Dean Shareski is the Community Manager for Discovery Education Canada since 2012. From 2002-2012, he worked as a Digital Learning Consultant with the Prairie South School Division in Moose Jaw, SK, Canada. Previous to that Dean taught grades K-8 for 14 years and specializes in the use of technology in the classroom.
Dean wrote “Embracing a Culture of Joy” and a new book with Scott McLeod, “Different Schools for a Different World.” I’ve been lucky to attend several of his keynotes and am honored to have a conversation about culture, joy, and so much more. Dean mentions no selfies but I’ve had a few with him so I had to include one. We didn’t talk about why he loves to take pictures of people jumping but I had to add a picture of Dean jumping. Below are a few excerpts from the podcast, some of his presentations, and about his books.
About you and your family
I always share my family in my presentations. It is controversial about how much to share about your personal life. I’ve always focused on the idea that you learn from people you like and there has to be some kind of connection so you can relate to them. So I hope that sharing my story helps connect to some of their own experiences. We live in the middle of Canada. My wife is an educator also and we have four wonderful children, three of whom are married. My youngest is in her first year of post-secondary school. Most exciting of all is that we are grandparents for the first time last October. Everything I talk about now is about my granddaughter who is just a real joy and delight.
Your background as a teacher using technology in the classroom
When I first started teaching in 1989, there wasn’t a lot of technology around. We were just starting to get a computer or two in the school. The idea of a computer lab kind of emerged somewhere in the mid-90s. I didn’t have any specific fascination with technology more than probably most teachers did then. I kind of remember a distinct turning point for me around the use of technology. One was access to a video camera and a digital camera which I took home and used first as a way of documenting my family. Then I started thinking how these could be used with students. I remember giving a session on an in-service day sharing what I learned about the digital camera with other teachers. That began my journey using technology and moved pretty quickly to the late 90s to where I believed that it had great potential. As the Internet began to emerge and software became more user-friendly, there was more of an opportunity to explore and use those resources. When I think of technology, the whole media production aspect is what I captured my interest.
I began teaching first grade and there weren’t many opportunities for them to create at that time. But when I taught middle school, there were a lot of opportunities so I had kids doing video production and even did video poems and other powerful stories. When I look back I was lucky to work with small groups of gifted students where I could really explore with and learn from them. It was an important time in my own learning.
- When Beauty Leads to Empathy (TEDx West Vancouver September 2016)
Being a Digital Learning Consultant in Moose Jaw
I became the Digital Learning Consultant in 2002 at our school district. I adopted that title Digital Learning Consultant to support the district-wide use of technology and pedagogy instead of Technology Coordinator. That was a great experience and opportunity to go even deeper with my own learning. For better or worse, by design or by luck, I tended to reach out to people I thought might be interested. I’d find something new and go to a school and share with a teacher what I thought would be perfect for them or mention to another teacher that they might be interested in this. It’s interesting that they say we might have to get everybody doing the same thing in the spirit of equity, and at the same time, some teachers were not ready for it. There was no way they were getting the kind of background.
That approach may seem somewhat haphazard really was exciting. I never came up with huge resistance. Some teachers were not ready for blogging where others requested my support. Forcing something on teachers was a mistake that we had made and continue to make. Somebody’s good idea for everybody isn’t the right approach. The idea of moving toward something when you are ready is a better way of approaching change than forcing everyone to change. It’s better to have some time and ownership first.
Your work as Community Manager for Discovery Education Canada
That was a nice opportunity for me in 2011 and was asked if I would like to do this. Discovery had been developing a community for many years in the US and had a presence in Canada, but it was more of a third party presence. They were just reselling their products to the school districts. In fact, in my role as Digital Learning Consultant, I helped bring Discovery to our school district. But they really wanted to get the community idea rolling so people are feeling connected. I first took a leave of absence from my district, but after two years I continued as Community Manager. It is a fabulous role. The work we do is so rewarding, interesting, challenging, and I work with such good people. It’s a move I never regret doing really important work.
When you’re not the smartest person in the room
Dave Weinberger wrote a book “Too Big to Know” about what do we do with so much information. He is the one that quoted “the smartest person in the room is the room.” For me, it was a personal testament to the fact that I had made so many connections over the years around the world. In 2005, I started blogging, and then in 2007, started Twitter and go to some conferences. The online connections became really real to me. It became evident in my role that there were people that I what I knew about video production, that there are people that know way more than I do. So why not connect to those people?
The moment you bring an Internet connection into the classroom, you open up your students to a vast world of knowledge and possibilities. Many teachers are beginning to realize this but are struggling to make it a reality. The shape of knowledge is shifting and what we as teachers and leaders can do to model ways to leverage the best of what this new frontier can offer.
Whatever happened to joy?
In a data-driven, achievement focused system, does joy in learning matter anymore? Not that these are mutually exclusive but in our attempts to see results we often forget that joy should not be a means to an end but a worthy and important goal on its own. So how do we ensure our students experience joy and wonder every day?
Book: Embracing Culture of Joy
Book: Different Schools for a Different World co-authored with Scott McLeod
Dean Shareski is the Community Manager for Discovery Education Canada since 2012. From 2002-2012, he worked as a Digital Learning Consultant with the Prairie South School Division in Moose Jaw, SK, Canada. Previous to that Dean taught grades K-8 for 14 years and specializes in the use of technology in the classroom. Dean holds a Masters of Education in Communications and Technology through the University of Saskatchewan and is also a sessional lecturer at the University of Regina.
Since late 2004, Dean has been immersed in understanding what the Read/Write Web is all about and how the new shape of knowledge changes how we all learn. He believes teachers and students ought to use technology to connect ideas and learners in safe, relevant, authentic ways to answer questions, share ideas and develop community. Learning can be and should be, fun and personal. Dean was fortunate to be awarded the 2010 ISTE Award for Outstanding Leadership in Technology and Education. Dean humbly quoted after receiving the award “This honor is mostly a reflection of the great people I work with both within my school division and beyond. My greatest asset is that I know smart people and how to find them.”
Dean mostly blogs at Ideas and Thoughts but occasionally for Tech and Learning Magazine and the Huffington Post as well as on the DEN blogs. In 2016, he published a book called “Embracing Cultures of Joy” which details and summarizes my work and belief around a topic that best describes my beliefs around learning and community.
From Dean: the spaces where I share(ski) www.shareski.ca/
- The Blog Where all the thinking happens
- Twitter A place to see the complete me
- Facebook I barely hang out here
- LinkedIn The professional stuff
- Delicious Stuff I’m reading
- Slideshare My slide decks
- Vimeo More videos
- YouTube Most of my videos
- Flickr All my photos