First Conference - 1989
The Georgia Instructional Technology Conference, predecessor of the Georgia Educational Technology Conference (GaETC), was held April 17-18, 1989, at the Iron Works Conference Center in Columbus, Georgia. The program consisted of 74 concurrent sessions and a keynote luncheon, and approximately 20 vendors exhibited state-of-the art technology hardware and software. Over 650 Georgia educators took advantage of this first-time opportunity in our state.
Planning for First Conference
For a number of years the Metro West and East Georgia Learning Resources System (GLRS) Centers and the Department of Special Education of Georgia State University, along with the statewide Georgia Regional Educational Service Agencies (RESA) Computer Coordinators Group, co-sponsored an annual conference, Microcomputer Applications in Education. Although the original focus of this conference was special education, it rapidly began to draw large numbers of regular education teachers.
In 1989, the RESA Network Computer Coordinators Group worked cooperatively with the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE), Office of Instructional Programs, and the GLRS Network to develop a new educational technology conference. The overall goal of the first conference was to provide participants with a quality learning experience through “exposure to peers who were effectively using technology in instructional settings, to nationally recognized leaders in the field, and to commercial exhibits which provided information on state-of-the-art hardware, software, and uses of technology.”
At that time, technology, especially computer and video technology, was beginning to have a significant impact on society and was proving to be an effective aid in both delivery and management of instruction in America’s schools. As these technologies expanded, it became essential that a mechanism be developed to promote acceptance, to share productive applications for students, teachers, administrators, and student support personnel, and to plan for future applications.
In early 1988, a meeting was held with William Johnson, Assistant Superintendent for General and Vocational Education, GaDOE, to discuss the need for such a conference and to request funding assistance and other departmental support in addressing this need. Weyman Culp, GaDOE, coordinated the arrangements for the meeting, and those attending included RESA Technology Coordinators Jimmy Adams, Bill Carmichael, and Bob Smith, as well as GaDOE personnel Weyman Culp and Brenda Tapp. Based on the information provided by this group of individuals and the support of William Johnson, GaDOE agreed to provide a $4,900 grant for organizing and conducting a statewide educational technology conference.
Initially, the planning group considered holding a one-day drive-in conference in the fall of 1988. However, based on the discussion and rationale presented in the meeting, the decision was made to plan a multi-day conference to be held in the spring of 1989. It was further agreed that First District RESA would serve as fiscal agent for the conference with Faye Adams as treasurer. Brenda Tapp was designated as Conference Chair, and William Johnson was recognized as Honorary Conference Chair. The GaDOE and the RESAs were the sponsoring agencies. It was determined that the program design and format from the Microcomputers in Education Conference should be retained to help with the transition.
Jimmy Adams and Phyllis Tweed, both from First District RESA, served as Program Chair and Facilities/Sponsors Chair. A Program Committee consisting of local educational agency (LEA) representatives from across the state and across curricular areas was identified to plan the content for the first conference. Strands were developed for the major curricular areas as well as for special education and administration.
While program development was underway, arrangements were made to hold the conference in the Iron Works Convention and Trade Center in Columbus, Georgia, and vendors were contacted about exhibiting at the conference. When the program content was completed, Pete Seabolt, Pioneer RESA, and Brenda Tapp prepared the program for printing at Metro RESA.
The general consensus of the Conference Committee was that a goal of 350 attendees would be reasonable, although materials were prepared for 500 “just in case.” There were approximately 20 exhibitors at the conference, and the attendance was over 650. At the conclusion of the conference, a balance of approximately $10,000 was available with which to conduct a second conference. Following a meeting at the Georgia Department of Education, which included representatives of several LEAs as well as DOE representatives and leaders from the 1989 conference, the conference was renamed The Georgia Educational Technology Conference (GaETC).
Brenda Tapp continued as Conference Chair through the 1990 and 1991 Conferences. In 1992, Tom Dickson, Whitfield County Schools, became Conference Chair. In addition, for the 1992 conference, contracts were entered into with Jane Spencer for publication of the conference program and with McRae and Company for management of the exhibits and registration. Beginning in 1993, Mark Cheek, CSRA RESA, became Conference Chair and served in this capacity through 1996.
Participation at the conference continued to increase, necessitating the decision in 1996 to move to the Macon CentrePlex to provide more space for the growing conference. During this period of time, the program grew to over 200 concurrent sessions, and approximately 150 vendors were supporting the conference. Wayne Robinson, Walker County Schools, succeeded Mark Cheek as Conference Chair for the years 1997-1999. Concurrent sessions averaged around 200 per year during this period, and by 1999, exhibitors exceeded 200.
A 10th Anniversary Celebration was held in 1998, and the key players from the first years of the conference were invited to attend the anniversary reception and were recognized for their contributions to the success and growth of the GaETC. This was also the first year that staff development credit was officially offered to conference participants. In 2000, Donna Herring became the fifth Conference Chair, and Mark Cheek was elected first President of the newly formed Georgia Educational Technology Consortium. They continued in these roles through 2002.
The Conference experienced another major change in 2001, with a move to Savannah, where it remained for two years. Following the 2002 Conference, Ray Jordan, Turner County, was named Conference Chair, and Wayne Robinson assumed the duties of Consortium President. The decisions to return to Macon for GaETC 2003 and to change the date to February were also made, and logos for the Consortium and the Conference were adopted. In 2004, the Board named Vicki Rogers the Conference Chair. After a spring conference, the Board scheduled a second conference in 2004 in November to begin a series of November conferences.
In 2005, under the leadership of Vicki Rogers, the Conference was moved to the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park. Traci Redish of Kennesaw State University ETC was appointed the Conference chair in 2007. In 2010, the Consortium Board named Brian Blanton of Henry County Schools the Conference chair. Hoke Wilcox of Fulton County Schools became the chair in 2013.