On Living Connected

I have an amazing family that includes 5 siblings. We come from parents who missed the opportunity to complete high school and in spite of that, or maybe because of that, we’ve done all right. Things were different in my parents’ day. My father is an entrepreneur – he’s made his way by being a life-long learner and as a result has changed careers a few times – welder, construction manager and consultant. Now he’s enjoying retirement and exploring the globe. And my Mom… she’s a woman sought world-wide for her knowledge in the area of genealogy and is part of the reason the two of them wander the planet. As they trek along you may find them searching libraries for records, or in a technology store taking yet another course. Each of us is successful in our own right and each of us has our own story. We are the way we are partly because of our parents, partly because of how we supported each other growing up as a family and partly because of our teachers. We have all chosen different career paths, – Engineers, Managers, Financial Advisement and me, Director of Learning Technologies.

One of the things we share is a common love of technology and to a degree, it is because it keeps us connected. What I find compelling is that it keeps us learning.

I have some very strong beliefs about how technology has played a role in our successes. I also know that balance is a part of that choice. In Foothills classrooms students access interactive whiteboards, tablets, and smart phones daily. As students embrace wearable connected technology like the new Samsung, Pebble, and Apple Watches there’s concern about distraction and damage (the top two topics in casual conversations with Foothills students) AND there’s a million ways kids see these devices supporting their learning.


Learning in today’s world has changed dramatically. The emphasis is not on facts that are easily garnered from a phone in a back pocket. The emphasis is on critical thinking and shifting the balance between consumption and creation of knowledge. We’re beginning to move into the realm of disposable tech – how many of you have iPods that are sitting unused in your house? And the next best thing is coming out at Christmas… will it be a part of improving your child’s learning?

There’s some crazy innovations being created. Some of the craziness is being embedded into clothing – how about an outfit that updates your Facebook status for you? Or a contact lens that provides instant feedback to your smart phone regarding your blood sugar levels? And then there’s the Melon… it’s a Kickstarter project that provides ongoing feedback regarding focus. As it is worn it reinforces behaviours that help you stay focused.

To support students learning digitally, Foothills School Division has gone Google. Students have an unpublished domain controlled user account in Google (controlled, monitored and managed by our IT staff). We’ve also ensured our Wifi connectivity is robust and falls well within safety guidelines developed by Health Canada. Additionally, we’ve partnered with Shaw GoWifi to offer additional services to our Foothills Family. Our students are using iPads, Chromebooks, iPhones, and Android devices in support of their learning. Our teachers are embracing the technology so that your children can leverage them for learning. Students are collaborating, co-creating and communicating their critical thinking through the use of personal technologies. While they learn, students are taking pictures and video, creating group review notes, peer-commenting on their writing and sharing their work with parents and other family members. We’ve seen students extending their learning to school busses and their homes. The Google Edu platform allows a secure reliable means for students to access their work anywhere, anytime, and anyplace there’s Internet connectivity.
I’m proud to be a part of the Foothills Family – we have high hopes and expectations for our learners and we’ve been admired as one of the top performing school divisions in Alberta. We are like family – supporting each other so that we can Explore, Develop and Celebrate the unique gifts of our students. We’re working with teachers to help students understand their digital footprint and manage concerns around citizenship, distraction and caring for devices.

At the heart of our work of Improving Learning for All Students is Ensuring Intellectual Engagement and Developing Healthy Relationships. Communication is a big part of our vision and our ability to achieve those goals. As our students grow through our system and head out in pursuit of their own careers, the daily use of technology will shape them. Being connected as a part of the Foothills Family gives them an advantage.