As an Orlando area resident, I am especially excited for FETC 2024 to be back in my town after having been held in New Orleans last year.
In addition to the wide array of excellent sessions taking place at the Orange County Convention Center, there’s a lot going on in the exhibition hall—and plenty of ways to engage with the conference and the great city of Orlando. If you’re attending FETC 2024 January 23-26, take a look at some “know before you go” information below so you can not only learn from and stay connected with FETC but also have fun in the city.
Wear comfortable shoes, and pack clothes for an “Orlando winter.” The Orange County Convention Center is the second-largest convention center in the United States, with over 7,000,000 square feet of space. While conference activities take place mainly in a central space, be prepared to walk to different sessions and events that you plan to see. Comfortable shoes will help you navigate the conference hall, the poster session arena, and more. Additionally, winters in Florida tend to be milder than other climates–it’s not uncommon for temperatures to hit the high 60s/low 70s.
Review sessions on the FETC website. With attendees and speakers that range from IT specialists, educators and instructional coaches to school leadership and more, there’s plenty of content to choose from. There are also poster sessions, playgrounds and activities. Previewing which sessions and activities you’d like to attend may also help you plan your conference schedule. (You can preview the sessions by visiting fetc.org. or by downloading the mobile app.) If you are on social media, follow FETC on Twitter (@fetc) and LinkedIn (Future of Educational Technology Conference) for updates and session highlights.
Be sure to check out the Expo Hall. Here, you’ll be able to speak with employees from education and technology companies—many who come from education themselves—and others who are invested in using educational technology to enhance their curriculum and learning experiences. Expo passes at FETC 2024 are free, so even if you can’t attend the full conference, it’s worth your time to visit the expo hall.
When you’re “off the clock”
Last but not least, be sure to check out the great city of Orlando. Orlando isn’t nicknamed “The City Beautiful” for no reason. It’s a gorgeous city with lots to do. The area is known for its theme parks, tourism, and food scene–but there’s much more to explore, too. Here are my top five things to do within 15 minutes of the Orange County Convention Center:
- Disney Springs. If you follow me on social media (@victoriathetech on Twitter and linkedin.com/victoriarosethompson on LinkedIn), you won’t be surprised that I’m a huge Disney theme park fan. I have an annual pass to the theme parks, and whenever visitors come to town, they ask to hang out in the theme parks. However, if you’re looking for a “free” option, Disney Springs is one of the best. It’s a vast outdoor shopping center with over 60 restaurants as well as shops, live entertainment and more, and unlike the theme parks, admission is free.
- Universal City Walk. For my Universal Studios fans, this one is for you! Universal City Walk is similar to Disney Springs, where you do not need a ticket or an annual pass to Universal Studios in order to get in. Nicknamed the “Epicenter of Awesome,” it has an impressive selection of shops, bites, places to eat, and even a movie theater. You can also experience live music, and even play mini-golf! For the Harry Potter fans attending FETC, the Universal Studios store will have a great section of souvenirs in their Wizarding World of Harry Potter area.
- Discovery Cove. If you’ve got some time to spare and you’re a fan of the ocean, I absolutely recommend that you check out Discovery Cove. Discovery Cove is a resort where you can swim with dolphins, snorkel among thousands of tropical fish in their Grand Reef, feed hundreds of exotic birds in their aviary, and explore their Freshwater Oasis. This will cost money (and you can check the Discovery Cove website for rates), but it’s worth a visit and a must-see if you are interested in marine biology, the ocean, and oceanic animals.
- Orlando Museum of Art. Founded in 1924, this museum is easily one of my favorite places to visit in the Orlando area. Each year, it presents about a dozen shows consisting of special and visiting exhibitions, as well as those curated from the museum’s collections. Orlando Museum of Art welcomes more than 130,000 visitors each year and the museum’s education programs serve 16,000 annually.
- ICON Park. This 20-acre, open-air, gate-free entertainment destination features plenty of space for you to spread out and relax after the hustle and bustle of attending the conference. Located in the heart of Orlando’s International Drive, ICON Park offers more than 40 amazing restaurants, funky bars, boutique shops and attractions, all huddled around “The Wheel,” a Ferris wheel that rises 40 stories.