Whatever happened to …

… SIGs.

Special Interest Groups – at least the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario ones.

Thanks to Peter Skillen for inspiring this thought with his comment about SIG-Logo from last week. 

There was a time when SIGs were a very active, in fact the most active part of ECOO.  I can’t recall them all but I’m hoping that people hop in with memories.  I do remember SIG-Logo (I learned so much there), SIG-ELEM (their mini-conferences were awesome), SIG-CS (I was very active in that one and we moved the Provincial Computer Science contest to the Ontario Science Centre), and then the memory fades.  I can’t recall whether or not there was a SIG-Hyperstudio or if it was just so big in SIG-ELEM.

ECOO also had a newsletter (ECOO Output) that you could set your calendar to filled with articles from members and the SIGs.  It was always read from cover to cover here and was a source for many ideas and activities.  For the most part, we were all constructivists if for no other reason, all that we had were tools!  You could make contact with the leaders or members within the SIGs and very quickly get answers.

Then, a few years ago, the SIGs went away.  Computer Science is still there, only listed as an affiliate.  Instead of a newsletter, a website is in place and you can see the updates, typically minutes from a board meeting.  The conference is in place and a great way to connect with other Ontario educators.  Rather than the SIGs promoting and nominating speakers by their specialty, a conference committee seeks to provide a balanced program of content.

Technology learning is different these days.  You make your own connections of a like mind through social media, edcamps, or some physical gatherings. 

There are such big issues right now that I can’t help but wonder if the very constructive SIG format couldn’t be of value.

  • Principals wishing to be digital leaders
  • We have two major directions in the province – districts implementing Google Apps for Education or Microsoft Office 365 – where do they learn and share?
  • Coding throughout the curriculum beyond the Hour of Code
  • Effective digital literacy education with a specific focus
  • Support for software licensed by the Province
  • Effective use of Web based applications
  • Effective use of portable computing devices
  • Student and Teacher privacy

Every day when I connect to my network through social media, I see requests for help on particular topics.  The answers, if they come, are sometimes good but what can you cover in 140 characters?  There are awesome Ontario Edubloggers solving the problems of the world one post at a time.  But just try to tack down one particular item from beginning to end.

As you read this on your long Victoria Day weekend (hopefully by the cottage or on the patio), what are your thoughts?

  • Were you ever a member of a SIG?  If so, which one(s) and do you have any special memories?
  • Are we OK with learning topics that are a mile wide but not very deep?
  • Is learning through social media, district PD, subject association, or the annual ECOO conference enough for you?
  • If you were to create your own SIG from scratch, what would you do?

In closing, thanks so much for Peter for stirring the pot for me.  I’m liking this Sunday post and want to make it a “Whatever happened to …” regular feature, at least until I run out of ideas!  I’ve put a link at the top of the page here so that you can see them all.  I’ve also added a link to a Padlet if you want to stir up stuff for me like Peter did.

As always thanks for reading and I’d love to read your thoughts below.

3 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. I have 1 comment and 1 request.

    10-12 years ago, there was a group of computer consultants led by Ross Isenegger who started a group in Northern Ontario called NOCIEA (Northern ONtario Computers in Education Association). We would get together twice a year in Sudbury and meet with fellow consultants to learn from each other, find out what was going on in various boards, talk about issues we were having and trouble shoot solutions. I don’t know if it still exists or not as I have been in admin for 9 years now, but it was a great way to get together with our colleagues and created a network of individuals we could network with or call-upon with questions.

    The second part is my request. My board is one of those who are switching to Office 365. My school is a pilot school. Would be looking to join any networks (especially those for principals) who might be able to guide me into developing a new workflow. For years we have used First Class as our main tool for communication but now have access to the entire O365 suite. Some guidance would be appreciated. I am familiar with GAFE somewhat so I can easily see the parallels.

    Does Microsoft have an educator program like Google does? Do they host summits kind of like the GAFE summits we see across the province.


  2. ECOO Special Interest Groups – Does that ever take me back to the early days of the ECOO.

    ECOO was incorporated in 1979 and almost from the beginning there were Special Interest Groups (SIGs)

    There were at various times:
    SIG-ELEM (Elementary)
    SIG-SEC (Secondary)
    SIG-TEL (Telecommunications, Telematics, or something like that 😉
    SIG-CS (Computer Science)
    SIG-SPED (Special Education)
    SIG-CIEL (Computers In Education: Leadership)

    Each of these SIGs set up its own organization and had a representative on the ECOO Board of Directors. Many of the SIGs sponsored very successful annual mini-conferences that were hosted in a variety of sites around the province.

    Attempts were made to set up a SIG for Private and Independent Schools, but that effort was not successful.
    I can’t remember if there were others SIGs but there may have been.

    A study by OTF found that teachers would join only 1 or 2 professional development groups. As other subject groups started to include technology in their conferences and publications, the interest in SIGs (and ECOO) started to diminish.

    Access to the Internet gave teachers access to a venue for sharing ideas about using information technology in the classroom. They could often find sites can contained the depth of resources they wanted without going to a conference

    In the early 2000s, the remaining SIGs were renamed with the prefix ‘ECOO’ instead of SIG e.g. ECOO-ELEM. Some ECOO Board members felt that ‘SIG’ sounded too much like another word that carried negative connotation.

    Eventually all of the SIGs disappeared. However, the ECOO By-Laws still allow for the creation of new SIGs. To create a SIG (ECOO-subgroup), the organization would have to meet the conditions outlined in the By-Laws.

    These days, a new SIG would have to have a strong web presence that provided a wealth of resources on their topic as well as a forum for discussion. Some sites like this already exist for special topics. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has many SIGs on a variety of topics. An ECOO duplication could be redundant.

    As to whether we can create the SIG environment again, I really don’t know. It’s a new world.

    A publication, that every member received a print copy, ECOO OUTPUT, really kept ECOO and the SIGs alive. The print version of ECOO Output was discontinued a number of years ago. ECOO Online versions don’t seem to have the same attraction.

    I really enjoyed my participation in many SIGs over my years as an active ECOO member. ECOO members could join as many SIGs as the wanted in the last years of the SIGs.



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