Thanks to Andrew Forgrave for the inspiration to write this post. Last week, he wrote a couple of posts that appeared on his blog:
The title of this post was going to be “What a subject association could be”. In Ontario, the Ontario Curriculum Forum organizes meetings of a number of subject associations. I’ve created a Twitter list of the associations here. In the middle, you’ll find ECOO – the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario. It’s an organization of computer using educators but not really a subject association, hence the revision to my title. If your school is treating it as a separate subject, you’re doing it wrong. There are specific subject associations that handle the Computer Science Educator or the Technology Educator.
I’ve had a long history with ECOO dating right back to its inception. I’ve had so many fond memories of the value of the organization to me. I looked forward anxiously to the ECOO Output magazine, the resource sharing from connections, the learning from the Special Interest Groups, the value of the mini-conferences, and the annual conference. Over the years, I’ve written for the magazine, attended the mini-conferences and annual conference as a delegate, organized the provincial programming conference, presented as an educator, been a featured speaker, and co-chaired the annual conference with dear friend, daredevil Cyndie Jacobs.
My conference attending habits were the butt of jokes from a friend of mine. I became known as the champion of the “How ClarisWorks changed my life” sessions. Given a choice between sitting and hearing a big-time speaker recite the same presentation that has been delivered many times without modification, I’ll search out the classroom teacher who has tried something new and enjoyed personal success.
I’ve had great memories over the years. I remember being trapped in a Toronto hotel with the electricity (and air conditioning) gone out, I remember the fantastic setting for a conference at the Regal Constellation and its starry rooms, I remember attending the first sessions at OISE, I remember technical problems appearing in presentations, and I remember carrying a desktop computer in to do a presentation! Through the highs and lows, I’ve always appreciated the vision of the original organizers who thought that it would be a good idea to get learners to help each other master the technology. We truly have stood on the shoulders of giants.
Looking back, I realize that the organization, and all that it offers, had been just a tremendous and continuous source of personal inspiration. There’s so much in terms of possibilities and it’s great that I can take and learn personally & also give back and learn.
It was in 2012 when Cyndie and I were approached to run the 2013 conference (and later the 2014 conference). The president at the time, gave us free reign to design a conference and times really were a-changing. The previous venue didn’t have the internet capacity for any type of growth in numbers, there were concerns yet again that the organization was on its last legs, and there was an opportunity to partner with OASBO-ICT (Ontario Association of School Business Officials – ICT). We accepted the challenge and investigated a number of different locations, concerned about a location that would support the technology, a location that would be teacher-affordable, and a location that would support a vision for the conference. As you know, we ended up in Niagara Falls.
Cyndie and I spent a great deal of time working on that vision. She had an amazing collection of connections from throughout the province and that helped put together a program that was both wide and deep. We both agreed that we needed to fully embrace all Ontario educators. When we chose our conference committee, we ensured that we had a French representative who would help us provide a strand of sessions that would appeal to those teaching in French and an administrator to ensure that we had sessions that would appeal to principals and other district leaders. As we planned, we were offered guidance that we needed to keep “ECOO, The Organization” separate from “ECOO, The Conference”. That was good advice; there was enough we had bitten off working to get the conference to what it ultimately became. We were delighted with the success of the conference in 2013 and 2014. I periodically look into the Internet Archive to get a sense of what was accomplished. Together, we developed our vision and shared it with an eager committee and pulled it off.
Two years at the helm of something like that is enough to drain anyone and so we passed the leadership on to new folks, hoping that they would similarly take the conference into a new and exciting direction.
It was Andy’s comments in the blog posts about “ECOO, The Organization” that should be of concern to members. A few years ago, the board added new positions to be able to offer new things to Ontario Educators. Roles and responsibilities can be found here. You’ll note, in Andy’s post that he shares some frustrations. Gone are the SIGs, the mini-conferences, the newsletter, the initiatives, …
Looking down at 10 000 metres, the organization seems to be one that is focused on its annual conference. We all know that sitting in a session for an hour once a year really isn’t conducive for effective learning. It’s time for the organization to look at “What could be”. If the goal is to provide the province with an annual conference, then they’ve got it nailed. Couldn’t it be more? Could we learn from the past with an eye to the future needs?
Last year, I had the opportunity to sit with the president and I shared some of my thoughts about the above. I know that there are amazing and powerful educational leaders in the province. Yet, we allow an organization to come from outside and, at great price, provide a couple of days of learning. Sadly, the money doesn’t stay to build further Ontario capacity. Last year at the conference, I had a conversation with an OASBO-ICT leader where I shared my thoughts that the conference was very Google-centric. He responded with a similar frustration; he indicated that half of the province was using Office 365 and yet there were very few professional learning opportunities for them.
We have fantastic things happening in classrooms throughout the province. Powerful learning and teaching is happening. Formerly, we could have learned about this in an issue of ECOO Output. Many people have blogs and, if you’re lucky, you might stumble onto a story or two. Beyond that, there are thousands of great stories that just go unnoticed. ECOO could be providing its web site to share these stories from the field. For many, all that it would take is contact and a persuasion to get involved. Teachers are always welcome of a Scholastic gift card; technology using teachers are always welcome of a Best Buy gift card!
There’s a wonderful opportunity to step in and be the technical answer for a real or perceived educational problem. Schools across the province are struggling with the goal of improving scores in Mathematics. ECOO could be providing solutions with software reviews or sharing of resources illustrating the best of teaching in that subject area. Next year, it might be something else but there are always leaders that can be reached out and encouraged to share their best practice. A web presence is already in place; it’s just a matter of publishing. The desire to learn always lies in the hands of teachers; support for Ontario educators leading the way on a Saturday or online webinar are always options.
Resources and repositories are a valuable commodity for the connected educator. Success breeds more success. It just takes that first step to start the momentum. A recent entry on the ECOO website indicates that the Board of Directors is seeking direction from members via an online survey. Here’s your opportunity to influence the direction of the organization, all the while letting them know where your personal learning priorities lie.
I would encourage all computer using educators to complete that form if you’re not happy with the once-a-year conference concept. We talk about continuous learning with students; why shouldn’t it apply to ourselves?
Just imagine – what could be…