In Advance of ECOO


Once a year, folks using technology in the classroom make the pilgrimage to the the ECOO conference.  It’s generally held in the outer areas of Toronto so that we’re not forced to drive downtown and look for parking.  That part is great.  The rest is even greater.

This year, we’re in a new location.  We’re out in Richmond Hill in the north of Toronto.  Nice location with what appears to be a facility that is designed for a conference of this size.  As a person that will be working at the OSAPAC booth, I had to check out the digs.  I’m liking this already.  The exhibit hall seems to be big and wide open.  You can walk through areas without bumping into things.  It’s looking good before we even get started.

What makes a conference is the people.

I arranged to meet with my co-presenter to go over our notes before we go live tomorrow.  We grabbed what we thought was an out of the way table thinking that we could have a nice quiet little chat.  We were — until people started walking forth and back.

A quick wave and it’s time to drop the planning and pick up the conversation.

And what conversations.

They’re not all nerdy, technical, nuts and bolts, wires and connectors talk like you would suspect.

It’s about teaching pedagogy; it’s about change; it’s about how technology is making a difference when used properly.  It’s the stuff that I thrive on.  It’s a discussion about the dream where research and networking truly makes a difference.

Wonderful renewal of acquaintances with GM, GD, NM, MW, JR, CR, SG, RM, JP, DW, TH, LC, RM, SM, and a slew of new people.  With the ones that I know, and the new ones, the conversatiions continue as if it was yesterday when we had last chatted.  In some cases, it was months or even a year ago.

I marvel at what we do.  Those of us who are computer using educators have had regular renaissances.  When we got into this years ago, it was exciting to think that with some simple instructions, we could make a big, expensive box do things like sort names or create pay cheques or generate tones to a certain pitch.  There was something out of the ordinary when you worked hard to see the login in making these things happen.

Crank the clock forward and we’re now using technology seemlessly to accomplish tasks with such efficiency in our daily lives.  GPS systems are directing us to this location, cell phones let us find our friends in the maze of hallways, character recognition is charging us for using the toll road, Twitter updates let us know that our PLN continues to work while we’re chatting with others, and I can continue to refine my presentation in my hotel room. 

Yet, the conversation here is also mindful that ubiquity hasn’t been achieved.  Cell phones don’t make it into classrooms, for example.  I had a nice discussion with a retired educator over that one.  We’ve come so far, but there’s that last mile that stops us from the dream.

So, I’m sitting here with my co-presenter and we’re debating whether one of the Ministry licensed titles has a colon in the middle of it.  No problem, I’ll just hop onto the Internet and search the OSAPAC website and find out for certain.

FAIL

In this brand new location, there is no wireless internet access. 

Technology, with all of its potential and all of its promise, has dropped the ball for me.

My needs are meager.  I want to live in a world where I don’t have to go to special places to access information.  I want it when I need it.  I need it when I need it, not when it’s convenient for someone else to make it available to me. 

If I end up with the short end, how about the student who has to check his cell phone or PDA at the door.  How about the teacher who has invested in her own personal growth and purchased her own laptop only to find that it can’t be attached to a school network.  If she can’t, you know her students sure can’t either.  Does that imply that the only good information is the information that we provide and not the result of active research?  Is the only good network a controlled network?  Is the only good computer a tightly controlled computer?

For all of the good that has happened and continues to happen in classrooms (and there has been so much good), that last step remains a challenge. 

We constantly here about how life is like in the “real world”.  As I look out my window, I see an RBC, Seneca College, and the Richmond Hill Town Centre.  I wonder, if tomorrow when the workers in these buildings do their thing, they do so with a partial set of tools.

How long before we can solve that last mile problem and really deliver on the promise?

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