Education Technology at Connect Charter School

Today we are profiling David Cloutier, Connect Charter School Education Technologist (and PE teacher), to learn what the ed tech role involves.

Image: “That time Dr. Butterfield and I drove all over the city to buy iPads, when we hadn’t received our expected shipment!”

What is your role as an Education Technologist? What does a typical day look like for you?

I think it translates loosely to “wearer of many hats, a number of them to do with education and technology”! In all seriousness, core to the role of educational technologist is being responsive to and supportive of our Charter goal of “[e]nhancing learning and teaching through the appropriate and effective use of technology and maintain[ing] an intentional, authentic and innovative perspective in the use of technology.”

These days that looks different minute by minute. A day might start with checking in with a teacher on an ed tech tool I think their students might benefit from, then shift to some running around the building to deliver some technology to VERY patient students, next on to a quick lunchtime Zoom meeting around some long term technology planning, before taking a quick detour to assisting with contact tracing, and then finally ending with teaching Creative Technology to our KeeBo students! It’s a fluid, active and responsive role where I’m lucky to be working with almost every person in our building in some way. We have an incredibly capable team of teachers and staff at Connect, so my biggest role is being their advocate to support student learning with the best technology resources possible.

How do you support the Keebo program?

I am the “on campus” support teacher for the KeeBo program, which means I liaise between our incredible online teachers, students, staff, and our leadership team, as well as teachers on campus. I also now (as of December) teach Creative Technology to our missed-on-campus bunch of students. Those in KeeBo will know me best from our field experiences off campus, and an email or two to make sure tech is running smoothly and families have access to all of the right logins. Along with Ms. Shergill, I’m a “go to” person for the KeeBo community.

What are some of the things you have done to support student online learning since the pandemic first started in March, and when students were returning to school in the fall? (And again since the grade 7-9s went back online?)

Back in March, we rapidly switched online – being a one-to-one school, we were better positioned than some others to get our students learning and supported online. However, we no longer had the model where you could pop down the hall when something went wrong with your tech – and so first and foremost was establishing a direct phone line to my home office and a dedicated online “helpdesk” for students and families to log issues. It was a lot of calls and Zoom meetings to make sure everyone stayed connected, and a fair amount of driving around the city to drop off tech. I have to say, my favourite part was supporting Nature Club with Ms. Waite, which included watching everyone’s gardens grow, as well as the introduction of many newly adopted furry friends to students’ homes.

Learning has been important for all of us, and so another part has been regular PD for our teachers and support for our parents. I hope our families have gotten a chance to check out our latest two sessions with Apple around accessibility and screen time! I think the more knowledgeable we all are in these areas, the better we can work as a team to support each child.

Finally, we know it’s been tough for a lot of our students being away from campus, and so a big part of KeeBo and even this year on campus was preserving some of the core elements of our school programs. The good thing is, along the way I’ve found so many passionate students who are willing to volunteer and lead in these areas. Back in the early days, we saw students step up to lead in our podcast. In the fall, we’ve seen leadership amongst students in new ways, largely having to reinvent how students take up leadership roles.

How involved was the process of creating the daily screening tool for students and visitors to the school?

Yes, I’m the one responsible for that daily email you get, and maybe the accidental phone call or two –  let me be the first to say… sorry!… We were able to leverage some existing and new tools on our website to create an interactive form that follows the daily AHS protocols and helps families decide whether they can attend school that day. On the other side of the database, a team of staff review the submissions every day to check for anyone who shouldn’t be on that day, as well as anyone who might have forgotten to fill it out (so we can screen it for them). You’ve noticed it evolve over the weeks and months since it launched, but it follows the AHS protocols and as a digital every-day tool it helps to keep our community safer as one of many layered COVID-19 protocols. Like all things at Connect, we are welcoming of your feedback to improve the process!

Do you have colleagues in other schools who have a similar role?

I’m lucky to have met a number of other Educational Technologists at Charter Schools in Calgary who do similar work – each with our own twist. In many ways, the broader technology community around schools all overlaps – some of us do PowerSchool work, some inclusive technology coaching, some do tech professional development with their teachers, and some all of the above! The Apple Distinguished School network has also been a fantastic avenue to access others for inspiration and problem solving. It keeps the work from being isolated, certainly in these pandemic times.

How will you be spending your winter break?

Taking a rest from “work”, while pivoting to “school”! I am in the process of undertaking the research part of my Masters degree, where I’m studying “Teacher Leadership” in the COVID-19 pandemic and crises. I also plan on getting together (virtually!) over Zoom with family from across Canada for a Holiday Games night. Whatever the winter holds, I know I’ll be sipping hot chocolate daily and spending time with my family!