Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads. An #etug gratitude post

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Of all the events I attend (and occasionally organize), none are closer to my heart than the ones organized by ETUG. The Education Technology User Group has been around since 1994 and, for the past 18 months, I have been on the Stewardship Committee of ETUG, representing BCcampus.

ETUG has lived under the BCcampus umbrella since 2003, thanks to the work of people like Irwin DeVries and the stewardship committee at the time. In 2003, ETUG was facing precarious times, and it was Irwin who spearheaded the campaign with the Ministry of Advanced Education at the time to move ETUG under BCcampus, where it has lived ever since.

5 people standing on a balcony for a photo
Some of the early stewards of the ETUG community (l-r) Amanda Harby, Cathy van Soest, Irwin DeVries, Jim Bizzochi, John Blackwell

If you want to take a deep dive into the history, we have been doing a series of Flashback Fridays on the ETUG website chronicling the history of the organization, and long-time ETUG community member Tony Bates has a bit more context on the history of ETUG in his conference wrap-up blog post.

I came into the community on it’s 10th anniversary in 2004 and have not missed many ETUG events since. It was ETUG that made me realize that the work I had been doing for years had an actual title and community. It was where I realized that I was an Educational Technologist.

Crowd of people in cafeteria with box around Clint Lalonde
The only photo of me at my first ETUG in 2004

It also connected me to a whole bunch of people who began as colleagues and are now friends.

2019 is the 25th anniversary of ETUG and because of that, the conference committee picked a theme that was both retrospective and forward looking. We picked Back to the Future, and had a lot of fun riffing on that theme for the conference. Somehow our Events Coordinator, Christy Foote, even managed to find a DeLorean, complete with flux capacitor.

Group of people gathered around a delorean automobile
The incredible Christy Foote sitting in the seat of Delorean honour surrounded by ETUG attendees

There were so many high points of the 2 day event for me, not the least of which was being able to bring in a couple of external keynotes to help set the tone for the event. Both Dr. Malcolm Brown from EDUCAUSE (whom, it was pointed out to me by our Communications Manager Erin Beattie, is an actual Doc Brown, which didn’t even twig on me that we had a keynote so on point with the Back to the Future theme) and Dr. Maren Deepwell from ALT were fantastic choices for keynotes, both offering different perspectives on the current and future state of our field.

Dr. Malcolm Brown keynote (day 1)

ETUG 25th Anniversary Conference: Back to the Future June 20, 2019 Keynote Dr. Malcolm Brown from TRU Media on Vimeo.

Dr. Maren Deepwell keynote (day 2) Maren has also blogged her keynote text on her site.

ETUG 25th Anniversary Conference: Back to the Future June 21, 2019 Keynote Dr. Maren Deepwell from TRU Media on Vimeo.

Above and beyond their keynote talks, I was very impressed that both keynote speakers fully immersed themselves in our little conference. These were not helicopter keynotes, and both spent time attending and actively participating in many conference sessions and events, including the smudging ceremony led by Elder Mike on day 2 of the conference to celebrate National Indigenous People’s Day. I am incredibly grateful to both keynotes for not only great talks, but also taking the time to fully engage with the ETUG community.

Man in conference hall audeince holding microphone and asking question to a speaker while a woman looks on

The conference was held at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, traditional home to the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc people, and the smudging ceremony that Elder Mike led us through to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada was a special honour.

As I was standing outside listening to Elder Mike talk about the history of his people in a time of reconciliation, it was hard not to feel a powerful connection to the place we were in. As he spoke, I became very aware of the sound of the wind in the trees, the sound of the birds flying overhead, and the sound of his voice telling stories. It was an especially poignant moment for me when he paused and said, “these words I speak, these ceremonies I do, were outlawed by the government until not very long ago” reminding us all that the work of reconciliation in this country has only just begun.

First Nations man preparing for smudging ceremony surrounded by people
Elder Mike preparing for smudging ceremony on National Indigenous Day. Photo by Tom Woodward CC-BY-SA

We honoured our own past as well, inducting longtime ETUG community steward Leva Lee into our ETUG Emeritus club. You would be hard pressed to find many who have worked harder, or who have been such a positive presence in our ETUG community over the years than Leva.

Woman at podium giving speech
Longtime ETUG community member Leva Lee inducted as latest ETUG Emeritus for her many years of community building

In keeping with the theme, the stewardship committee also decided to honour the future with a brand new Emerging Leader in EdTech award, going to JIBC’s Dennis Yip (and also the person responsible for many fantastic photos from ETUG over the years as our unofficial/official event photographer).

Group of three people taking a selphie at an awards ceremony while the master of ceremonies looks on
My blurry low light shot of Dennis taking a congratulatory selfie with the person who nominated him, Helen Lee (JIBC), and SCETUG Chair Terri Bateman (NIC) after winning the inaugural Emerging EdTech of the Year award. SCETUG Vice-Chair Keith Webster (RRU) looks on from the podium.

There are a ton of takeaways from the conference, which I hope to blog about separately least this become a book. This post is the gratitude post, and I want to say thank you to the entire conference committee and, in particular Christy Foote, Robynne Devine, conference chair Emily Renoe (UBC) and the entire program committee, and our host institution Thompson Rivers University liaisons Troy Welch and Brian Lamb for coordinating so many wonderful activities and thoughtful touches for the conference.

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