They say timing is everything…
Throughout my career I have been driven to pursue educational change through technology. I have also been fortunate to have entered the field at exactly the right time to be part of, and ultimately help lead that change. As an educator in the Coquitlam School District for the last 15 years I have remained heavily engaged in educational technologies in all my different roles, from teacher to administrator to district management, my interest has always remained the same. But in reality, my history with educational technology here reaches much farther back. As a former student in this district, I was fortunate to participate in the bringing of technology into our schools right from the very beginning, helping my then computer science teacher setup the district’s first network lab long before there was such thing as an Information Services department. Now, as I sit in my current role looking at how I can help all members of our community use technology to transform the learning experience, I have reflected back to those times as a student at Banting Junior Secondary and how they shaped me as a person, or more specifically as a learner. Again, I was a beneficiary of good timing for sure – there were no networks when I got to Banting and our school was getting one while I was there. I was given the opportunity to participate – and learn. Computers really first came to schools when I was in elementary and I was fortunate to be able to use them right from the very beginning, doing simple things: word processing (I can’t handwrite so this was huge); Logo; and simple programming in Basic, which allowed me to tell the computer what to do! All of this was happening on a Commodore 64. There was no Internet then, no multimedia games – we did have Yukon Trail, a social studies game of which we could not get enough even though it was entirely text-based! Now, it is important to recognize that not all learners are the same and not every student might have been engaged with these tools in this way, but I was. I was given the opportunity and was engaged, so I did create.
The point is that the notion of learning through creation is not something new, and it is also not new for technology to be able to facilitate the creation process in engaging ways. But what has happened is that we have ever increasing capabilities which expand the ways in which technology can engage, and in doing so, draw increasing numbers of students into the process of learning through creation.
To this end, I have become interested in how to ensure we utilize the tools we have to their full educational potential. I have always said “give me a Commodore 64 and I can do great things with kids”. I believe that, but I also believe that our amazing new tools can provide so much opportunity to engage so many of our learners that it is imperative we strive to use them to achieve that potential.
I was bike riding with my 6 year old son the other day. He had just gotten a new bell for his bike. I admit it is a pretty nice bell. His old one rang every time he rode over a bump. When he commented on how much he loved his new bell, I replied “your old one drove me crazy” – he responded “my new one drives me awesome!” He then proceeded to kick into gear and take off up a steep hill without stopping at a pace he had never done before. That was awesome. Sometimes, as human beings, we just need the right engagement to drive us to achieve. Where technology meets education, I am excited to explore how emerging technologies will drive kids to achieve. Our challenge, given the limited resources in education, is to make sure the technology investments we make achieve those outcomes – that challenge is what must drive us.
All our technology is capable of helping students learn – like the Commodore 64. And like the Commodore 64, a time will come where we will label our current technology as useless and look towards the next generation of tools. I think this looking to future possibilities is part of what engages us as educators. The challenge is to be sure that before we label our current technology obsolete, we endeavor to achieve those goals which motivated the initial investment in those tools – and that will take a collective effort. We all apprecitate the magical effect of new bells at engaging kids. That is something we need to continue to provide. But by working together, we can also be sure that great learning continues even as the initial shine inevitably begins to wear off. We should never stop looking forward to the next great possibility – without question that is part of what drives us to be great. But it is equally important for us to keep our existing successes a valued part of the conversation and continuously reflect on the value those experiences have added to the lives of students.
This is my first blog post as SD43 District Manager of Information Services. My goal is to post once per month and share my ruminations on educational technologies and related issues. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts as part of the conversation.