Educators from Texas and beyond have gathered this week in Austin for the 25th annual convention and exposition of the Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA). The conference officially kicks off Wednesday with the keynote speech from Disney Teacher of the Year, Ron Clark.

Clark is the author of the best-selling book The Essential 55, which is a guide for students and adults that can be read as Cliff’s Notes for the social contract. ABC is turning the story of Clark’s life into a Sunday Night Movie of the Week, and Oprah Winfrey named him her first-ever “Phenomenal Man” and featured Clark in her television show and her magazine.

More than 360 vendors of educational technology and other products will be featured in the TCEA exhibit hall, which also opens Wednesday. Exhibitors include Cisco Systems, Discovery Education, LeapFrog SchoolHouse, Macromedia Inc., Blackboard, Inc., Schlessinger Media, SMART Technologies, Dell, Inc., and many more.

Attendees have been gathering for pre-conference workshops, meetings, and other events since Monday.

“I come here every year for updates on what the big vendors are doing,” said Edward Douglas, a technology teacher from West Colombia, Texas. “I come to see where [Microsoft], Macromedia, all of those companies are going, because that’s what our kids need.”

Douglas said he attended workshops on integrating Microsoft Office into the secondary mathematics classroom and plans to attend sessions on Macromedia Dreamweaver and digital animation techniques as the week goes on.

Wanda Dominguez, a technology teacher for K-6 students from Dallas, is taking part in the eSchool News Conference Correspondents program. She will attend TCEA events and report on them. Those reviews will be published on the eSN web site as the conference unfolds.

Dominguez said she signed up to be a Conference Correspondent because it was “an interesting and different way to participate in the conference.” She also welcomed the chance to win a Neo by AlphaSmart computer companion for her efforts. The company, a Conference Correspondent sponsor, will give away three of the word processing and computing machines to correspondents who take part in this eSN program.

As the week continues, convention attendees will be able to take part in workshops and more than 100 free sessions that discuss a wide range of issues, including opportunities for eRate funding, distance learning, PowerPoint use, technology that enhances English as a Second Language instruction, clay animation for students, software repurposing, accelerated WebQuest development, and many other subjects.

Willard Daggett, president of the International Center for Leadership in Education, will provide Thursday’s keynote address. Daggett has assisted many states and hundreds of school districts in implementing improvements in response to the U.S. Department of Education’s No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

Throughout the TCEA conference, attendees will be invited to watch multimedia presentations by the Student Technologists Achieving Real Success (STARS) Academy. The members of the STARS Academy also will compete in a Robotics Contest. Janice Schlottmann, vice president of TCEA, called the competition “the best representation of [the TCEA Convention] theme, ‘Let Technology Shine.'”

Keep watching this space for daily updates from the convention hall and exhibit floor.