… the Western RCAC Symposium?
A long time ago, the Ministry of Education supported the use of computers in the classrooms through regional RCACs. (Regional Computer Advisory Committees) When I left the classroom, my mentor indicated that I needed to make attendance at the Western RCAC a priority and so I did. Over the years, many of the RCACs collapsed until there were two left. Our Western RCAC and COCA (Central Ontario Computer Association).
One of the Western RCAC’s claims to fame was the annual Symposium which was held in London. For a number of years, it was held at the Lamplighter Inn until we outgrew the space. For a few years, we held it at the London Convention Centre until the Lamplighter put on a big expansion and we moved back.
There were many unique things about the Symposium.
- It had the best food at any conference I’ve been at. Lunch was always a fabulous Christmas style meal with turkey and all the fixings, among other things, and their signature dish – bread pudding. I often joked that the only reason why I continued to chair the committee was if I got to choose the dessert.
- There was no call for proposals. Instead, the presenters and sessions were proposed by the computer consultants from the constituent districts. It was a chance to highlight the best of the West. I always fought to make sure that we had at least one presentation from the GECDSB. I didn’t want my Superintendent to think we weren’t doing anything worth sharing.
- The audience was principals, vice-principals, superintendents, and directors. It actually was a lobbying event for the computers in the classroom case. Eventually, as the symposium grew, technology leaders within schools were invited as well.
- It was one of the biggest out of district technology things my board supported. We used to have those going park near the 401 (at the OPP station if you know Essex County) and then we’d bus the group there and back. Before amalgamation, our program department brought breakfast to the bus and had the ear of principals for the two hour trip east.
- It was always an added benefit to take the keynote speaker out for supper the night before and chat informally. I’ll always remember the Don Harron / Charlie Farquharson transformation. Uniquely, each keynote was asked to do a breakout session after their big address. It was called “A Conversation with …”
- We’d always sneak into the Lamplighter lobby and borrow their Christmas tin soldiers to stand guard over the food line. It was needed because there were a couple of cases of local principals nipping over for lunch and a keynote…
- The OSAPAC Committee always had a session “Freshly Minted Software” where principals, etc. would know what the latest and greatest Ministry licensed titles were so they could support it in their schools.
The Symposium really caught on. In addition to the Western Region, we ended up with people attending from all over the province including the Waterloo, Hamilton, and Niagara regions. I was on the OSAPAC Committee at the time and we moved our winter meeting there so the committee could attend and present.
And winter was correct. More often than not, the first big snowfall of the year would hit the London area on that first Thursday of December. Below is a picture of my friend Kerry and me along with keynote speaker David Pogue trying to dig out my car to get David to the airport. It never failed to amaze me that things could be clear as a bell in Essex County and then like this in London. Annually.
I also have memories of Angela Maiers needing an emergency hotel room because of the weather and for some reason running barefoot down the hallway to get something from her room!
What brought all this back at this time was a Facebook memory of me between two great friends. You know it’s kind of a big deal because I’m wearing a suit jacket and tie.
After I left my position, I agreed to come back and chair/co-chair as long as I got to choose the dessert. Sadly, I wasn’t in a lobbying position to get presenters from my old digs.
I was actually able to dig up some online references to the symposium. Are you in there as presenter?
After 2013, I was told that the Western RCAC was “taking a break”. To the best of my knowledge, they’re still resting.
For a Sunday, your thoughts?
- Did you ever attend a Western RCAC Symposium? Any memories to share if you did?
- Did you ever present at a Western RCAC Symposium?
- Have you ever presented at any conference? Care to share your thoughts about that?
- Do you have a memory of a conference that is no longer in operation?
- Is the effective use of computer technology better off with conferences like this to share best practices or can capacity be built without it?
- What’s the best meal that you ever had at a conference?
Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
This is part of a regular Sunday series of posts. You can enjoy them all here.