Western RCAC Symposium 2010

Every year, the Western Regional Computer Advisory Committee hosts a one day Symposium of teaching with technology for leaders in the South Western Ontario Region of Ontario.  The plans have been finalized and we’re looking forward to the day and welcoming ~400 principals and educational leaders on Thursday, December 9.


The venue is again the beautiful Lamplighter Inn in London, Ontario.  The events of the day include a couple of external perspectives through keynote addresses and then breakout sessions highlighting some of the great things that are happening in schools from Windsor to Waterloo; St. Thomas to Owen Sound.

Keynote addresses this year will focus on our students.  Ian Jukes (@ijukes) will explain why today’s students are not the children that our current schools are designed for and will offer suggestions about how to address this.  And, Angela Maeirs (@angelamaiers) will help us understand the “Habitudes” of a 21st Century Learner so that the table can be set for success for them.

Breakout sessions will provide ideas for motivation and leadership for schools showing actual practice in Ontario.

  • Literacy is not Enough; 21 Century Fluency for the Digital Age
  • iPad in the Classroom
  • Tapping into Your Curiosity, Imagination, and Expertise
  • Facebook in Waterloo Classrooms
  • A Personal Learning Network for Principals
  • Knowledge Ontario Update
  • Live Scribe Pens in the Classroom TPAC Project
  • Getting it Right: Aligning Technology Initiatives for Measurable Student Results
  • Young Minds, Digital Times
  • Getting Along Digitally – WECDSB Peer–Led Electronics Awareness Program
  • The Writing Process and Assessment with Turn-It-In.com
  • Read Alouds and the Interactive Whiteboard
  • Have you seen the OERB lately?

We are excited by the program this year and know that the audience for the day will leave inspired and motivated.  Registration is now open and complete details about the day are available on the Western Regional Computer Advisory Committee website.

What to do now?

This year, more than ever, there was so much followup discussion following the Western Regional Computer Advisory Committee’s Symposium.

I must admit that I’m taken aback by the tone of some of the comments,  There are comments like “I doubt that things will change” and “Here are reasons why it won’t work” and “I’m concerned about equity” and “It’s all the Technical Department’s” fault and probably more than what I know about.

I think of this powerful quote.  A good friend of mine uses it as the default tagline on all of her messages.

“Our task is to provide an education for the kind of kids we have… Not the kind of kids we used to have… Or want to have… Or the kids that exist in our dreams.”  Mary Kay Utecht

It’s not a big leap to translate “kids” to “technology” and “connectivity” and “access”.

As educators, we face challenges every single day.  Many of these challenges are imposed from the outside and there’s not always things that we can do about it.  But, we need to embrace and take charge of those things that we can’t challenge.  I truly hope that the discussion was meant to be sensational and spark some conversation.  I hope that folks aren’t going to roll over and say “We can’t do it because things aren’t right…”

Things will never be right.  Things will never be perfect for all people.

There are challenges all over the place.  Yes, I get frustrated that I can’t just hop onto Google Images when I need an image for a presentation or a document.  But, you know what…there are plenty of other sources for images that are available to me.

I hope desperately that the comments are borne in the desire to do the very best that we can and that there is optimistic hope that we’re moving in the right direction.  Things in education can be slow to move but they are moving.  I found out recently that the Ontario Mathematics teachers will soon have professional development surrounding Web 2.0 technologies in the Intermediate Years’ mathematics classrooms.  This isn’t something that would be easy to predict a few years ago but we have contemporary educators like Ross Isenegger of Mathfest who know what’s right and are behind this initiative.

There are givens.  There will never be enough computers, enough bandwidth, enough access, enough refreshing of hardware and technology, …

But, we are professionals and will do the best that we can.  We can always do more with more and we need to constantly communicate this to those who allocate monies to education.  We need to always be moving along.  To paraphrase Mr. Warlick, we cheat the kids when we don’t.

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RCAC Workshop

We started this tradition a few years ago and it’s caught on nicely.  The Ontario Software Acquisition Program Advisory Committee meets in London two days in advance of the Western Regional Computer Advisory Committee‘s Symposium conference so that they can join us for that Thursday date. Then, on the Friday, a professional development event is held for the Western RCAC.  Due to its unique appeal to those of us in consulting positions, the RCAC has extended an invitation to OSAPAC and COCA (Central Ontario Computer Association) members as well.

In the past, this was an opportunity to embrace new technologies such as the Ministry of Education’s license of Macromedia Studio MX.  Over the years, it has morphed to take upon a more self-directed, high level activities that allow members to delve more deeply into issues of the day.  Last year, WIll Richardson spent the entire day introducing us, hands-on, to blogging and podcasting and other interesting Web 2.0 technologies.

This year, Leslie Fisher spent the day with us and the Ministry of Education licensed Adobe Photoshop Elements.  Now, she’s got her hands full since the currently licensed version if 4 for the Macintosh and 5 for Windows.  More on that in a moment.

It’s always a treat dealing with airlines.  My first correspondence with Leslie and her travel plans had her arriving in London at 9:30ish.  Somehow, through the magic of airline scheduling, she was going to make her way from Dayton, Ohio and an afternoon gig to us in London.  These really aren’t major stops on any airline’s schedule and there sure aren’t any direct flights from Dayton to London!  However, with a little patience and layover, you get to see either Detroit or Toronto.

Then, I get a message from her that she would be arriving in London at 11:50pm.  Gulp.  If you read this blog, you’ll already know that I’m exhausted and expect to be horizontal at that time.  No problem, though, I’ll just grab a little cat nap and be good to go.  After all, we’re the hosts and our guests shouldn’t have to cab around a new city in the dark.

Then, I’m with my friend Bob moving things around the hotel and the phone rings.  I quickly put my box down but the phone had already gone to voice mail.  Argh.  I look at the missed call and see the Southern California telephone number and now the voice mail.  I dial it up and hear “Hi, Doug, got on an earlier flight.  See you shortly, we’re about to take off.”

From where?

Thankfully, the London International Airport has a great web resource that provides flight times to the public.  So, Bob and I whip into the room and fire it up.  The first available flight is just after 8pm coming from Toronto.  If I leave now, I can just make it and so I do!  As I rush into the terminal, I realize that I don’t have any money to get out of the carpark since I’d helped David Warlick with cab fare earlier!  But, plans come together.  Leslie is indeed on that flight and the ATM in the airport works!  Leslie gets to see what $17 worth of change in one and two dollar coins looks like!

Back to the hotel.  Life’s challenges are over, right?  Well, not quite.  Leslie is far closer to the cutting edge than any of us mere mortals are.  She’s got Photoshop Elements 7 on her computer.  We’re still working with 4 and 5 as noted above.  Ever the geek, I go to these things with both my PC and my Mac.  We decide that she’ll take the PC and I’ll work on my Mac for the event.  Life’s current problem solved.

Leslie Fisher at the RCAC Workshop
Leslie Fisher at the RCAC Workshop

My life for a digital camera this date.  Here’s an image screen captured from my RCA Small Wonder.

After actually reading instructions, we did get my computer and the impressive video setup at the London District Catholic School Board working with each other.  We debate whether to leave my Twhirl client active for the day or not and decide upon the least annoying route.

Then, Leslie does her workshop.  And, what a workshop it was.  I thought that I knew Photoshop Elements and maybe I did know enough to get by.  But, that doesn’t cut it in this class.  Throughout the day, Leslie takes us to areas and shows us features both in the software and in digital photography that we never knew existed.  The important thing is that we you now know they exist, what can you do with them?  Even the most Level 4 folks are totally engaged for the entire day.  It was absolutely amazing.  The challenge is obviously to remember things and to apply them as appropriate.  Fortunately, the entire day was capture on video so that we can enjoy the day over and over.

I’ve been to a lot of PD events of varying qualities.  You really know it when you’re in the hands of a genius and nothing short of that descriptor would describe this event and Leslie skills as a professional development leader.  Wow.

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How I Saw It

I promised that I would spend a few moments and share my thoughts about the recently concluded Western Regional Computer Advisory Committee’s Symposium 2008.  Keep in mind, though, that as Chairperson and Ringmaster keeping folks on our timeline, I’m spending my time focussing on what’s next as opposed to what’s happening now!

Keynote speakers:  David Warlick and Amber MacArthur


For the night before the event, we hope to have the keynote speakers “in the house” so that we don’t have to worry about travel plans, etc.  This worked out nicely and we enjoyed the company of David Warlick and Amber MacArthur with fiance Chris at supper.  For me, that’s always a highlight as we get a chance to talk about topics of the day without worrying about timelines and audience.  Over supper, David was curious about our vision for schools in a Web 2.0 world and seemed very interested in Amber’s stories about life and production of regular web content in a contemporary environment.  For me, I was interested in Amber and Chris’ perspective on editorial content and just how things are chosen to air and how assignments are given to reporters.  I was surprised to find out that “The Boy’s” current employer had been a member of the CHUM / CITY group.

Then, after what seems like a quick nap, it’s time for a shower and it’s showtime.

David Warlick went first with his presentation “Our Students – Our Worlds“.  Eyes were opened for many as David took us inside the minds and lives of today’s youth.  His famous tentacles diagram affirmed that students aren’t “human” by a traditional view!  It does drive home the message that they are indeed connected at levels that we suspect but don’t totally know.  (at least until the texting bill comes in…)  Rather than ask folks to turn off electronic devices, David let me know before the event that he would welcome a back channel through his presentation.  Gulp!  What to do?  Fortunately, I knew that TheCleversheep, Rob DeLorenzo, Quentin D’Souza, and Michael Redfearn would be in the audience.  I snagged a quick conversation before David started and we got some access codes so that they could provide some of the chatter.  However, they knew people who knew people, and a back channel was borne.  At the end, David moved it to his wiki and interjected his own comments.  What a way to get feedback from your audience than to monitor their play by play while you’re talking.  I’m also sneaking some side glances at the tables where the Greater Essex folks are sitting and see some principals frantically taking notes.  This is a good sign.  To top things off, Linworth Publishing had donated some of David’s new book, Redefining Literacy 2.0 as door prizes to some lucky attendees.  David spoke with his famous passion and sense of a need for immediate action which so motivated the group.  We could have left then and had our fill but certainly didn’t.

David’s Knitter wasn’t the only place where chat was ongoing.  There was a great deal on Twitter itself.

As happens when you don’t have guards on the door, a keynote speaker will take more than his share of the audience with him.  This was the case and it was SRO in David’s breakout.  But, that didn’t stop participants from attending the other eight great hand picked sessions.


I stuck my head into each of them and there was professional engagement happening in all locations.  I did linger at the session given by Greater Essex educators Lisa, Charlotte, Debbie, Lise, and Margo.  As part of our ELTIP initiative, they wanted to show a model for administrators in the Western Region.  Their fast paced presentation had the audience riveted and wanting to know of the possibilities.  In advance, they had decided that it was going to be a session of ideas and excitement and not one of “click here and this happens”.  As I predicted, there were numerous requests for the Notebook that they had created.  They did post their information here to show what online resources they incorporated into their classrooms.

After lunch, it was Amber’s turn on the stage.  This was her first presentation to educators and so we had been conversing back and forth about the issues of the day.  What was most powerful was her modelling of how to effectively use the new media in a presentation.  It’s only a short trip to the classroom.  Let’s face it, we live in a YouTube world.  There is so much that is appropriate and useful.  In her presentation, Amber showed us an early Peter Mansbridge report, which is a keeper.  You’re going to want to book mark that.  Also, this for those hard texting days.  Beyond the humour, Amber noted and identified the various skills that a teacher needs to go forward and reach students. Even a Greater Essex principal came up on the stage and very quickly created a video podcast.

Ruthven Principal creates a video podcast in front of 400

After her address, Amber participated in a podcast with Rodd Lucier (thecleversheep) where she recapped some of the salient points from her presentation.

The last part of the day is a final breakout session.  Would you think that people would leave early?  Not this group.  The learning continued.

Again, I stuck my head into all of the rooms to make sure that all was running well.  I did spend some time in Amber’s breakout Q&A session.  While I was there, we discussed student safety while using the tools of Web 2.0.  Warlick’s Class Blogmeister is an example of the very best to create a walled garden for students.  There was a good discussion about how to teach students to be participants in such a world when we’re blocking these resources in the first place.

I also spent some time in Greater Essex’s Johanna’s session.  She had partnered with other folks to talk about innovative ways to reach all students with technology.  As a Teacher-Librarian, she explained how she incorporates the best of Partners in Action with technology.  Rather than using traditional software tools in a less than motivating environment, she uses the SMART Board to engage students in literacy discussions.  It’s a technique that’s enjoying huge successes.

At the day’s end, Amber interviewed David Warlick and we hope to see the interview on commandN really soon.

Then, we were done.  Has it been a full day yet?  Yes, my fatigue is starting to take over but there’s still a few things left to do…like drive to the airport to pick up Leslie Fisher for the Professional Development session tomorrow.  But, that’s for another day and another blog entry…

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Thanks to David Warlick for the pictures.  You can see all of his photostream here.

Professional Development with the RCAC

This will be a short note just to prove that I can still use my keyboard.  For the past week, I’ve been totally consumed with events with the Western Regional Computer Advisory Committee.

Yesterday was our annual Symposium.  Held in London, 416 educators from the Western Ontario Region (and beyond) made the pilgrimage to London Ontario for a little shared learning.

Keynote addresses were delivered by David Warlick and Amber MacArthur.  I’m just determining a bit of the audience feedback.  I’ve just listened to Rodd Lucier’s podcast interview with Amber and read his blog, and Rob De Lorenzo’s blog.  Presentations at this event are always difficult to gauge when you’re working the event rather than enjoying it.  The day is chock full of things that have to hit the timeline marks so that we’re not wasting time.  With all of the principals, superintendents, consultants in the audience, there’s a lot of professional time that they’ve given for the day to the event.  You don’t want people to think that it was sloppily run with loose timelines.

From a presenter’s position, it’s difficult.  You need to have a presentation that appeals to an audience of starters to folks that live and breathe this stuff.  It’s a tough gig to pull off.

This weekend, I’ll do some formal reflections on what I thought happened during the day.

Last night, I had the honour of picking up today’s presenter Leslie Fisher from the airport and delivering her to the hotel safely.  I’m already pumped for today.  I received so much PD in just that simple task.  First, I found a way to determine flight arrivals from a scratching cell phone message with no indication where she was coming from or when!  Gotta love London’s website and the way that they’ve kept the public informed with arrival times!  More importantly, we talked about the content for the PD for today.  Holy smokes.  Given the audience, we’ve given her the OK to push the envelope and I’m excited about some of the things that she says we’re going to do.

I may sleep all weekend but it’s going to be a good sleep.

More to follow but I know that Ron wants to see if I’m posting in the early hours today…

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Preparing for the Western RCAC Symposium 2008

In theory, we start putting together plans and organization for the next year’s Western Regional Computer Advisory Symposium the day after the current year’s event ends.

Despite all of the great plans, things really heat up in the last month before the event.  This year’s is next Thursday on December 11.  Full details can be found here.  As I scroll up and down the workshops which are hand selected, as I tell my superintendent, this is the type of conference that I would go to and attend every one of the sessions.  Unfortunately, attendees have to whittle their choices down to a single morning session and a single afternoon session.

There are a number of things about this event that make it very unique.  First of all, there are no vendor areas.  This is on purpose.  The day isn’t about the latest gadget or software.  It’s all about ideas.  If people leave the event with their head spinning about ways to use technology and techniques, then we’ve achieved our goal.

We do it with the very best of speakers and the very best of initiatives that are happening in Southwestern Ontario.  This year’s event features keynote addresses from David Warlick and Amber MacArthur.  Similar, and yet different, the two of them will bring experienced leadership in a connected world as they both live it and use the tools daily.  Amber’s commandN is a favourite video podcast for me and David’s Class Blogmeister is a favourite resource of mine to recommend to teachers wishing to do safe blogging with students.

David Warlick is unique to us in that he’s only the fourth keynote speaker to come back for a return engagement.  Previous returnees were David Thornburg, Alan November, and David Pogue.

So, it’s the Saturday before the event and I’m scrambling to make sure that we have all of our bases covered.  As a committee, we try our best to use the technology effectively.  Because of our diverse geography, it’s difficult to schedule face to face meetings so we’ve given up trying.  Instead, we use the services of Google Docs to organize the event.  We really have three documents; a planning document, a “minute by minute” timeline, and a tracking of door prizes donated by vendors.  And, what door prizes!  We have awesome support and are so appreciative.

In the middle of my morning planning comes another indication that we’ve chosen our speakers wisely.  I get an email from David indicating that he’s set up a hitchhikr account for the event at:  http://hitchhikr.com/?id=407 with the tag wrcac08.

I’ve already been in contact with Amber and there may be an opportunity for some commandN footage.

So, the clock is ticking towards Thursday.  I have a stack of boxes that I need to remember to take with me.  Thank you gifts for presenters are on their way from Wiarton, registration bags from Ottawa, and programs from Hamilton.

Registrants will be headed in from all over the place.  It’s terrific to renew acquaintances at this annual event.

Have I forgotten anything?

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So little time…

Symposium 2007 was held yesterday in London and am now in the recovery mode. As a result of Will Richardson’s and Jeremy Gutsche’s speeches, I am walking away with a huge to-do list. Totally inspired and have a whack of notes that I’ve got to go through and take a look at.