It was a three year gig. That's what John Laverty — the superintendent at the time — told me, in the principal's office at Dundas Central when he offered me the job back in 2010. He said I would need to be thinking about what I wanted to do next, which seemed ludicrous, having just been told that I had secured my dream job.
I had wanted to be on the IT Team (that's what it was called back then) pretty quickly into my first year teaching. I was hired to take over Ian Pellizzari's class — teaching Computers to the Middle School students at WH Ballard — while he went off to the Memorial Building to join Marilyn Legault in supporting the use of technology in elementary classrooms in HWDSB. I had no formal training in computers, and hadn't used a Windows computer since high school, but soon I was teaching students how to build websites with HTML, and games in Flash, and Tessellations in Fireworks. It wasn't long before I was volunteering to run after school in-services at the Ancaster Memorial Building on building video games and blogging with students. I was hooked.
I got the job in June of 2010, as the Elementary IT Team Consultant. By the time I had returned to work from summer vacation in September, the job had changed: no longer split by division, the team would all be supporting K-12, the team name had been changed to the 21st Century Fluencies team, we had been moved within the organization, from the Computer Services portfolio, into the newly formed Leadership and Learning Department.
When I was hired Growing Success had just been released. The elementary report card had been drastically changed, and at the time, supporting report cards was a big portion of the job. The software was a buggy mess, attempting to attend to the shared space of the new Progress Report, and I spent most of that first year on the phone with tech support. Somewhere in the digital ether is a video of me sipping from a Marilyn mug, reading Growing Success, and introducing the new report card software. For a time it was the intro to the 20 minute Camtasia walk-through video that is still used today to help teachers navigate mxWeb.
When I was hired, schools weren't allowed to purchase iPads. Eventually Lisa found the funding to purchase 30: 10 per cluster of schools, that could be borrowed as kits, so we could make a case for their use in classrooms. One of our requests was that schools that borrowed the kits blogged about their experiences. There's a great archive of those posts available over here.
When I was hired, we used First Class for everything. The HUB existed, but you weren't allowed to use it unless you were teaching eLearning. You could use Google Drive, but you had to request student accounts, and I would batch create classes using a csv file pulled from SchoolConnect. You could blog in First Class, but it was awful, so Aaron Puley and I built the Commons, based on a platform I had built in my classroom called Litcircuits (a play on digital literature circles). The first version we piloted lived at theclassroo.ms, a domain I probably should have held onto.
When I was hired, we each had our own YouTube channel where we would post tutorials and other stuff…
So Paul Hatala and I built tv.hwdsb.on.ca, then when that broke, we built hwdsb.tv (twice), creating a centralized space to house our tutorials, and the video creations of HWDSB students. We continue to be the only school board in Ontario I am familiar with who maintains their own Open Source built video platform.
I spent two years on the creation of the 21st Century Learning and Technology Policy, and its related directives. You can see some of that process here.
When I was hired, 1:1 was an unfathomable possibility, reserved for private schools. I witnessed the emergence of 21st Century Learning as a key strategy at HWDSB, and helped to forge brazen pathways forward to equitably equip students with the tools they need to compete in an ever-changing future.
I've worked with some amazing individuals. I'm incredibly proud of the innovations and creativity that has come out of this small team, and will continue when I'm gone. Thank you for your support, and friendship, and for being the most amazing team I have worked on.
I've tried to be helpful always. Tried to be quick with email responses, knowing that there was a teacher trying to do cool stuff with kids waiting on the other end. I've tried to promote open platforms like the Commons, and tried to help people share beyond the walls of their classrooms, because it's that connection to outside experts, to parents and community members and authentic audiences, that I believe makes for deeper learning opportunities. I've tried to find ways to make blending learning in your classroom easier. Tried to gently push people to try new things.
I'm going to go work with students with learning disabilities in the Centre for Success now, to help them understand how technology can help them to navigate the education system. I'll continue to share here, and I'll continue to build materials to help you support students like the those who will be visiting my classroom at Elizabeth Bagshaw. I imagine you'll find the strategies universally applicable.
It's time to try something new.