In a recent eSchool News Online poll, 80 percent of our readers said they planned to attend a major educational technology conference in the next 12 months.

We knew many of our readers attend conferences, but the 80 percent figure was a real eye-opener that showed just how important conferences are in shaping the future of education. Our online readers are particularly tech-savvy and undeniably passionate about making new technologies work for schools, and they aren’t likely to spend their time on things that don’t benefit students. If 80 percent of them attend conferences, then these events deserve all the media attention we can provide, which is why we’ve built a dedicated, year-round Conference Information Center at eSchool News Online.

If you’ve been to a major ed-tech conference, you already know why these events are so popular with educators. Whether it’s the impressive displays in the exhibit hall or the intensity of the presentations given at workshops, one thing is clear: Everybody at a conference is there because he or she cares about the future of technology in schools. Talk to people, and you’ll find the conversation always comes back to learning. The one question on everybody’s lips is not “How will this technology make my life easier?” It’s “How will this technology benefit my students?”

One of these major events–the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC)–will take place later this month in Orlando. At eSchool News Online, we’ll be striving to capture every last drop of insight gained at this and other conferences, and we want to help educators make use of it in their schools. But covering a major ed-tech conference like FETC is no easy task. With hundreds of workshops and dozens of lectures to attend, it’s virtually impossible for any news organization to chronicle everything.

This is where you come in, and it’s one reason we hope to see you in Orlando. At the recent National School Boards Association’s T+L2 gathering in Denver, we reached out to conference attendees, asking them to volunteer as correspondents for eSchool News and eSN Online. We were delighted that so many of you agreed to help us cover that event, and because of your efforts, we had coverage of more than half of the 77 T+L2 workshops. The result was a more complete picture of T+L2 than had ever been possible before. Once the conference ended, NSBA linked to our coverage on the home page of its T+L2 web site–an indication of just how much the correspondents had helped us achieve.

In case you missed any part of our T+L2 coverage, you can access it all at this link:

If you’re going to Orlando for FETC, you can get a first-hand experience of our eSN Online coverage by joining us as an FETC correspondent. If you’re interested in having as much fun as our correspondents had in Denver, we invite you to fill out the form at this link before the Jan. 14 closing date:

In filling out the form, you’ll be able to choose the sessions you wish to cover and, depending on supplies, you might even receive some cool technology to take home, such as the AlphaSmart Neo computer companions we gave to correspondents at T+L2.

Speaking of educator communities that are passionate about learning with technology, be sure to visit the new Ed-Tech Insider at eSN Online. We’ve brought together a group of ed-tech experts who post daily tips, tricks, and best practices. Like the Conference Correspondents, they do it on a volunteer basis because they want to help their colleagues and help the ed-tech movement in general.

In addition to the buzz around our Conference Information Center and Ed-Tech Insider section, eSchool News Online will be packed with other features in January. Among these is another addition to our Educator’s Resource Center, titled “Wireless Solutions for Education.”

With financial support from Sprint, we have aggregated our best content on wireless in one easy-to-access web page. You’ll find information about laptop programs, handhelds in the classroom, wireless security, and much more. Check it out at this link:

So stop by eSN Online in January for comprehensive coverage of FETC, expert opinion on the nation’s most pressing ed-tech issues, convenient centers for ed-tech research and, of course, the very latest educational technology news and information.