What could be

Thanks to Andrew Forgrave for the inspiration to write this post. Last week, he wrote a couple of posts that appeared on his blog:

Support Your ECOO
How Does ECOO Get Its Board of Directors?

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…

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7 thoughts on “What could be

  1. You really made me think with this one, Doug. I would be thrilled to learn from a ECOO magazine- digital or print. I’d love to see a hub where resources like Alanna King’s TVO book clubs, and the amazing OTF webinars, and the phenomenal stuff Donna Fry is working on (math, right now) all had signposts. Could ECOO be the centre point for that? Intriguing questions.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. A thought provoking post – the Google as all of ICT thing gets on my nerves too. They make a lot of $$$ advertising fake news and copyrighting education. A more nondenominational approach to #edtech would help everyone (except the tax dodging multinationals making $$$ from branding it).

    The obvious choice for ECOO in terms of philosophy is the #edcamp phenomenon. The ECOO conference often feels like a massive edcamp. ECOO partnering with grass roots edcamps across the province and beyond might introduce the organization to a wider range of educators while also offering some #edtech savvy and organizational support to those grass roots edcamps. If they’re at an edcamp they’re also the keen ones looking to improve their craft – that’s a good crowd to meet.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. When I started teaching in 1979 it came as welcome news that an organization called ECOO came to be. I was a Geography major who had selected Computer Science as his second teachable subject – good call since I was hired to teach Informatics, Data Processing, and other business subjects. I was a very early adopter of integration of technology into all areas of the curriculum. I recall doing a presentation to Geography teachers on the software available for a Commodore PET. ECOO was an organization that was future looking. I joined. I recall getting my mimeographed piece of paper with my membership number (75) in the mail. No, I don’t have the card so you’ll have to trust me. I, like Doug, attended the first conference which was held in Toronto at Harbour Front in May (I think) of 1980 – I remember it being cold.

    ECOO grew like gangbusters. I attended the first few conferences but to me, it lost its “grass roots” connection and I lost interest in the organization and did not renew my membership. I didn’t return to ECOO until the last few years before moving to Niagara Falls. I was fortunate enough, or maybe they were desperate, to be selected to present at those conferences.

    ECOO has become, in my opinion, an organization that oversees the conference. It has the potential to be so much more. Everything should be on the table. Is the yearly conference still viable? Should regional conferences with the co-operation of local boards be a focus with ECOO providing an overall structure and perhaps key speakers/presenters but a focus on local needs? Tim King’s suggestions are well worth consideration. ECOO previously had SIGs (Special Interest Groups), is that a structure that would suitable at this time?

    As a member of ACSE (Association for Computer Studies Educators), we tried online sessions (using Adobe Connect) with a featured presenter (I recall this was a project that was funded by the Ministry, Peter Beens will have those details). It was not well attended but that was a few years ago (I have a track record of trying things well before it becomes mainstream ).

    ECOO’s survey is a good start. I have not completed it because I’m retired the survey is directed to those who are still working.

    ECOO is a unique group in that it crosses “subject” lines. Be active. Get involved. Revive this group to make it the envy of educational organizations world-wide!

    (I would like to thank Grammarly for its assistance in the preparation of this reply)

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi Doug,
    Great post to highlight all the potential that ECOO has! It’s such great tribe of amazing educators! I’m so greatly to all of your for incredible learning!

    One correction to your post I’d like to clarify is when you say that upon your becoming co-chair, in 2012 “that there were concerns yet again that the organization was on its last legs”. Actually, that year was 2008. When I became chair (2009-2011) the previous year’s attendance was just 305 people and we were not financially viable. My extremely amazing and dedicated team cut every cost possible and put on a conference for teachers, by teachers, and leveraged social media to connect wonderful Ontario educators. We cut spotlight speakers (because we knew our Ontario folks were as good as any around) and started Minds on Media. Attendance was up to the 700s when you took over and so I’d like to think of the move to Niagara because of bursting at the seams to be quite a success story – not ECOO on it’s last legs! Alison’s 2012 year was a difficult one for lots of reasons but attendance went up again and thus the need for the new venue. I’ll complete the survey for sure as ECOOinnovation is a great thing! To be honest, I haven’t yet seen the value in the OASBO partnership, at least not for classroom educators, but I’ll take a look more closely this year, I might be missing something. Perhaps the new conference session strand that connects the IT folks will help illuminate it for me. I guess I agree more closely with Tim, that a grassroots educator focus is likely to lead to more change in teacher practice.

    I also wonder about the conference name change…we’ve always struggled with having enough volunteers to do other things besides conference, as other commenters have mentioned here, but there is hardly any mention of ECOO anymore and many folks think of BIT as 4 years old – not the 40+ Years ECOO has been in existence. Maybe some of the OASBO folks would be interested in joining with the ECOO board volunteers to add value to the partnership?

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thx Doug, for this.

    I, too, as you know, have been with ECOO since its inception (ok, I missed the first year of 1979)! I have been on the Board several times throughout the history. I served on the conference committee (mostly as Keynote and spotlight speaker guy—although when Brenda was chair, I was much more deeply involved with all aspects of the conference planning as we pulled ECOO out of the fire under her leadership!) Heck, I even ran one of those Special Interest Groups you speak of—SIG-Logo—between about 1984 and 1989 or so! (Yes, friends. We had ‘coding’ back then in schools. Check this link for a good giggle! https://theconstructionzone.wordpress.com/2015/09/02/curricularize-coding-not-a-new-question/)

    I used to have a column in the ECOO Output – At the Leading Edge…someone took issue with my content, declaring it too, ‘out there’ and so—under a pseudonym—started a column juxtaposed to mine called At the Trailing Edge. LOL Ian Jukes loved my column. Others, not so much! Caused them to ‘think too much’ I was told! 😉

    You say, “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.”

    Actually, it is—by Ministry and OTF definitions—a subject association. Yet, in recent years, it has not performed that role because all the efforts by the recent presidents and board have been only on the conference. Of course, I do agree that it should not be a separate subject; and suggest that it should be woven seamlessly throughout a deep, cross-curricular, project-based learning environment—in spite of those currently calling for a ‘coding curriculum’ starting in primary grades!

    Indeed, I also have done my share of ‘regular’ and ‘spotlight’ speaking at the conference too—often about ‘coding’ or ‘programming’—mostly with a focus on its effects on deeper learning and cognition. Heck, we even had robotics—mostly, Lego TC Logo. Fantastic. But, of course those sessions started to get rejected after the first wave of ‘coding’ enthusiasm. LOL Throughout the 80s and early 90s, they were hot! But, once the WWW hit, ‘coding’ was out.

    As for the corporate takeover…well, I guess it’s served some people well. As my musical hero, Roger Waters, says,
    “It all make perfect sense,
    Expressed in dollars and cents,
    Pounds, shillings and pence.”

    (Google that! ROFL!)

    ECOO—and all the associated people—has been, for me, a tremendous source of inspiration and knowledge. It has served this province well. ECOO has, over the years, created materials to support educators throughout the province to effectively integrate technologies into their classrooms. Indeed, we also served more remote communities through regional conferences. I remember one trip, for example, where Flick Douglas—a long-serving ECOO member, past-president, and mentor—and I went to Rainy River as part of a regional mini-conference.

    I’m not going to detail all that ECOO could, and should, be. It has been done elsewhere—and may be accomplished by the survey. In fact, a few years ago, during ECOO’s even lower times, I went back on the Board to help to restore ECOO to better times. We had identified, as a Board, some wonderful initiatives that have never seen the light of day. Unfortunately, along with others, I had to step down because of a constitutional error at my appointment to the ECOO Board. LOL

    However, I’m not done with ECOO. Maybe I’ll run again. ROFL

    I’ll reinforce Brenda’s point about the name change of the conference. I think, although it freshened things up, it took the ECOO name and brand farther away from the eyes of Ontario educators—especially, in light of the fact that ECOO currently has nothing else to offer.

    A BIG thank you to those of you, who in recent years, have kept ECOO alive by performing the roles of conference chairs and committee members. It’s been wonderful to see that!

    But, we can restore ECOO to a viable and more comprehensive organization. We can ‘make ECOO great again’! 😉
    (oh lordy, did I just say that!)

    Like

  6. “I’d love to see a hub where resources…”
    Lisa, THAT is exactly one of the major points that we identified (as a Board those few years ago, before I had to step down)!
    Several years have now gone by. 😦

    Like

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