Recently, I had the opportunity to interview my co-chair for the #ecoo13 conference, Cyndie Jacobs. I call her “the great connector” for her efforts on Twitter and other social media. She seems to hunt out problems in search of a solution and has the ability to make the connection to people that she knows can assist in the search for a solution. Through this, and her other efforts, she really does excel in bringing folks together for the benefit of education.
Doug – Thanks for agreeing to the interview, Cyndie. This should be fun. Can you tell the readers where we first met and why?
Cyndie – You’re very welcome Doug! We met very briefly at the first OTF Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century workshop, then I invited you to the Curriculum Forum retreat in February 2010 as a guest presenter. Our theme was Web 2.0 and it was my first experience with Twitter.
Doug – I have fond memories of being packed into that small room for the Curriculum Forum. How did social media take off with that group of Ontario leaders?
Cyndie – I’d like to think it was a 100% success. The reality, though, is that those members for whom it is a true benefit have stayed with it and are using it both professionally and personally. There aren’t many, but we continue to encourage the use of social media among the Forum members. At our retreat this past February, we saw many more members tweeting using the hashtag and posting some of the information on Facebook.
Doug – For those unfamiliar with the Curriculum Forum, could you explain what it is all about and how it’s so important to Ontario Education?
Cyndie – The OTF Curriculum Forum is comprised of a representative (usually the President or Vice-President) from each of the 51 Subject and Division Associations in Ontario. We meet three times during the school year for what we like to think is valuable professional learning. We bring in new organizations to describe what they have for teachers, people such as Jowi Taylor (Six String Nation Guitar), new educational tools and anything we believe teachers in the classroom could use. I prefer to think that this is the fastest and most efficient way to reach the classroom teacher – bypassing the Ministry, the school board and the Principal in the school. If a teacher needs a resource, here it is! (As we all know, new initiatives and resources are often held up for years at EDU or at the board office awaiting approval and distribution.)
Doug – One of the next big things where you conscripted my assistance was the first ever Google event in Ontario. Can you refresh our memories of that weekend?
Cyndie – That was the result of the Curriculum Forum retreat on Web 2.0. I contacted Google and requested to hold a Google summit here in Ontario on a Saturday in October. It had never been done outside of the US. They couldn’t call it a Google event. Rather, it was CUE (Computer Using Educators) and was facilitated by Google-certified teachers. We had arranged, through OTF, to cover hotel for out-of-towners and I arranged for a computer lab at Humber College. It was such a thrill to meet so many of the ‘tweeps’ at the tweet-up on the Friday evening! I had been communicating with all of them on Twitter since February 2010. The day was very successful, IMHO, and folks left with many new tools and resources.
Doug – The Ontario Teachers’ Federation has really taken the lead in the contemporary use of social media, not necessarily for specific subject disciplines, but as a way to connect Ontario Educators. How successful do you think that’s been?
Cyndie – Very successful, in that many of the ‘tweeps’ in our PLN joined initially because of the OTF events and, since 2009, have met, introduced others to the PLN and it has now become a huge network of busy, thriving Ontario educators. The involvement of ECOO and the annual conference has helped to grow this network immensely.
Doug – Can you give some specific examples that would point directly to your involvement?
Cyndie – In the early days of the OTF workshops, I was there as the OTF social media support – posting on Twitter and Facebook. At other OTF events since I joined Twitter, I attend to tweet about the event. If someone in the office wanted to get some information out far and wide, they would ask me to tweet it! Since those early days of my involvement with social media, I do a significant amount of the ‘connecting’ as you call it: connecting Subject Association folks with others in the PLN; connecting Ministry folks with tweeps in the Associations; providing input, when asked, about how best to ‘spread the word’ – through Social Media; etc. I am very much a detail-oriented worker and like to ensure that as many people as possible are connected to whatever it is I am doing. I suppose you could say that I fulfill my role as “the great connector”!
Doug – So now you and I find ourselves as co-chairs of the 2013 Educational Computing Organization of Ontario’s Conference. If you’re into social media, you’ve got to have visited http://www.bringittogether.ca at least once to find out what it’s all about.
What things about this Fall’s conference would you like to highlight?
Cyndie – I’m hoping that the whole ‘social’ aspect of Bring IT, Together will be a new focal point. Running with Alana Friday morning, learning how to take great night photos with Peter Beens and Ron Millar, a banquet overlooking the falls, a social event with door prizes and the endless opportunities for networking, sharing and learning from each other. I’m also looking forward to the mix of people we will have there: the OASBO ICT folks, French-language educators, National Film Board, our keynotes… It’s going to be awesome!
Doug – Making a physical move outside the proximity to Toronto is a big thing. Why Niagara Falls?
Cyndie – Location. location, location. As with many Toronto born and bred folks, getting away from the big smoke is a great thing. Niagara has so many things to offer conference attendees: Niagara Parks has tours, events and activities (especially for those who want to bring their families); wineries nearby; the falls themselves (spectacular); museums and other attractions within walking distance; and it’s still within the Golden Horseshoe for those who attend the conference from southern Ontario. It’s a natural to attract people from far and wide!
Doug – I think that it’s consistent with your approaches for connections that the conference will also feature some new partnerships for ECOO. Why is this important?
Cyndie – ECOO is all about how we share and grow. With new partners, this becomes much easier and hopefully, in time, ECOO will become the go-to organization for everything technology and education-related. As education becomes increasingly tech-oriented, educators, parents, vendors, students…they will all have a reason to be connected to ECOO. We are here for them and for each other!
Doug – A good conference should promote the connections above and beyond the new learning. What sorts of opportunities do you feel participants will take advantage of?
Cyndie – There are several: the new ‘Learning Space’ will allow folks who just want to explore solutions or share new ways of doing things to spend some time together; exploring night photography; any and all social/networking time; having a full French-language stream will allow the francophone educators to be an integral part of ECOO and of the learning; with OASBO ICT as a partner, educators will be able to interact with those who provide the technology. And many, many more
Doug – Are you up for a trip to a wax museum?
Cyndie – Not me, personally. Madame Tussauds in London in 1972 was enough for me! however, there are plenty of other Niagara attractions I’d love to visit – if there’s time!
Doug – Now that you have retired, you can now devote your energies to all kinds of things. The ECOO Conference is one but I know that you’re back at the helm of the Uxbridge ‘uxperience’. Can you tell us something about that?
Cyndie – It’s my annual contribution to my musical heritage! ‘uxperience’ is a variety show comprised of local adults who volunteer their time to put on a show every year at the beginning of May. I am the Music Director, so my role is to teach the chorus their songs, work with the band, play in the band for the band feature tune then conduct the whole thing for the show! It is my passion. I’ve been in the show for 21 years and see myself continuing for as long as they want me to do it. We select a local charity each year and all funds raised are donated to them. This year it’s the Uxbridge-Port Perry Animal Shelter. Since the show began in 1992, we have donated well over $100,000 back into the community. The theme for this year is sports: “Let the Games Begin”!
Doug – When does uxperience start its run? If people are interested, where is it and how do they get tickets? Do you have a website to promote it?
Cyndie – It starts tonight, May 2 and runs through Saturday, May 4 with 2 shows on the 4th. The website is http://uxperience.webs.com/ and there should still be tickets left. They are available at Sugar FX in Uxbridge. If anyone reading this wants to attend, they can message me on Twitter (@cyndiejacobs) and I can put tickets aside for them!
Doug – In addition to being yourself on Twitter, you’re going to be the online ambassador for the Ontario Music Educators’ Association. What do you intend to do in that role?
Cyndie – I hope to bring music educators to the OMEA web site ultimately to join OMEA, but also to see the amazing wealth of resources we have to offer music teachers. The Arts are so important for learning. I’ve just added the OMEA Twitter account to the new Tweetdeck, so I’ll be posting articles, resources, information and anything of interest musically on Twitter and Facebook.
Doug – I know that you’re a big TweetDeck Air user. What tool will use now that Twitter has announced the end of TweetDeck?
Cyndie – I’ll be using the new Tweetdeck! I had a long chat with Andy Forgrave last night and we looked into the new Tweetdeck. It will allow me to reply to a Tweet either as myself or from the OMEA account, depending on the what the content is. It seems to have many of the features of the old blackbird-on-yellow Tweetdeck. The new one is the black Twitter bird on blue. I’ve also set up the OMEA accounts on Hootsuite, but it seems more complicated to me – so far. Maybe with some basic experimenting and a lesson or two from the master – YOU – I’ll be fine!
Doug – Finally, you’ve always promised that in your retirement you’re going to blog and share your thoughts and insights into education. What’s the address of your blog? When do you see it taking off?
Cyndie – I knew you’d ask this… The address is cyndieuncorked.org. I just went there to verify the address and it said it’s under construction. I have no idea what that means. My good friend Peter Beens created it for me almost 2 years ago and I have been avoiding it, I think. I’m quite ‘out there’ with my opinions and I don’t tend to hide very much behind rhetoric or BS. I call things as I see them. This wasn’t the best recipe for blogging in my former role at OTF! I did use the blog last summer after my partner died to get the message out that life’s too short to put things off. I think it was read by many of my tweeps. I’m thinking that a safe topic on which to blog would be EQAO – since it is universally a source of angst and disgust by educators. I promise – I will get to this blogging thing and I’ll do it before too long! I’m just not too sure that people will want to read what I have to say about education – my thoughts and insights aren’t always mainstream, you know! (This could be interpreted as an understatement)
Doug – Thank you so much for taking the time for the interview. I’m excited to partner with you for the ECOO Conference. This is going to be a great deal of fun.
Cyndie – Thanks for interviewing me, Doug! I know that your blog is very widely read, so I’m flattered that you’ve asked for this glimpse into who I am. #ECOO13 will be an amazing event – for both of us and for everyone involved!
If you’re not following Cyndie on Twitter already, you really should do so. You can find her at @cyndiejacobs.