Tell us a little about yourself and your current role.
This is my 24th year with the Ottawa Catholic School Board in Ottawa, Ontario Canada. We support 82 schools serving 40,0000 students. I am currently the Superintendent of Human Resources and Leadership Development. Prior to this portfolio I was the Superintendent of Learning Technologies.
Have you always been technologically minded?
In my first year teaching in 1989 I was assigned a computer programming course to teach. I had never taken computer programming and I was always one week ahead of the students learning the curriculum! It was in this first year that I realized the power of computers as a means of engagement for students. Although the instructional practices were not named, it was differentiated instruction and project based learning that had a positive impact on student achievement in these computer based courses.
Tell us a little about the information you share on your Scoop.it page.
I am a strong believer in the importance of networking and learning from others. There are many tools that allow users to gather and share information. For me, I find that the curation tool, ScoopIT meets my needs as it is easy to use, has built in formatting and allows for social sharing and commenting. I focus on educational technology resources to share on ScoopIT, along with leadership resources.
Why do you think the use of mobile technology is becoming so important in the classroom?
Mobile Learning is becoming so important as a tool because of its ability to provide personalized learning opportunities for students, along with the inherent ability to move from a text based system to a video/audio based system. Mobile technology in the hands of a gifted teacher also provides greater opportunity for a focus on critical thinking skills, creativity, communication, and collaboration. These are essential cross-curricular skills for today's students.
Do you have experience with BYOD? What is your opinion of these schemes?
In 2010 we replaced our technology plan, which focused on equipment, to a new plan that focused on learning. The new plan was called "Towards 2020 - Connecting with our Students- Blueprint for Change". Part of this vision was eliminating barriers to technology, and a move to BYOD. The key to the success of our BYOD was to start by providing all 2500 teachers with a mobile device of their own. This allowed teachers to see the value of technology as a tool before we allowed students to bring in their own devices.This approach worked well as teachers saw first hand the benefits of mobile devices.
At the same time that we provided devices, we provided digital resources such as Discovery Education, and began adding interactive whiteboards and projectors to classes, along with PD focused on changing pedagogy to move towards student directed learning and differentiated instruction. We introduced social media policies and created less restrictive networks as well. Finally, we moved all 40,000 students and 4000 staff onto Google Apps for Education since these tools matched our focus on the 4Cs. It was the combination of all of these actions and multiple entry points for teachers and students that was the key to our success.
What types of apps do you promote the use of in the classroom?
As a Superintendent I help share resources for classroom teachers and I see my role as creating environments that facilitate the sharing and development of professional learning networks. A current focus would be on the use of Apps that help with the focus on Assessment For Learning and Assessment as learning. These would be transformational uses of technology to change instructional practice and student learning.
How about game apps, do you think that they can effectively used to educate?
Yes, we are currently introducing a pilot project where all of our grade 10 students across the system will take their career's course in a game based atmosphere. This is a pilot project involving Chromebooks and blended learning using the Desire 2 Learn platform. It is important to note that we have moved to a device agnostic approach so students can use any type of device. Similarly we use multiple platforms including D2L, BlackBoard, Edmodo, and Google Sites as LMS. We don't want to focus on the tool but instead on the learning, so we allow multiple options for reaching learning goals.
If you had to choose just one app to use in the classroom, what would you go for?
Focusing on one app would go against the culture that we are creating since we don't want to focus on devices or Apps, but rather on using technology for transformational practices. To use one app as an example, I would say an app such as Reflector since this allows students to focus on metacognition and share their thinking with others in the class through a quick and easy way of sharing their work from an iPad to the SmartBoard, or for the teacher to quickly use other tools to focus on assessment for learning in an interactive environment.
What's next for you?
As a Board we will continue to focus on the SAMR model as teachers become more comfortable with a variety of tools and move from initial substitution of practices to more redefinition of instructional practices. We are also creating more collaborative learning spaces through the use of tools such as Google Hangouts.
Tom it was a privilege to speak with you. Thanks for taking time to share your wealth of experience with us.
You can find Tom's Scoopit page here.
You can find Tom on Twitter @TDOttawa