An Interview with Sophia Mavridi


 

Sophia Mavridi is a lecturer and a teacher trainer specialising in the field of Digital Learning. She is currently teaching in UK higher education and is based in Leicester, United Kingdom.  I was happy that she took the opportunity to tell us a little bit more about herself.

 

Doug:  My first question is normally – where did we first meet but that doesn’t apply in this case.  We haven’t met in real life but certainly have interacted online. Do you remember when our paths first crossed and why you decided to follow me?

Sophia: I remember it very vividly. You took part in a research project of mine as an interview participant back in 2013. I found your insights fascinating and since then we’ve been connected on Facebook and Twitter. 

Doug:  You are part of the faculty at De Montfort University in Leicester. What courses are you currently teaching?

Sophia: I’m currently teaching Academic English and Research Skills, mainly to postgraduate students. It is very interesting. The vast majority are international students who need to acclimatise themselves to the UK higher education and learn how to do research but I may also teach British students who need to improve their writing, presentation skills, academic vocabulary etc. It depends on the semester and the institution. In the past, at a different institution, I taught educational technology to TESOL & Applied Linguistics postgraduate students, something that I also thoroughly enjoyed. 

Doug:  Recently, you announced that you will be giving a keynote address at a conference in Mexico.  That’s a long way from home! What takes you there and what will be the topic of your address?  In what language will you deliver your message?  

Sophia: I’ve been invited by the British Council to give a plenary session at BBELT 2020, which is one of the biggest conferences for English language educators in Latin America. I talked about the transformative potential of technology in education and more specifically language learning. The talk challenged the current educational paradigms that present technology as the silver bullet and talked about the dilemmas but also the pedagogical criteria that should inform our decisions. I delivered it in English as I sadly don’t speak Spanish but as I said the conference was for English language educators and all of them are fluent in English. 

You can watch it here if you want but mind you, it’s a 1-hour long talk so perhaps grab a coffee or tea 🙂 

Doug:  Thanks for sharing the link.  Nice use of the tambourine!  I thought your topic was timely as many teachers are rethinking/rationalizing approaches to their use of technology in education.  By the way, Sophia’s introduction starts at about 4:00 into the video if you wish to skip directly to it.

How did you feel that the presentation went? 

Sophia: It was a fascinating experience. I was impressed by how lively, receptive and enthusiastic Mexican teachers are. This goes for teacher trainers too as before the conference I also delivered training to about 50 British Council teacher trainers. They are so eager to learn and so positive in so many ways. I wish I could have stayed longer. The organisation of the event was excellent and it is not by accident it was attended by 1,100 delegates and sold out in November. 

Doug:  On your website, you offer a large listing of the topics that you’ve talked about.  It’s very impressive. I have a superstition I go through before I speak in front of an audience.  Do you have any superstitions?

Sophia: Really? What is it? I don’t have a superstition but I always eat chocolate. It makes me sharper and brighter. I think as educators and trainers we are used to having an audience so it’s not extremely intimidating. That said, it depends on the audience, the topic and so many other things 🙂

Doug:  My superstition?  Well, my first superintendent noted that I had a great deal of arm action when I talked to an audience.  I corrected this but still walk around for about 10-15 minutes before a presentation with my hands in my pockets just to remind me…

Recently, you announced that you will be releasing a book “Digital Innovations and Research in Language Learning”.  Congratulations. Can you tell us a bit about the book and who your target audience would be?

book1Sophia: I’m really proud of this publication. It is a collection of 12 research chapters that explore the pedagogical potential of new learning technologies in language education contexts. Topics include technology-mediated task-based learning, virtual schooling, game-based learning, digital responsibility & ethics and many more. The research studies are from a range of different places from around the world – from the UK, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, Greece and Israel to Japan, Australia, Chile, Thailand, and Uruguay – and thus it gives voice to different contexts and diverse perspectives.  It is for any educator interested in approaching technology from an informed pedagogical perspective, ideally for language practitioners, teacher educators, researchers and administrators.

Doug:  Another upcoming publication with your name is titled “English for 21st Century Skills”.  Can you tell us a bit about that book?

Sophia: This is another amazing project I’ve had the privilege of being involved in. The book is concerned with the development and integration of 21st centurBook2y skills which I think is a challenge for all educators, not just language teachers. Our students, more than ever before, need the competencies, skills and values to live and work in a globalised and interconnected world and be able to generate innovative ideas, solve problems and implement solutions. We believe that this can be achieved through pedagogies that explore how creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, inclusion, wellbeing, leadership and other key new literacies can be developed along with subject knowledge, which in our case, as language educators, is English. I believe, however, that any educator, who wants to keep up to date with this increasingly important field will find it interesting.

Doug:  If someone was interested in purchasing either of these resources, where would they go?  Amazon?

Sophia: Yes, the research publication is already available on Amazon and can be found here. The ‘English for 21st Century Skills’ will be available on the publisher’s website from April 2020 onwards and in bookshops of course.

Doug:  Through Vicky Loras, I’ve been exposed to a whole group of educators involved with language learning and you’re so often in the middle of things (and the pictures).  It wouldn’t be education if it wasn’t full of acronyms that are new to me. BETT, BBELT, NATESOL, IATEFL. I’d need a roadmap to follow all these. Can you name an organization or two that Canadian educators should stand up and pay attention to?

Sophia: That’s true haha, so many acronyms. For a Canadian, I would recommend  IATEFL which is the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language. The headquarters is based in the UK but the association is really international. BETT is not an association and is not solely for language educators. It stands for British Educational Training and Technology and it is an annual conference and exhibition organised every January in London. It is for any educator and policymaker interested in educational technology and it is a not-to-be-missed annual event. You can watch the #BETT2020 highlights here. I delivered a keynote at this year’s conference. Can you spot me in the video? 😉

Doug:  I did!  You’re at the 0:39 second mark!

A common thread to what you’ve been talking about recently seems to be Digital Distractions.  Do you have an answer for those who observe students suffering from this?  

Sophia: I feel passionate about this topic as I do about anything that falls under the umbrella of digital literacies, responsibilities and ethics. Technology has given us unparalleled opportunities but it is also chronically distracting us. We can’t afford to ignore this issue any longer as it interferes with learning, social life and wellbeing. We need to find ways to help students to manage their distractions and these ways need to be informed and systematic. Banning the devices is just a reactive approach. It is not a solution. I give guest lectures to students at the university where I work and I also speak about this when I train teachers and when I speak at conferences trying to raise awareness of the issue. My BETT keynote was on this and you can watch it here if interested. I don’t have all the answers but it is rewarding to know that students and teachers find my seminars useful. I’m currently involved in research projects on this so hopefully, I’ll be able to say much more soon.

Doug:  I really like your use of the term “Digital Resident”.  You seem to weave the concept nicely through all your talks.

When I look at your Facebook statistics, you and I have 91 mutual friends.  I find that pretty amazing since we live an ocean apart. Do you think that this speaks to the need for a connected reality for today’s educator?

Sophia: Yes, it does. We can learn so much from one another. On a personal level, being a connected educator has shaped my career and life in many ways. And I find that the benefits can extend beyond the teacher to the students as well. It often creates teacher inspiration and this can spread to students and make them feel more engaged. 

Doug:  Originally from Greece, you now work in the United Kingdom and are fluent in both the Greek and English languages.  Do you speak any other languages?

Sophia: I speak French as well but nowhere near my Greek or English. I would like to refresh my French and learn Spanish and Italian, hopefully soon, when I have more spare time available.

Doug:  I know, from our interactions, that you’re a dog lover.  That’s a good quality in any person! Can you tell us a bit about Hector?

hector1Sophia: Aww my little boy. I’ve had him since he was a two-month puppy. He’s smart, affectionate and absolutely adorable. He brings joy to my life and I love waking up to his smiley face and wagging tail. He always does silly and funny things that make me smile, even when I am troubled. That said, he’s not an easy dog. He has a strong personality and he can be stubborn and naughty. But he’s so charming that he always gets away with it.

Doug:  One of the things that strikes me about your group is how you travel widely in Europe.  Now that the United Kingdom has left the European Union, will this change things for you?

Sophia: I hope it won’t but the truth is nobody knows yet, we just have to wait and see. On a personal level, I still have a European passport so technically I will still be able to travel, work and live in other European countries. And I’m already settled in the UK so I don’t think things will change for me in this respect. That said, it may have an impact on my British and European colleagues who would like to live and work elsewhere in Europe or come here. That would be unfortunate. What I really love about the UK is how multicultural and diverse it is. If this changes then it may not be the place I love to call home.

hector2

Doug:  Can you tell us a couple of interesting things about Sophia Mavridi that we don’t know?

Sophia: You may already know that I travel quite a lot for work. What you may not know is that I always spend my holidays in Greece, preferably by the sea. Nothing relaxes my body and soul more than being next to the sea. Hector enjoys the sea breeze too but he is not so keen on the water 😉 Here we are on holiday in Naxos island.

Doug:  Thank you so much for taking the time from a very busy schedule to tell us a bit more about yourself.  

Sophia: It was lovely talking to you, Doug. Thank you so much for inviting me!

You can follow Sophia on social media:

Periodically, I interview interesting people like Sophia for this blog.  You can check out all of the interviews here https://dougpete.wordpress.com/interviews.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


First…

ETFO

Happy Valentine’s Day to ETFO members who are striking in:

  • Kawartha Pine Ridge
  • Near North
  • Rainy River School Boards.

No comment is necessary about the current situation in Ontario. If you’re a teacher in any publicly funded school, you know.

How about some great blogging from Ontario Edubloggers instead?


Payoff

Only an English teacher could be excited and motivated to use all caps.

THEY ALL HAVE PENS OR PENCILS. Every. Single. One.

What a great start to a new semester for Amanda Potts and her Grade 12 English students.

If you’re a secondary school teacher, you’ll absolutely appreciate Amanda’s observations about the difference between the enthusiasm of her Grade 12 students and those of her Grade 10s.

Her words speak to her professionalism. Only a teacher could immediately make observations about reluctant or even fake readers. The sooner this can be observed, the sooner something can be done about it.

From Day 1, she had them reading and she’s excited about that. She notes that the books are in “no discernible order”. Maybe that adds to the excitement of finding something interesting to read. You have to find it first.

Oh, and I was kidding about the pens and pencils. All teachers appreciate that. My method of encouragement to bring them was a box of golf pencils that I had on hand to lend those who forgot their own.


The Education Reform Most Needed for the New Decade

Before you click through and read this post from Anne-Marie Kee, think about what your personal answer would be to that statement.

Anne-Marie makes it clear that she is a supporter of technology and its use in her school but that wasn’t her answer.

Her answer came as a realization of the power of music and community that originated from a New Year’s concert celebration.

Her description of the service took me back to my youth at St. Paul’s Anglican Church and the big ol’ pipe organ. There’s just something special about being among the community with that one single instrument filling the church with music.


Why I Strike.

Zoe in 1980 from her blog

Teachers: Cuts hurt kids

Government: It’s all about money

If only it was that simple.

If you do nothing else, head to the bottom of Zoe Branigan-Pipe’s blog post where she gives a bit of a history of gains made by unions dealing with teacher working and student learning conditions.

Throughout the post, Zoe chronicles her various activities as a social activist.

I know that it’s easy to wax philosophy about the good ol’ days when we were in school. But, put yourself in the shoes of your old teachers and society as it was. The good ol’ days really weren’t that good. The job has evolved; society has evolved; the conditions under which teachers must work and students learn need to evolve as well.


Teacher Performance Appraisal: Advice for New Teachers

Speaking of the good ol’ days. Those of us who are long in the tooth can reflect back now about the process that we went through as we were being evaluated for the first time as really being a crap shoot. It truly was that and the TPA of today doesn’t come close to my experience.

I didn’t know what “they” would be looking for. I hoped that it was the teaching and learning that went on in the class. My Computer Science classroom was hardly a lecture hall. With limited resources, students were at various points of turning their inspiration into programs that worked. As it turned out, one of the superintendents wanted to actually see a lecture. Fortunately, I was able to turn a “history of computers” into a sit ‘n git instead of a research activity.

In this post, Laura Bottrell summarizes what is appraised during these sessions and clearly points out that it’s not a one shot, winner take all process.

Hopefully, new teachers are well schooled in the process before the it begins through their Faculty of Education, Program Departments, local administrators, and local federations.


Thank you

I really did some thinking about whether or not to include this post from Patti Henderson. Sadly, her mother passed away recently and this is a celebration of her life and the eulogy that she and her sister wrote and delivered.

Beyond their words, it’s the presentation in this blog post that is so powerful here.

Patti manages to weave a story in words and pictures of a life and story that is a tribute to her mother. It’s very well done and the collection of artifacts is amazing.

I find myself a little envious; my own mother didn’t like to have her picture taken so the few that we do have are so precious.

My condolences, Patti.


Here’s what I know about class sizes

I’m taking a lot of liberties with this one from Beth Lyons. It doesn’t appear on her blog. Rather, it’s more of an insight that she posted on Facebook. So, you’ll have to be a friend of Beth’s to read it.

I thought that, throughout this entry, she really showed some deep insights about what class numbers mean to good planning, good teaching, and good contacts. Keep in mind that Beth is a teacher-librarian so she reaches out and touches every student in the school. In the process of this post, she bounces between that and her previous life as a classroom teacher.

About determining reading level per child

Remember the class of 23 kids? Right. I’m only working with one of them. For 20 minutes. That means I need to have an interesting and compelling enough activity that the other 22 can do on their own. For 20 minutes.

A new student

Also, there’s a new student moving in on Monday. Better find a desk. And a chair. Don’t forget to buy supplies because your budget is already used up.

Concerns about well-being

Did that student you were keeping an eye on bring a lunch today? You haven’t seen them eat in a few days.

What about the other student that always wears their “favourite” sweater. Every day. And their pants are too short. And their toes are sticking out of their shoes. I wonder if they’ll have boots or mitts this winter.

And much more. Beth’s community really chimed in nicely with support and comments about this. Hopefully, we can convince her to move it to her blog so that more can enjoy and share it.


Friday Two Cents: I Fought The Good Fight

This post, from Paul Gauchi, is a little different than a story of a typical teacher striking for better working conditions in their classroom.

As readers know, Paul is an Occasional Teacher so he doesn’t have his own classroom or a permanent school. Potentially, he has every classroom in the district! Since he’s not assigned to one particular school, he has his choice as to where he would like to go and support colleagues. He makes an interesting and well-reasoned choice.

And yet, there was a nagging in his mind of another issue in another time and place where he wasn’t supported by colleagues.

It’s actually quite a sad story that he shares. Ever positive though, he recognizes that he can’t change the past but does have at least a partial say in his future.


Please take the time to click through and read all of these posts. They’ll inspire and give you some thoughts as you start your day.

And, follow them on Twitter.

  • Amanda Potts – @Ahpotts
  • Anne-Marie Kee – @AMKeeLCS
  • Zoe Branigan-Pipe – @zbpipe
  • Laurel Bottrell – @L_Bottrell
  • Patti Henderson – @GingerPatti
  • Beth Lyons – @mrslyonslibrary
  • Paul Gauchi – @PCMalteseFalcon

This post originates on:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

If you read it anywhere else, it’s not the original.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


I just got back from walking the dog and my fingers are frozen. It’s so windy and I didn’t wear heavy enough gloves. But, I guess I can’t complain too much. Last night Lisa Corbett, Beth Lyons, and I exchanged screen captures of local temperatures. I guess we’re just balmy and I’m a wimp.

So, this Friday before the Holiday Break, how about treating yourself to some great blog writing from Ontario Educators?


Skype-A-Thon 2019

Maybe it’s just the circles I run in, but I haven’t read or heard much about Mystery Skypes for a while. It seems like not so long ago, it was the hottest thing in the classroom. Maybe people have abandoned the concept for Flipgrid?

So, it was interesting to read Zélia Tavares’ post about her class’ participation in a Skype-a-Thon event.

Students are inspired by experts as their share words of wisdom and students reflect on comments which they have found very inspiring when recommended to find their own networks and supports around the world to lift themselves and others up.

Imagine having the opportunity to talk with a Vice President of Microsoft! Wow.

Look for links in the post to skypeintheclassroom.com and skypeascientist.com.

This could be the tip of the iceberg. If you could have anyone Skype into your classroom for a visit, who would it be? Often, all you have to do is ask. I remember coming in via remote to a Leslie Boerkamp class.


The Grade 3 ‘Travelling Genius Bar’

From Jay Dubois’ recent blog post, a new word for me …

ADE-worthy

The ADE program has been around for a number of years so I imagine that it is indeed difficult to come up with a new project and description that would stand out from what’s already been done.

1:1 iPad Classroom? Been there, done that, kids got t-shirts

But Jay puts a worthy twist to the concept. His students become geniuses and take their expertise on the road to any class in the rest of the school that wants a piece of the iPad action.

Now that’s unique and interesting. There’s a video of the process in the blog post stored on Google Drive. I hope that doesn’t cause problems.


Reconnecting with my cultural roots

I still have to copy/paste Diana Maliszewski’s name when I make reference to her in a post! Sorry, Diana.

Diana really does get this open stuff though and there doesn’t come a post from her that I don’t learn something new. In this case, it’s sharing that part of her heritage comes from Guyana and the West Indies. I had no idea.

She’s fortunate to still have her parents as part of her life and Diana shares a story about making garlic pork. Now, by themselves, they can be two of my favourite foods and I suspect that all sausage comes flavoured with garlic. But, I’ll confess that I’ve never had the need to drink gin out of necessity. Barring access to Diana’s intellectual property, I checked out the recipe online.

http://www.caribbeanchoice.com/recipes/recipe.asp?recipe=318

Let stand for 1-4 days? Hmmm.

The second part of her heritage moment involves going to a charity luncheon. I can understand myself being intimidated by a new group but never thought that the Diana I know would! So, I found that interesting.

Kudos to Diana for making the effort to remain connected to her heritage and her parents at this time of the year.


Naming and Shaming

Just this week, we’ve seen the incident south of the border as a consequence for a politician and Paul McGuire does make reference to that.

This is really something terrible to watch. House Republican leaders are actually saying what Donald Trump does in his attempts to bribe the leader of Ukraine is OK because, well, he didn’t go through with it. He got caught, so no bribe happened.

The bulk of this post though, is focused on the formal naming and shaming done by the Minister of Education. Has this become the way of politics now? Instead of civil discourse, we just ignore facts and shoot from the hip? As Paul notes, many of the big claims, i.e. eLearning for everyone, have been been refuted.

When your minister knowingly doesn’t tell the truth. When he tries to use old-style bully techniques, when he apes the tactics of Republicans south of the border we have to realize that we are playing by a different set of rules.

I hope that the statements and posturizing are for the news media and that common sense prevails in negotiations.


Thanks Milan – Lessons Learned at #OEGlobal19

What an opportunity for Terry Greene. He got to attend the Open Education Global Conference in Milan.

In this post, he offers 10 lessons.

#1 is great – take a chance and maybe it will work out.

#7 what an incredible looking lecture hall

#8 and warning, this can be a time suck but a time suck in a good way

and finally

#6 is something that we’ve learned from international hockey friendship trips. Other people love Canadian stuff. I find that demonstrating Canadian currency is always a crowd pleaser.

All 10 are great to read, muse about, and make sure that you follow the links.


voicEd Radio

The podcast version of our live TWIOE show featuring these posts is available:

https://www.spreaker.com/episode/20854909

Bonus Coverage

The risk of digital leadership

I like the message that’s explicitly stated in this post from Jennifer Casa-Todd. The post revolves around a bullying situation and she pulls out all the tried and true tools as recommendations for how to handle things.

I think, though, that there is another message that comes across in the suggestions that Jennifer offers. All of them are good but the message that I heard was try this, try that, try this, and don’t give up. Somewhere there is a solution.

And, if you don’t have the correct answer, do what the parent did. Turn to someone with more experience – in this case it was Jennifer. And, if you’re that “Jennifer” and you don’t have all the answers, don’t be hesitant to ask others.

Together we’re better.


An Interview with Leigh Cassell

And, in case you missed it, yesterday I posted an interview with Leigh Cassell. If you don’t know of Leigh, you may know of the Digital Human Library.

Leigh was good enough to take the time to answer a few of my questions for the interview. I learned more about this amazing person and the projects that she has her finger on. Give it a read and I’m sure that you’ll learn more and will be inspired.


I know that it’s a Friday and everyone is ready to recharge over the next little bit. I’d like to take the opportunity to wish you a safe and relaxing holidays. It’s my intention to keep learning and blogging but there might be a day or two break in there somewhere.

The podcast This Week in Ontario Edublogs won’t be recorded next week. After all, Wednesday is Christmas Day and Stephen and I have family. Look for something special in the following week though. Keep blogging yourself and let me know what you’re writing.

Make sure that you’re following these great Ontario Edubloggers.

  • @zeliamct
  • @Jay__Dubois
  • @MzMollyTL
  • @mcguirp
  • @greeneterry
  • @jcasatodd
  • @dHL_edu
  • @LeighCassell

This post comes from:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

If you read it anywhere else, it’s not the original.

An Interview with Leigh Cassell


It’s difficult to give a concise biography for Leigh Cassell.  Let’s just take a couple of her words “Educator and Edupreneur” and run with that.  I think that, after reading this, you’ll realize that she’s much more. My greatest fear is that I won’t touch on all of the various aspects of this amazing educator’s career.  And, she’s not sitting still either.

Doug:  I’ve got to start by saying that I’m in awe because, as a person growing up in Huron County, I would have loved to have a job there.  But there were none and I landed in Essex County and love it. My first question, as always, do you remember when we first met?

Leigh: I believe it was online – if by “met” you mean the first time we tweeted to one another; after that I believe it was at an ECOO conference a few years ago. Do you remember???

Doug:  Honestly, I don’t.  Sorry. I do remember a blind call from you to have a Google Hangout with you just to chat though.

More frequently, I see you on Twitter and am delighted that you follow me there.  Why would you want to follow me?

Leigh: I appreciate that you make the time to bring forward what’s happening in #onted and who is actively engaged on Twitter. I’ve connected with some amazing educators you celebrate online.

Doug:  Almost daily, I see your work cross my social media paths with things that are happening at Digital Human Library.  Can you share a bit of the roots to this project? https://www.digitalhumanlibrary.com

Leigh: Sure. In 2011, I was heavily invested in inquiry-based learning and I was exploring the use of video conferencing technology in my classroom. My students and I were connecting with classes around the world as we inquired about communities, culture, traditions and celebrations. A few months in we had worked with classes in 12+ countries which soon led to inquiries in all subject areas. It was then that I realized in addition to connecting with other classes, I could try and connect my students with experts across the curriculum to inspire, support and further new learning.

Our first connection was with Mark McAllister at the North Carolina Zoo. We worked through the logistics of connecting (remember way back in 2011 when we didn’t have access to the platforms and technology we do today!), and our first session was experiencing how wildlife experts track and tag wild animals. We watched video footage of wild animals at night being tracked and tagged, and Mark showed us animals up close that had been tagged and were now being cared for at the zoo. His program engaged my students in ways I hadn’t observed before. After that my students and I were hooked. I was now spending my prep time following up with Experts that my students and I would find and vette together online, as opposed to going home and spending countless hours learning and preparing material myself. About 3 months later, with support from the AMDSB Foundation for Education, I hired a high school student to build my first database. I then spent the next year learning how to build a website in WordPress, teaching myself coding languages like HTML, CSS and then the basics of PHP and MySQL so I could work in my own database. 

Fast forward to today…

Digital Human Library now offers 3 digital experiential learning catalogues, a wealth of resources for educators, and we have a not-for-profit foundation that is leading research and supporting social innovation projects created by teachers and students, for teachers and students. These experiences shaped not only what and how I was teaching, but also reshaped my why.

Doug:  Today, it’s so much more than what it started.  What’s your inspiration for making it grow so much?

Leigh: As I mentioned above, these experiences reshaped my why which is what continues to drive my work today. The value of teaching students how to use the internet to develop new digital literacy skills like locating information, evaluating it, synthesizing and analyzing it like we do when we search for new experts online, also lays the foundation for teaching students networking skills which I believe are the most important skills we can teach students today. Teaching students how to network provides a meaningful context for students to develop global competencies through the process of building relationships with others. And building relationships with others is how we learn best. 

Doug:  At the bottom of the Digital Human Library pages, you give a running score of the school districts across Canada, and I mean truly from sea to sea to sea, along with sponsors and partners.  Do all the school districts use the Digital Human Library in the same way?

Leigh: We serve each District in different ways depending on their digital experiential learning needs. In some Districts teachers focus on accessing our Video Conferencing Catalogue to connect their classes with Experts, while other Districts focus on our catalogue of over 1000 Virtual Tours & VR experiences. In other Districts the focus is on our live streaming calendar of over 500 programs from unique places like museums, science centres, concert halls, aquariums, and more. Streaming makes it easy to connect your students with experiences of learning from around the world in fun and interactive ways. We also have thousands of Canadian teachers and students participating in our social innovation projects, like our GlobalEdSsChat, Walk With Us, A Kids’ Guide to Canada and OnEdMentors Connect.

Doug:  Can you provide some specific examples that would inspire us?

Leigh: Wow – there are SO many… I think I’d like to share some examples by sharing the voices of others who have benefited from the work we do at dHL:

Digital Human Library

We got to view an open heart surgery. It was so amazing to see it live happening right in front of you. I don’t like bio that much, but seeing an open heart surgery made me think about how it all works together. It made it more interesting and more engaging. I loved it.”
Batoul, Grade 11

“Connecting to experts via live interactive video is an extremely valuable asset in the hands of educators.  We as educators now have the ability to connect our learners to virtually anyone, anywhere in the world. The opportunity to question and learn from a global network of experts (authors, scientists, explorers, educators etc…) helps to both inspire and empower our students and truly brings their learning to life.”
Mark Hauk
Educator, Virtual Field Trips/ VR/ DigCit Coordinator

“In this era of rapid change no one educator can be an expert on everything. The digital Human Library is a vital tool at the teacher’s fingertips to connect students with experts. As students conference with experts like surgeons or planetary scientists, they not only hear up-to-the-minute discoveries but develop crucial critical thinking skills. Human connection provides motivation, meaning and a path to empathy.”
Sean Robinson
Educator, Author of Connections-based Learning

Walk With Us

I strongly believe that this project will not only put small northern indigenous communities on the map, but also help tell some of the rich history and true happenings of our beautiful communities that may not otherwise get the needed platform.”Kristine Arthur, Supervisor Indigenous Education, NCDSB”I see Walk With Us going very far. I’m very excited for when we have our very first tour for anyone to see. I would like more time to visit communities to try and capture more of the reserve. I think that we really can teach people about who we really are.
WWU Student, Grade 10

GlobalEdSsChat

Being a member of @GlobalEdSsChat has really been an amazing experience! Having the opportunity to discuss things that matter to me with other passionate students helped me find my voice and has taught me a lot about digital leadership!
Darcie Brohman,  Grade 9

A Kids’ Guide to Canada

A Kids’ Guide to Canada has been so much fun for my grade 2-4 classes! Learning about Canada from other kids and sharing our home town with this authentic audience has really motivated the kids to do their best work.
Kathryn McLean, Elementary Teacher, OCDSB

OnEdMentors Connect

OEMConnectOEMConnect is a way to build skills, connections, strategies outside of the blocks of a classroom, school, board or district in order to support individual teacher learning.  On their time and in a way that is most impactful for those in the mentorship relationship, OEMConnect is a personalized approach to professional learning, well being and efficacy. Mentorship changed my life, and I believe it can be a game changer for so many others.
Noa Daniel, Co-Founder of OEMConnect

Doug:  You also claim a nice collection of sponsors and partners.  What role do they play in the activities of the Digital Human Library.

Leigh: I’d like to come back to what I shared earlier about the value and importance of networking. My success at dHL is the result of what I have learned over the years from educators and entrepreneurs around the world. I’ve had many incredible mentors – some of whom have become sponsors and partners at dHL. Most of the support we receive at dHL from both our partners and sponsors are services in-kind to help further our growth and reach across Canada. 

I also want to recognize the incredible work done by over 40+ volunteers and interns at dHL. Our volunteers and interns work on a wide variety of projects and contribute to the research and development of new catalogues and services available at Digital Human Library.

Doug:  Growing up in a small town, I have total agreeance with your focus on rural communities and equity.  Can you tell us how this drives your work?

Leigh: After my first few years teaching in a rural school in the AMDSB I began to notice a real inequity in the kinds of educational experiences students receive in rural settings compared to students who attend school in urban centers – specifically when it comes to experiential learning extending beyond what happens in the classroom. So I began looking for innovative ways to bring new experiences of learning to students by leveraging digital technology. And what evolved as a result of these new digital experiences of learning were these incredible relationships students were building with people from around the world. These relationships extend learning beyond the curriculum to include stories based on personal experience, career talks, and meaningful authentic connections between what students learn in the classroom and how that learning translates or is applied in the world outside of school. Relationships that inspire learning are what continue to drive my work today.

Doug:  The website serves up a wide variety of resources.  Where would the first time visitor start?

Leigh: I would recommend reading through our homepage to gain an understanding of what we offer, and then browsing our Library Catalogue pages to learn more about each of our offerings. The Teacher’s tab has lots of information and links to resources to support teachers as they learn to integrate digital experiential learning into their classroom programs. We also hope teachers will visit our Foundation website to explore our variety of social innovation projects and read our most recent article published in JRTE*, Wise Practices and Intercultural Understandings: A Framework for Educator Videoconferencing (2019).

*Journal of Research on Technology in Education

Doug:  Is there anything in particular that you would highlight that would absolutely blow an educator away?  I.e. unique to Digital Human Library and available nowhere else?

Leigh: Digital Human Library is itself unique because we are the only digital experiential library of its kind serving Canadian teachers and students. In particular, we offer a one-of-a-kind library of experts available for loan free of charge, and a calendar of over 500 live streaming interactive educational programs for K-12. I don’t want to leave out our social innovation projects either. Each project has been co-founded by Digital Human Library and talented educators across the country that aren’t available anywhere else.

Doug:  As if that wasn’t enough, you also offer consulting services which include speaking and coaching.  What makes you unique in these areas?

Leigh: I’ll come back again to the value of networking and the mentors I’ve had the privilege of working with over the years. Speaking and coaching affords me the opportunity to meet all kinds of new people and build new relationships for learning. And the work I’m doing now with Noa Daniel at OnEdMentors Connect has really opened my eyes to the positive impact a 1:1 self-directed mentorship experience can have on professional learning, well-being and efficacy.

Doug:  Another significant endeavour is your involvement with OEMConnect.  What is your role there? Why would an educator want to get involved with you there?

Leigh: Noa Daniel and I co-founded OnEdMentors Connect (OEMConnect) last year. Through a phased approach, OEMConnect has evolved as a community that supports 1:1 self-directed mentorship experiences as professional learning to strengthen teacher efficacy and impact student achievement. Our goal – and the reason why educators would want to get involved – is to foster responsive, reciprocal and non-hierarchical relationships between Mentors and Mentees and within the education community at large. 

In the new year we will be launching The Mentoree – a collaborative community that promotes professional learning and efficacy through mentorship. Education professionals will be able to explore 1:1 self-directed mentorship opportunities and engage in personalized Mpact experiences of learning with educators in supportive and caring environments through face to face and virtual connections. Stay tuned!

Doug:  Your resume and bio indicate that you were a Teacher and Technology Coach with Avon Maitland.  What did that involve?

Leigh: Yes, I spent 5 years at the system level supporting tech-enabled learning and teaching. My portfolio initially involved the work I was doing district-wide with digital portfolios which was funded by the Ministry, and then evolved to include pedagogical support for all kinds of technology in the system, digital citizenship, social media in the classroom and new digital literacies.

Doug:  These days, you’re a consultant with Apple Canada.  What are you doing with Apple?

Leigh:  I work as a K-12 consultant supporting teachers and students with their use of iPads in the classroom as tools for creation. I am also invited to consult with Apple teams from time to time about the integration of technology in the classroom and their professional learning programs.

Doug: Finally, a day job!  As a kindergarten teacher!  Please describe your classroom for us and, where does technology and all your experience there fit?

Leigh: Yes, and I do have a full-time day job! I’m back with the AMDSB after some incredible time off. My classroom is a busy place full of curious, excitable and unique little people. What I’m seeing more and more is that children coming to school in the early years have spent so much time on technology at home, their needs are shifting. While I integrate iPads and other technologies into my program, it’s not to the extent I had originally planned. The children I serve need more time to play with each other, socialize, and practice oral language. They also need time with toys and a variety of other educational materials and resources we have in the classroom. It’s always about finding the right balance that best meets the needs of all learners.

Doug:  I don’t know how you keep it up!  I’m tired just researching for this interview and then culling down to these questions.  Did I miss anything?

Leigh: Well, since you asked… 

I do want to share some exciting news! Jen Casa-Todd and I have written our first children’s book which we have recently learned will be published at EduMatch. We are working with an incredibly talented young artist who was a past student of Jen’s and our inspiration to write the book. We expect to have our book out in the next 6 months! 

Doug:  And finally, what’s next for Leigh Cassell and the Digital Human Library?

Leigh: It’s safe to say I’m not sitting still! We are in the process of launching a Unique Collection of Experts that will be available to speak to all 17 Sustainable Development Goals. We are also building a Virtual Co-op Catalogue for high school students in Ontario and across Canada to provide Districts with an extensive collection of community partners that are offering virtual co-op experiences. 

Lastly, as I mentioned earlier, Noa Daniel and I will be launching The Mentoree in January. The Mentoree will house a number of offerings including the OnEdMentors podcast, OnEdMentors Connect – our free open-source community for personalized 1:1 self-directed mentorship experiences, Mpact experiences and our speaker’s bureau of Motivators. Lots of exciting things to come!

Doug:  Thank you so much for your time to complete the interview.  I know that readers will find it inspirational.

Social Media:
You can find Leigh involved at:
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/dHL_edu
Digital Human Library:  https://www.digitalhumanlibrary.com
Digital Human Library Foundation: https://digitalhumanlibrary.org
Live Learning Canada: https://livelearningcanada.com/
The Mentoree: http://thementoree.com/ (coming soon!)
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/LeighCassell
Leigh Cassell Consulting:  https://leighcassell.com/

Coding for Young Mathematicians


I summarized my thoughts about Lisa Floyd’s presentation at the Bring IT, Together Conference like this.

Calculators are successful in Mathematics not because we learn how to write the code to create a calculator but because we use it to get a deeper understanding of non-trivial Mathematics

When I saw this in the program, I knew that I wanted to attend. Lisa has been doing a great deal of research into Mathematics and Computational Thinking and was a keynote a few years ago. I didn’t know what to expect but I was hoping for something other than a “Let’s do something cool in Scratch and then try to tie it into Mathematics or some other subject area”.

I wasn’t disappointed.

I’ve attended many a session like I described above. I always enjoy them (despite the sarcasm) but I always wonder about the claims of how students all understand coding and Mathematics as a result. Is that really true?

I was hoping that this wouldn’t be another like that. Plus the fact that she mentioned Scratch AND Python was intriguing.

As she notes, “Ontario does not have coding in K-8”. Of course this is true but we sure have all kinds of Mathematics! She gave us a number of different examples featuring Geometric Art, Gtowing Patterns, Plotting on a Grid, Probability, … In the presentation, she gave us lots of examples and talked us through the process that she uses.

None of the examples started with a blank screen! She stressed the concept of having students remix her content. By running what she distributes, the students see a Mathematical concept and then their understanding is pushed and enhanced by working with the code to make things something better.

Her approach is very visual by showing the results of the program and then takes on the Mathematics concepts. Tweak this, change that, what happens when you do this? How can you make the output look like this. The primary focus was purely on the Mathematics and the coding was secondary. It was a refreshing approach.

Lisa’s approach was cemented for me on the Friday. I attended a session where we were programming robots using a drag and drop language specifically written for those robots. We were to program them to do a task without knowing just what was happening. Often the tool that we needed was in another menu and we were encouraged to try some numbers to see how far in one direction we could make it go. Turning wasn’t a matter of turning 90 degrees, but applying force onto one wheel going in one direction while the other went in the other direction. We eventually figured it out but lost considerable time in the process. There were something like six groups in the room and nobody got the right answer; some were closer than others. Lisa’s concept of remixing would have fit right in.

I really do like her approach. I made myself another note…

Instead of debugging the program, she could spend time debugging the Mathematics involved…

You can check out some of the examples she used, in Scratch, on her website. Type the URL correctly; Lisa notes that a person with a similar spelling as chosen a different career path.

I had an opportunity to interview Lisa. You can read it here.