Promoting Technology in Education - The History of MACE
by Wilbur Dorsey, Bob Gast, Linda Grindol, Linda Hyler, Jim Wenger
edited by the MACE Board, July 2010
Educational Use of Computers In Kansas
In the spring of 1965, the Wichita School District obtained its first computer from IBM. At this time, all the applications were for the accounting systems of the district. With little knowledge of computers, it was decided to call upon other school districts in Kansas for their expertise. Districts having computers in 1965 were Wichita, Topeka, Kansas City and all the Universities. Shawnee Mission, Olathe, and Lawrence soon acquired equipment and joined this group.
AEDS Takes Form
A few years later, these Kansas educational groups formed the Kansas chapter, Mid-America AEDS, as an affiliate of the national Association of Educational Data Systems (AEDS). Shortly thereafter, Tulsa and Oklahoma City wanted to join us and the name was changed to Ok-Kan Chapter. After two years, Oklahoma dropped out of the chapter, and it was again just the Kansas chapter, Mid-America AEDS.
KSDE Sponsors First Computer Conferences
About 1980, the Council of Superintendents at their meeting discussed computers and how might they serve the educators of Kansas. At that same meeting, came a request that the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) take a lead role in developing a state conference to address these needs.
Jack Hobbs, a school superintendent, was instrumental in leading the cause for more and better information about computers and how they might be helpful to the educators of Kansas and in supporting KSDE’s role in getting the job done.
In 1980, Jim Wenger, ESU, and Bob Gast, Kansas State Department of Education, sat down at the Holiday Inn in Emporia and spent most of the day designing the structure for the conference. They had no committee. Gast writes, “We had no money for the conference and so had to plan carefully.
With very limited resources for the first conferences, the conference had to be self-supporting and so the vendor fees became the bread and butter for making it happen. The vendors were seen as resource people to the conference. They had the equipment and knowledge to share with conference participants. The vendors were respected and played a vital role in the conferences. In addition, a registration fee was charged each attendee.
There were many people who helped in making the first conference successful. Consequently, KSDE held its first computer conference in March 1981 with 256 registered participants. A second and final KSDE conference was held in 1982.
The first two KSDE conferences involved more administrative-type people from the office than from the classroom. There was very little opportunity for hands-on. This sequence was important as the administrators were beginning to support other educators in their districts to attend future conferences. The administrators had the benefit of seeing first-hand technological innovations that were on the horizon for practical administrative and classroom applications.
Future conferences moved from show-and-tell to hands-on experiences. The hands-on sessions and the use of practitioners, who provided the most practical professional development, became important to the continued success of the conferences.
The first two conferences were successful in terms of registration numbers, vendor support, revenue generated, and participants’ satisfaction. However, the management of funds from the conference was an issue for KSDE. In November, the state department discovered they could not legally handle monies from such conferences, and they asked the Kansas Administrators’ Association to handle the monies.
They were given approximately $3,500 from the proceeds of the first conference. This financial arrangement did not work out as no one from the Administrators’ Association came to the workshop to pay bills, consequently, an outside agency was sought to provide help and guidance for future conferences that KSDE wanted held.
The State Superintendent asked if Mid-America AEDS would be willing to take care of the finances, and Mid-America AEDS agreed. Gast served as President of Mid-America AEDS in 1981 and helped with the transition from KSDE to Mid-America AEDS.
The management of money and the proliferation of microcomputers; such as the Apple II, Apple II+, TRS80, Commodore 64, from IBM, Apple, and Radio Shack caused the Kansas Council of Superintendent of Schools to ask Mid-America AEDS to help the State Department to organize a workshop to help administrators and teachers understand just how to use these small computers in the classroom and offices of school districts.
Thus the transition from KSDE conference to AEDS (later MACE) conference was underway. This first AEDS conference workshop was held at the Red Coach Inn in October 1981. Bob Gast was asked to take on the task of organizing this conference because he had data processing administrative responsibilities as section director for KSDE. Jim Wenger was the main person at Emporia State University who held data processing responsibilities, and he also helped plan the first KSDE conference in March 1981.
The second AEDS conference was held at the Red Coach Inn in Salina, Kansas in October 1982. The planning group for this conference had many Superintendents, the State Department of Education and most of the AEDS members. The first AEDS conference had started a trend that is still going on today.
IBM, Apple, and Radio Shack loaned us computers and the hands-on sessions were standing room only. The first instruction to attendees was, “how do you turn the machine on.” Very few participants had ever sat down to operate these machines.
For many years computer companies provided MACE with computers for hands-on sessions. When the computer companies cut back loaning MACE computers, the Southeast Regional Educational Center was asked to bring a classroom of computers and also furnished two men to set them up and take care of any problems. Several school districts also brought computers for use in the workshops.
Salina was the chosen location because it was somewhat central to the state and a highway system that allowed reasonable travel opportunities for participants. The Red Coach Inn was chosen because of the courtyard that met our need for a vendor area that was in the main traffic flow. The owner of the Red Coach Inn was eager to serve our needs.
Ed Pyle, the owner, convinced us that he would do all he could to make our stay and future stays rewarding. Ed had his own construction company, and he was able to respond to our specific needs.
Electrical wiring on the courtyard for the vendors was an issue. He said he would make it happen, and he did. Ed continued to serve our needs through the years. When we had a humidity problem on the courtyard due to the indoor pool, he installed ceiling vents with exhaust fans to help on this issue. When we still had moisture issues, Ed moved the pool out of the courtyard area. We had a real friend who wanted to serve and keep our business. That went on for a number of years.
Ed died in the early 1990s, and MACE missed his sincere interest in helping us be successful in our endeavors.
Those early conferences were so successful that it was determined two conferences should be held each year, one in the fall and one in the spring.
AEDS and MACE Timeline
March 1981 - First computer conference sponsored by KSDE with the support of eight education organizations including Mid-America AEDS.
October 1981 - Mid-America AEDS sponsored their first conference.
March 1982 - Second KSDE state department conference with same supporting organizations.
October 1982 - Mid-America AEDS second conference.
October 1983 - Mid-America AEDS third conference.
March 1984 - Mid-America AEDS fourth conference. This was the first year for two conferences sponsored by Mid-America AEDS.
1986 - Three conferences were held — March, June, and October.
1986 - October, the organization changed its name from AEDS to MACE.
1987 thru March 2000 - MACE is held in October and March at the Red Coach in Salina.
2000 thru 2003 - March MACE is held in Salina.
2000 thru 2002 - MTI is held in Lawrence in cooperation with USD 497.
2003 thru 2005 - MTI is held in Overland Park in cooperation with the Blue Valley School District.
2006 - MTI is held at Winfield High School.
2007 thru 2008 - MTI is held at Bonner Springs High School.
2004 thru present - March MACE is moved to the KSU Alumni Center in Manhattan.
AEDS & MACE in Salina
The first years at the Red Coach were marked by a large courtyard area with vendors and food. There was a help-yourself popcorn machine, soda machine, and constant snacks. Our coffee bill alone was in the 100s of dollars in the mid-1980s. At one end of the courtyard was a swimming pool with a glass wall.
In the early days, all machines were brought to the conference. Doug VanderLinden, Burlington, and other board members use to bring a van load of machines and be up until the wee hours of the morning setting them up and helping presenters with software installation. Remember there was no networking and every machine had to have a separate drive for the 5.25" program disk and a separate drive for the 5.25" data disk.
Often after midnight, Bob Gast and Jim Wenger would pull out their guitars and play a little music for everyone.
The basic format of the two days of the conference that had been drafted by Bob Gast and Jim Wenger has been tweeked by the board over the years. The conference started with set up by the board and vendors on Wednesday with a lot of heavy appetizers and shrimp being set out for all who were working in the late afternoon.
Breakfast snacks on Thursday morning were available as people registered during the morning time period and visited vendors and went to vendor sessions. Thursday afternoon were veggie snacks and on-going sessions. Then we had an evening wine and cheese event sponsored by the vendors as dinner was set up.
Dinner was always steak, potato, vegetable, and a "cheesecake" type of dessert. It was at the dinner that we had a keynote and continued to develop the "family-feel" for the conferences.
Friday morning was breakfast snacks, sessions, and vendors. We also had a speaker at our lunch. In March after the lunch, we held our business meeting.
Bob worked hard to get us quality, affordable speakers at our conferences. He succeeded in getting many motivational speakers. He brought in Stephen Glenn, Frosty Troy, Alan November, and Lee Droegemueller, as keynotes. MECC software such as the Oregon Trail was the focus of many presentations for teachers. AEDS was the Kansas service provider for MECC. This low-cost software aided many schools.
In order to plan our conferences, we all drove, usually to Wichita, twice a year to plan.
MACE in Manhattan
Our conference out grew the facilities at the Red Coach so for a few years we partnered with KSU-Salina and shuttled our participants on buses between KSU and the Red Coach.
Eventually, we again looked for a new setting for our conference. Our need to change venues, lead several board members to look at other facilities in Salina.
Steve Schuler suggested that we explore the new Alumni Center on the KSU campus in Manhattan. Several board members reported favorably on their tour of the facility so the board voted to move the March conference to Manhattan in 2004.
Steve Schuler initially was the chair of this conference in Manhattan. Rhonda Gierhan and Tom Sextro chaired following Schuler.
The MTI Conference
The substitute shortage in the late 1990s caused the MACE board to begin to reconsider whether the October conference was still feasible. During that time, Linda Hyler attended a NETA conference in late July in Lincoln, Nebraska. She came away with a new concept for MACE. Gathering technology leaders from the areas surrounding Lawrence and MACE board members, a committee began exploring the concept of a summer conference.
The summer conference was to provide a more casual atmosphere for educators. We would start later in the morning and be finished by 4:30. Conferences would be held in schools that already had computer labs and wireless networking. Likewise, we would lower the cost and do everything with great style in the most cost-efficient manner possible. To achieve these goals, we partnered with many vendors!
The summer conference allowed teachers to attend without the arduous task of making lesson plans. We hoped the draw of Lawrence and the Kansas City areas would also allow teachers and their families to have a "mini vacation." Consequently, we had two conferences - one inside the school year in Salina and one outside the school year. We hoped this would help answer the needs of more educators. Even though we still needed beginning level sessions, we also began to seriously incorporate standards through curriculum integration for all subjects into our presentations.
MACE hosted the first MTI (Mid-America Technology Institute) in July 2000 at the new Free State High School in Lawrence. Our theme was "Making the Connection."
That first conference had 716 people in attendance and featured Dan Buettner as the keynote. We also presented three Kansas educators the Making It Happen Award. This included a free Mac from the Apple Team for the winners.
Lawrence went on to host two more MTI conferences in 2001 and 2002 with the support of Lynda Hyler.
The conference moved to Blue Valley Northwest in Overland Park for the next three years with the support of Carol Bartolac and staff of the district.
In 2006, we went to Winfield, and thanks to Michelle Moore, focused many sessions on Moodle. One of our sessions was a trip to the Christa McAuliffe Center in Wellington.
MTI moved to Bonner Springs in 2007 and 2008 with the support of Ken Clark.
Due to educational funding issues, the 2009 conference in Wichita was cancelled.
MACE’s Other Commitments to Technology Education
MECC Software - AEDS and MACE were the Kansas providers of MECC software and thus supplied at a very minimal cost software to Kansas schools.
Distance Learning Conferences - When remote learning came on the scene, several workshops were held in Kansas State University in Manhattan for this topic. We also used the Holiday Inn in Manhattan for this workshop. Don Nigus and John Wolverton held several workshops during the summer for teachers who desired additional help in planning for classroom uses.
MACE and Education Technology Fair at the Capitol - The Technology Fair started in February 1989. The main purpose of the Tech Fair was to showcase to legislators what students were learning with computers in the classroom through demonstrations by students.
The first three years was a video-conferencing demonstration with the Southeast (Greenbush) Service Center. A local company set up the video conferencing equipment in the third floor Court Room. The next years we had schools send us a short description of their project for the fair. KSDE solicited MACE board members to select the projects.
Fair day started in the rotunda with opening remarks by the state officials. The Governor usually found time to visit some of the projects and talk to the students. MACE board members served pizza and pop to student participants. Plaques were presented to participating schools.
The 2008 Technology Fair was the last technology fair due to the restoration of the Capitol’s first floor rotunda.
KSTL - The MACE board provided leadership and money for this student technology showcase and competition. MACE, KSDE, and Holton High School In-House Training Class combined to plan KSTL. With Glen Weibe as the keynote, registration in 2009 was 215 causing the event to almost break even. Despite Kansas financial challenges in 2010, 235 registered and Kevin Honeycutt was the keynote speaker.
MACE has also given support to a number of technology groups that have started in the state.
Vendors played an essential role in the first conference and all future conferences. Likewise, Kansas educators as presenters have been the bedrock of the quality of our conferences.
The MACE board members have been educators who are dedicated to promoting technology to improve education for students in Kansas.
Last but not least are our loyal attendees who have returned again and again to a conference whether it was AEDS, MACE or MTI. This is probably one of the best things about MACE - the networking among the participants. We still have many who have been coming to MACE since those very early days.