Teachers are looking to bring cool technologies like Twitter, tablets and collaboration software into their classrooms – and the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario is helping them to get there. For past editions and additional sites for other topics, click on back issues ➔ Netwatch Archives

by Greg Enright

ECOO helps teachers bring tech to the classroom

ARE YOU A TEACHER looking to integrate cool technology into your classroom but not sure how to begin? A group of tech-loving teachers is here to help.

The 600 volunteer members of the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario (ECOO) carve out time from their hectic lives as teachers to "promote the appropriate use of technology in the classroom," according to the organization's mandate. And, says ECOO President Bill MacKenzie, OCT, many teachers are looking for guidance around tools such as social media. "Everybody says, 'I recognize how it's going and I need to learn about it,' but people are still really struggling with how to go forward."

"A big part of it is teachers helping
teachers use technology appropriately"

That's where ECOO comes in. Its annual conference brings together teachers from across Ontario as well as from other parts of Canada and the world.

What's the appeal? "A big part of it is teachers helping teachers use technology appropriately," says conference chair Brenda Sherry, OCT. For instance, participants can choose from more than 100 one-hour, hands-on workshops on technology in the classroom, all conducted by teachers who are successfully using these tools.


Another conference highlight is the Minds on Media session, where teachers can visit eight to 10 technology centres, each focusing on a different technology, such as VoiceThread (collaborative slideshow software) or Google collaborative documents. The stations offer online tutorials, handouts and other materials. Teachers bring their own laptops and can roam from station to station, says Sherry.

ECOO also encourages tech learning through its annual programming contest. The process starts with contests held by individual school boards. Next is regional contests – one held in each of central Ontario, east Ontario and west Ontario. Then, the top 20 secondary school teams move on to the final programming contest held in May at York University. (For information, watch the College's contests page at

These days most teachers are "not very comfortable" using social media into their classrooms, says Sherry. "Day-to-day at the school level, it's new to most people. Some are not sure how to get started and want support."

Her advice: Get in there and use the tools. "Not every tool is going to be right for your students' grade level, and there is a lot of analysis you have to do. As teachers jump in as learners, they become more comfortable in applying it to their students' learning."

Which high tech is hot? ECOO points to mobile devices such as iPads, education-specific social media platforms such as Edmodo and applications that allow for collaboration between classrooms in the same school or the other side of the world.

The combination of mobile networks and the cloud computing concept – storing and sharing content over Internet connections – gives students flexibility in how they work.

"It's a different way of getting at your materials," says MacKenzie. "Learning isn't just a nine-to-three kind of exercise anymore. It's always on for kids to access."

Tech-minded teachers, MacKenzie notes, find social networking tools are a great way to network with colleagues. Three years ago, "several of us were on Twitter. We started to connect and we've continued that … We turn to certain teachers around the province who are experts in certain areas and are learning that way."