History of MOREnet Conferences

  • Published: Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021

Can you imagine what it was like 30 years ago when MOREnet began building the infrastructure for the network we have today? As exciting a time as it was, it was perplexing for even the most experienced engineer. Now imagine you are the one at your school or library who has been tasked with setting it up and utilizing it? Some of you don’t have to imagine because you lived it with us! It was no small feat back in the 90s to learn and adopt this new and exciting technology, so we made sure it came with a lot of training.

Training at MOREnet was fast and furious during this time. Beginning in 1994, Eric Nicklas, who began as a trainer at MOREnet, recalls training all week, every week to bring teachers and technicians up to speed on Networking 101 or as he fondly recalls, (Network Information Center/Network Operations Center).

Members soon craved more than the basics. They wanted to share their experiences and learn from others. They wanted to take their networks to new places and use them in ways they had only heard about or perhaps had only been envisioned this early on. As we were already supporting DESE with a fall technology conference for teachers, it made sense to expand our training services to a spring technical conference also including the technicians behind the technology.

In March of 1997 the K-12 Coordinator Technology Conference (CTC) was born, and just a few years later we introduced the Higher Education Learning Exchange (HELIX) for our college and university members. Who remembers the large proceedings we would publish each year that had ALL the presentations for conference published in one book? We still have a few around the MOREnet office, and we recognize many names of presenters who still attend today!

If you have been around for even just a few years, you recognize Sandra Monnig as the conference coordinator. She will be celebrating her 25 years with MOREnet in 2022, all of which have been part of our conferences in one fashion or another. She was recently asked why the conferences and training are so important to which she answered, "Just think how much and how fast technology has changed in just 30 years. All of that was taught and learned together."

Sandra continued, "Going to work for the first time at our location on East Walnut, I was entering a world that was as foreign to me as the workings of a car. As I started learning more, I realized that this thing called the Internet was going to be a big deal, and I wanted to be a part of that experience with the schools and libraries of Missouri. Seeing our new members come in nervous and unsure, I felt a kindred spirit with them as I too was learning. But seeing them leave after their three-day training with a sense of 'I got this' made me feel like I had a small hand in getting them to that point."

Fast forward 30 years; MOREnet has grown its training from our original three-day connections training and Networking 101 classes to more in-depth courses and hands-on trainings. We not only offer a variety of information technology topics, but also education technology topics, which help bring today’s technology into classrooms and libraries.

Conferences have also evolved since that first spring in 1997, adapting to the ever-changing technology landscape. We eventually took ownership of the Missouri Instructional Technology Conference (MITC) for teachers in the fall and added the standalone Security Symposium to our event calendar in the winter. Pre-conference sessions came and went, and the Security Symposium was moved to begin the day before what we had renamed the Connections and HELIX conferences in 2011. Eventually, we created the MOREnet Annual Conference, putting our Instructional Technology and Technical conferences back-to-back and integrating cybersecurity throughout all four days, as we found it a critical subject for both teachers and technicians.

Our conferences allow everyone to gather and share ideas. Today, Annual Conference provides a few days a year when our members can gather and pick the brains of their fellow teachers and technology staff on ideas, problems, questions and concerns.

One thing is certain, as we continue to offer low-cost professional development for our members and by our members, we know the most important element of conferences is learning from one another. The quality of our conferences is because of our members and the knowledge and excitement they share. We also hear that the Annual Conference comradery and community is often just as beneficial as the content. It's our pleasure to enable a community networking opportunity that spans all our membership groups; we appreciate and learn from you as well!

Over the years, we have evolved as needed, moved around a bit, absorbed whatever costs we could to keep the conference affordable and created a fan following of fun t-shirts for our members across Missouri. As the needs of our members continue to shift and expand, we’ll continue be right here with you, offering the kind and type of professional development that makes sense. If you have suggestions on topics, timing or format, we’re always glad to hear your thoughts. Simply email [email protected]

Sandra sums it up quite nicely for all of us by saying, "I am happy I made the choice to be a part of MOREnet and to play a very small role in getting Missouri schools and libraries to where they are today, and I am excited to see what the future of technology and conferences will look like for many years to come."