Hi again ya’ll! I thought I’d catch Learning Counsel readers up on the big takeaways from the TCEA conference this Spring, finally.

First, the weather was great if you noticed it. Mostly attendees were walking the enormous Austin Convention Center and wearing out their feet seeing a huge number of edtech companies and attending sessions after riding a sort of scary set of escalators up three floors.

Session on AR/VR

Favorite session was by Chris Klein, Head of Education at Avantis Education. Chris presented interesting points about AR/VR and engaging the present generation in learning dimensionally. Being able to have more than lecture and words on a page, seeing objects and being able to manipulate them more dimensionally than flat screens has a sort of magic to it. I will also mention for Chris that Learning Counsel Research indicates that AR/VR has the propensity to be an incredibly valuable selling point to attract and retain students, a particular importance with high attrition from traditional schools in favor of alternatives and especially homeschooling.

More Virtual Reality

Just like at FETC, here at TCEA there were interesting new companies with products in the trades – one in healthcare. Echo Healthcare Education exhibited their highly realistic simulation training tools and immersive learning environments which are transforming the way that medical simulation and education are delivered and absorbed.

Another virtual reality company, delcom group, with their Echo Education Technology offering provided another kind of immersive interactive value for learners. With thousands of learning environments like undersea video and many others, the projection works on floors, walls, and can scale to multiple rooms without distortion. Teaches can control the entire environment from tablets and add hotspots for causing questions and interaction that will include sounds and facts, even smell and touch with no headsets required.

I visited with Yehiel Polatov, VP Global Sales at Eyeclick, to learn about yet another sort of virtual reality offering from their award-winning interactive play projector company. Lots of highly active games to play and connect to curriculum concepts. Their products come with hundreds of free games and access to the largest interactive library on the market. Create interactive tables, walls, floors for large or small scale games.

Emily Genaway, a Marketing Manager with Visible Body also introduced me to their visible body suite and courseware as well as visible biology offering with virtual animal dissection, 3D cell and genetics modeling and premade video biology tours.

Conversational AI

I met with Bilal Ahmed, Founder of Grotabyte, which has a new “conversational AI” for school administrations to use to help them with modernizing their archiving for things like ediscovery and compliances. Grotabyte integrates real-time transcription and translation capabilities for audio and video materials and advanced text, audio, image, and video intelligence. They were among several with various AI offerings or AI embeddings. Lots of interesting things are happening on this front, including the spatial-temporal AI, Knowstory, and Microsoft’s generative AI, Copilot, and a new tool by Diffit offering AI lesson customization and differentiation.

Learning Collaboration and Engagement

A couple of stand-out companies were offering tools to increase engagement, including Aaron Sherman, Founder of StoryboardThat. Their platform helps learners create comic-book stories and comes with lesson plans, templates and plenty of resources. This tool is entirely unique in that it allows for is an incredible way to bring words to life and get learner’s imaginations revving in the act of creation. It’s a powerful tool for visual communication. The digital storytelling in StoryboardThat uses visual elements like images, characters, and scenes to help users build a rich and engaging proof of their understanding.

Another company, Figma, offered an interactive design and collaboration tool. Lauren McCann, Head of Education, was excited to discuss how the design aspects helped learners discover their creative side while also working online in collaboration with other students – a definite skill needed in many companies today for students to graduate having learned.

Safety and Security

Here at TCEA there were more companies focused on various aspects of security and safety for students, from physical security, to identity security and general safety mechanisms to help keep vigilance up.

I spent a bit of time chatting with Perry Roach, the CEO of Netsweeper, a content filtering & digital safety company. Their product helps schools safeguard student mental health in real time. Their products also secure devices both on and off campus. The implications of their work, the depth of what they can do to protect schools, lower administrative work, and especially make online learning safe, is impressive.

David R. Young, Region Sales Manager for Centripetal, a cybersecurity company explained their “in front of the firewall” cybersecurity offering and threat intelligence. Since schools and districts are some of the most targeted on the internet of all institutions, save maybe nuclear power plants and banks. Centripetal offers solutions for both cloud and enterprise location security.

Red River was another company on the TCEA exhibit floor, offering AI services, cloud and infrastructure services as well as cybersecurity.

Adela Claiborne, Key Accounts Manager at ipConfigure, was at the show offering Orchid VMS a video platform that records, manages, and interacts with thousands of cameras and 3rd-party applications through an immersive web-browser or mobile app interface to keep schools secure.

Another company, Nile Secure was there offering full automation of school networks according to Abby Wolfrum of their company’s marketing and sales team.

Typing Skill Programs

Let’s face it, without the ability to type with some speed and not just hunt-and-peck, it’s highly possible your learners will be handicapped in many fields. It’s like a form of illiteracy. That’s why it was exciting to see several companies hard at work helping bring these skills to students.

I spoke with Charmaine Waddell, Founder of the Yeti Academy which offers Typing Agent to teach students keyboarding.

Key Take-aways

In 2024, TCEA had a flavor of more technology resellers, more network and security companies, and more virtual reality than any other conference in the past two years.

TCEA did a good job bringing forward interesting new edtech and Learning Counsel looks forward to seeing more of their work helping Texans and visitors from out of state discover possibilities in education.