A Community – HECC 2023 Review
Written by: Eric Nentrup
For those working in Indiana’s edtech scene, the holidays really kickoff during the first week of November as the Hoosier Educational Computer Coordinators convened in Indianapolis to see the latest innovations, hear the most current legislation and research affecting their work, and most of all, catch up with colleagues from around the state. And even though it’s been well over a decade since my first HECC, entering the doors of Union Station brings back memories like a flip book through my education career. I have to believe the same holds true for those who travel to town for the annual fall gathering of the state’s technology directors, integration specialists, and those who design modern learning experiences for their schools.
From the entrance leading to the registration booth, then a quick stroll through the exhibitor’s hall, the building itself reminds us of our quickly evolving history—one that has moved from supporting best practices in the classroom to a position where education technology sets the tone and rhythm for teaching and learning. It’s this overarching shift that has become indelible over the past twelve months as emerging technologies such as ChatGPT, Bard, Claude, Dall•E, MidJourney, Pi, and so many variations of large language models rained down upon us and point towards an exciting (if not at times, terrifying) future for the field.
Even so, practical support continues to be the deliverable at the HECC conference. In the same hour, I quickly visited adjacent sessions talking about planning and executing hardware updates, one-to-one programs where the students themselves are trusted “admins,” and another session where education leaders learned about different multiple change management models.
“One of the dominant new themes for the 2023 HECC Conference was the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on all nodes of our learning environments.”
This is necessary due to the paradigm shift impacting those otherwise evergreen topics. Just like other education conferences elsewhere, one of the dominant new themes for the 2023 HECC Conference was the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on all nodes of our learning environments. Of course, the usual topics continue to prevail, however, looking at the updated exhibit hall solution providers booth signage to numerous sessions, both indirect and direct guidance for the generative AI (GenAI) era abounded. And rightly so—never has the field needed educator voice more at such state level events aimed at those responsible for guiding their peers and students safely forward.
Sessions that directly represented responsible use of AI-enabled solutions included not only demonstrations from vendors such as Merlyn Mind in partnership with CDW, but how innovative Hoosier edtech leaders have approached these platforms. Carly Havlik and Stevie Frank showed how they were using a variety of GenAI tools in Zionsville Community Schools and a deep dive into those from Adobe. Long time HECC favorite Chief Textbook Ditcher, Matt Miller had a packed room of educators relying upon his research and experimentation to try new tools and apply them directly, regardless of grade level or content area.
Then there were those sessions that addressed the new frontier more broadly and shined a light on important “upstream” points regarding policy and professional learning. Department of Education digital learning leaders, Diana Smith and Dana Calfee presented Indiana’s progressive position of embracing AI in schools, sharing the statewide pilot program along with copious amounts of resources for attendees doing likewise in their schools or districts, as new solutions dictate the need for new considerations and decisions from administrators. Keep Indiana Learning’s Martie Hofer and her team were greeted by a room of educators interested in expanding their personal knowledge and PLC through the CIESC’s investment in statewide professional development to keep our teaching force current on matters and skills, no matter what emerges in the months and years ahead.
To support this paradigm shift, Darlene Kennedy and Chantell Manahan of CoSN, presented the CETL framework and program to a room filled with ambitious Indiana edtech leaders. Through the Indiana CTO Council, CoSN’s official statewide chapter, they shared the details for earning the CETL certification, a long-standing credential opportunity for those making edtech guidance in our schools their vocation. Infrastructure and cybersecurity updates, acceptable use policy and other local support, funding initiatives and other similar sessions gave each and every attendee a chance to improve their work in some concrete way.
“HECC isn’t a conference…it’s a community.”
In conclusion, educators who attend multiple conferences throughout the year might notice a difference at HECC. It is entirely organized by and for educators. HECC isn’t a conference…it’s a community. So as the holiday season provides rest and respite from the challenges of working on the front lines, make note of your insights and how you can share them. The HECC 2024 call for proposals is open. Your voice is needed.