I have never set foot in a Parkland School Division School.
To my knowledge, I have never physically met a teacher working in a PSD70 school. I have never attended a professional development session hosted by a Parkland staff member or had any friends or family members attend Parkland schools, past or present.
Yet, Parkland School Division has had a tremendous impact on my growth and development as an educator over the past year and a half and its staff and students collectively continue to influence my teaching and learning.
Let me take you back approximately a year and a half ago.
At that time, I was principal of a southern Alberta elementary school and looking for ways to engage and communicate with my broader school community. Having read articles and blogs, and attended sessions related to the power of emerging social networks for education, I was beginning to experiment with the use of the school’s website, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to open up two-way communication pipelines with parents and the community. In my exploration, I stumbled across George Couros and the work happening at Forest Green School. This was an exciting find, connecting with an Alberta example exploring web 2.0 tools to impact learning, teaching and parent engagement. Over the school year, I became a faithful follower of Forest Green, the work of George on a global stage and began to expand my learning to other powerful examples emerging from Parkland School Division.
Fast forward to the present. Now working with University of Lethbridge Education students and utilizing technology in a variety of (hopefully meaningful) ways with pre-service teachers, I still look to Parkland to guide, support and inspire. Parkland staff represent a large percentage of my current Professional Learning Network on Twitter. I follow a number of PSD blogs and I am accessing resources suggested by my PSD colleagues daily. At a time when many school divisions are still ensnared in Digital Footprint 2.0 mindsets, Parkland strives to push the boundaries in how technology can support purposeful learning for students, staff, community and the greater educational community. This blog post and contribution to the 184 Project, celebrating the inspirational work happening daily in Parkland, seemed the best way to express my gratitude and give something back to an organization that has had such a meaningful impact on my professional growth.
Kurtis Hewson is a Faculty Associate at University of Lethbridge, former principal, vice-principal, and teacher, and “fan from afar” of Parkland School Division.