David Carruthers is a Technology Coordinator with the Thames Valley District School Board. From his website, his bio says – Tech Coordinator, @TVDSB | Google Certified Edu, LV 2 | GEG Ontario Leader | Apple Teacher | Change Agent | Always Living in Beta | #tvdsbtech
Doug: Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed, David. My first question is always the same – do you remember when we first met?
David: Hi Doug. Truth be told, I don’t think we’ve ever met in real life. Years ago, I remember you doing a video conference at EdCamp London that I helped organize, but I think that’s the closest we’ve been to meeting in person.
Doug: You’re part of a club that I’m in. My birth certificate lists me as Douglas but I go by Doug. The only people that call me Douglas are doctors, nurses, and police officers. Oh, and teachers on Day 1 of a class when doing the roll. Are you David everywhere?
David: Good question. I’m David to most people but my family. It’s Dave and dad around my house.
Doug: Recently, you changed your domain name for your website and let me know about it. I appreciated that and updated the entry in my Livebinder. You went from thepluggedinportable.com to dcarruthersedu.com. I think that I know why but is there a bigger story?
David: In the 2010 – 2011 school year, I taught in a portable for the first and only time. At that time, I decided to start a blog and join something called Twitter. As you know, I’m active on both platforms to this day. My Twitter handle used to be @pluggedportable, but nearly a year ago, I changed it to @dcarruthersedu, so I thought it was also time for a change to my blog. Additionally, I wanted something a little more professional sounding and my time teaching in thepluggerdinportable seem like a distant memory.
Doug: I never taught in a portable. But, a dear friend of mine did and told me of the other reality to education. Cold in the winter, hot in the spring and fall, no internet access until a single drop got put in, repurposed PA system, you can’t easily send a child to the library or the office without follow through and washrooms are a nightmare for both students and teachers and not being able to work at recess or lunches due to balls being bounced against the outside walls. On the other hand, it helped her give up coffee. Do you have some stories to share?
David: I agree with everything you mention above, but we made the best of the situation. My whole portable was powered by a single drop, daisy chained to 3 switches! I had about 15 desktops, 3 laptops, and a host of personal devices brought to school by my grade 6 students. We had what felt like our own little, globally-connected community out there in the portable. I remember wires, cords, and power bars everywhere! I even had cords running through the ceiling! I remember asking students on a nearly daily basis if they could assist with wire and cord maintenance, which involved the use of a lot of tape! Tape was a staple in those days. Needless to say, I wasn’t always in the good books with the custodians. I’ve included some pictures to give you an idea of what I’m talking about. We had a lot of fun in our portable, and my students really enjoyed this new twist on learning. To this day, if I run into a former student, they always bring up our year in thepluggedinportable.
Doug: Thames Valley is a huge district. I remember when I worked for Greater Essex County, I was the technology turn to person. When we’d meet for RCAC meetings, Thames Valley always had at least four learning coordinators in attendance. What’s the reality these days?
David: There are 7 of us on my team. We each have schools where we are the assigned learning coordinator. I have 31 schools in east and central London. Each of us also have unique responsibilities in our portfolios where we are the lead contact for the whole board. Some of my lead areas include emerging technologies, media production, video announcements, and Apple support.
Doug: In your position, you’ll have to support just about everything. Do you have preferences? Mac or PC or Chromebook? Google or Microsoft?
David: I like to consider myself device agnostic. I use whatever platform I feel is best for the job. Rich learning experiences are typically a mashup of a variety of tools and platforms. That being said, I’m typing this on my computer which is a MacBook Pro, and I personally buy into the whole Apple ecosystem, but I would never go around saying Apple is best. Yes, in my capacity as a learning coordinator, I support a lot of different platforms. At the current time, I feel that Chromebooks and iPads both have a place in the classroom. As a corporation, we use Office 365, which I also feel is a good choice. I just use it on my Mac. We need to be careful not to focus too much attention on the tool, but rather the learning outcomes and the opportunities created by the use of a device to redefine the learning experience of students. When we look at it this way, the device fades into the background, and doesn’t become the focus of learning.
Doug: In a district your size, what techniques do you use to support all of your schools? How do you make sure that every school follows through on all initiatives?
David: This can be a challenge in a district the size of TVDSB, but I think we do a good job. As I previously mentioned, we are a team of 7, and 6 of us have schools where we are the assigned learning coordinator. It works out to approximately 30 schools for each of us. Apart from working with administrators, teachers, and students in each of our assigned schools, we work together as a team to plan and deliver PD to educators throughout the district. When we plan PD, we usually incorporate a variety of check-ins to ensure that teachers are following through with initiatives. We also work with administrators to help set the precedent in their schools.
Doug: Your name comes up with various PD activities – Google Summit, edCampLondon, various Twitter chats, etc. Is this a passion or a technique to keep the district learning?
David: I’m going to put a spin on this question. My passion is to keep the district continually moving forward, and these are the tools I like to use to facilitate this learning. I’m passionate about power of bringing people together and we have incredible tools at our disposable to make this happen.
Doug: I like that there are so many wonderful bloggers from your area that I run across periodically – Jennifer, Ramona, Heidi, Marc, Anne Marie – do you stay on top of their thought sharing? Are there bloggers that I don’t know about but should? I need to update my big list before edcamp London.
David: Doug, I think you’ve mentioned most of the frequent bloggers in TVDSB, but I know there are more. Perhaps we can put this question out to those in attendance at EdCamp London. That should help you populate your blog list.
Doug: What’s your personal inspiration to blog as much as you do?
David: Blogging is an outlet for me to clarify my thoughts. I often have a lot of ideas floating around in my head, and when I sit down to write, I find that I am able to articulate my thoughts in a more coherent manner. Also, I speak to others about the importance of sharing ideas, building relationships, and being connected, so I think it’s important that I lead by example. We can’t expect others to do something if we’re not modelling it ourselves.
Doug: Have you ever regretted writing a particular post?
David: I don’t have any regrets about a particular post, but that doesn’t mean that when I look back at some of the posts that I’ve made, that I hold the same view now, compared to when it was written. My thinking has evolved over time, and my blog acts as a portfolio of my thoughts. I don’t have regrets about what was on my mind at any particular point in time.
Doug: What’s your current biggest project underway? If successful, what difference will it make to Thames Valley? Is it something that other districts could pick up on?
David: My colleagues and I have just wrapped up a big project, and another rather large project is still underway. The project we just finished involved 60 teacher from 60 schools. The purpose of this project was to increase awareness of the global competencies, and provide strategies for implementation in the classroom. The large project that is still underway involves providing support for teachers involved in a Chromebook 1:1 pilot in 7 of our secondary schools. Every grade 9 student received a Chromebook that is theirs for the duration of their secondary school education. This project will have significant implications for the near future. If deemed successful, every grade 9 student in TVDSB will be provided with a Chromebook in the fall of 2019, and all students in grades 9, 10, and 11 in our 7 pilot schools will have a Chromebook in a year and a half.
Doug: That truly is an ambitious set of projects. We’ll have to keep tabs on them and I’m sure that there will be lots of blogging to share successes. All the best.
Thanks for the interview, David. It’s been great to dig a little further beyond the latest blog post and get some of your futuristic thoughts.
Where can people follow you online?
This interview is part of a series of interviews that I’ve conducted with very interesting people. You can see all of them here.