with technology directors and leaders. The conference involves several events from which educators can learn about the upcoming advances in the field of education technology, including keynote speakers, workshops, and hundreds of exhibitors showcasing their technology products and curriculums. We had representatives of our Inventionland Institute Curriculum attend the conference as Exhibitors, giving us the opportunity to both showcase our educational tools and geek out with our fellow educators over innovations in educational technology.
The PETE & C event kicked off on Sunday, February 23rd with attendee and exhibitor registration. The afternoon and early evening consisted of workshops, vendor hospitalities, and a welcome reception so that educators and technology officials alike could begin to network. This year’s conference took place at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, PA- home to Heinz Ketchup, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and our very own Inventionland Institute Headquarters.
On Monday, February 24th the Exhibitor Hall opened. This was where we were stationed, manned with our brochures, packets, videos, Makerkits, and our passion for industry-based learning that leads to career-readiness. The atmosphere in the exhibitor hall was teeming with excitement as people mingled, networked, and learned about new and innovative educational tools. This conference is typically held in Hershey, PA so there appeared to be a slightly smaller turnout than there have been in previous years. To our representatives at the conference and other attendees, however, this merely resulted in more personal and meaningful relationships being formed rather than constantly being mobbed by swarms of attendees.
The main event on the first day was the keynote speech titled The Art and Science of Memorable Teaching. This speech discussed how beliefs on education can shape the classroom, effect lessons, and have a dramatic impact on student motivation. There were also several Concurrent Sessions throughout the day as well as Member Organization Events to close out the day.
On Tuesday the 25th, day three, the main keynote was titled Climate and Culture. The Choice is Yours. This speech touched on how climate and culture on an individual level can impact jobs in education. As with the previous day, there were Concurrent Sessions and the Exhibitor Hall was open until 2:15 PM. In addition to these, however, the annual PA Invention Convention was also hosted during the afternoon. Finally, in the evening, there was a Heinz History Center Event where you could elect to take a trip over to Pittsburgh’s Senator John Heinz History Center for an evening of history, food, and drinks.
Finally, a short day on Wednesday the 26th closed off this year’s PETE & C conference. After some Concurrent Sessions in the morning, the event closed off with a final keynote titled Social Impact in the Digital Age. This keynote touched on some of the risks of social media in terms of misinformation and a rise in negativity. In addition to the keynote, our Inventionland Institute Curriculum representative, Nathan Field, had the opportunity to conduct a workshop with our partners at IU1. We collectively presented on both the Inventionland Institute and personalized learning for all. We also ran some hands-on activities and had one of our teachers speak on the practicality of using the Inventionland Institute Curriculum in their classroom. All of the events were incredibly accessible through multiple programs as well as a digital app that attendees could use to keep up to date on all conference details.
Our curriculum was represented across multiple booths in the Exhibitor Hall including ours, the IU1 booth and mobile lab, and Allegheny Educational Systems Inc. They each came equipped with unique displays, including IU1’s very popular 3D printing pancake display which allows educators to walk away simultaneously knowing more about the world of 3D printing and with a tasty treat.
As with past conferences we attended, we noticed a lot of interest in our teacher resources. Our Makerkits, which showcase the capabilities of laser cutting, were a big draw and had people coming up to us and asking questions. We also noticed a lot of interest in our Makercharts, which are guides teachers can hang up in their classroom to use as a reference for questions about 3D Printing/Laser Cutting in terms of dimensions, materials, machine settings, etc. We were also able to talk about our Makerspaces and the tours we offer at Inventionland since this conference took place in our home city of Pittsburgh, PA. We even got a shoutout about our tours from one of the event speakers, Greg Maser, who is a technology specialist at Seneca Highlands.
From our many conversations with fellow educators circulating in and out of the exhibitor hall, we gathered that everyone found the keynote speakers and workshop events both educational and inspirational. These events were especially helpful this year because the conference recorded some of these events so that attendees can go back and reference the material later.
One of our favorite parts of the conference was getting to both connect with our current partners as well as start to build relationships for the future. We ran into our partners at IU1, IU28, and IU27 and we were able to network with them. We were also able to converse with some of the schools that currently use our curriculum such as Grove City, Plum, Altoona, Pace, etc. Walking around the giant hall, however, we were also able to introduce ourselves and network with organizations we’d like to work with in the future such as different IU’s and schools that are looking to implement STEM-based curriculums.
Ultimately, the conference served as an inspiring way to connect PA educators who are interested in technology with one another and with leaders in tech education.