Why did you create Ancestry Project? What is your role?
I wrote about this in a recent blog post but I’m happy to summarize it here. As a teacher and designer interested in bridging the worlds of education and design-media, it was a curiosity to me to see how I might develop and implement a real world e-learning program. I’ve developed websites since about 1998 so I have twenty years of experience. As a teacher and in my personal life I’ve always been interested in stories about family history, ancestry and Canadian history and culture. At Ancestry Project I do everything from writing to graphics to website design and media production. I’m looking for contributors and volunteers though! Drop me a line if you’d like to participate.
What’s your family background? How did you get here?
About three or four years ago I started looking up my family history. I was consulting my Dad and I got a membership at ancestry.ca. I knew my father’s side were from Scotland and England and had an idea that my mother was of similar stock. Turns out that I can trace most family on both sides back to the UK, but there are some pretty extended roots in Canada as well. More or less I’m around a 5th or 6th generation Canadian. I was actually born in Scarborough so Toronto has always been home.
Do you know any family migration stories? Can you share one or two?
The most interesting story I know is one I published on the website called Scots to Canada. It relates the story of how my Scottish great great grandparents (on my father’s side), originally planned to leave Glasgow on a ship heading to Australia. That ship was in quarantine so they took advantage of an offer to travel to Canada for the same fare. Their descendants would have been Australian had circumstances been different. And ultimately, I wouldn’t be here now!
How do you see Canada at 150 years old? What are Canada’s greatest successes and biggest failures?
Canada has a lot of amazing accomplishments but I have often said the country needs improvement in two areas: environmentalism and treatment of aboriginals. Immigrants for the most part have an amazing success rate, but all our native born are not thriving. Hopefully the recent Truth and Reconciliation Commission results will lead to rapid improvement for First Nations. I’d also like to see Canada go more progressive in environmental matters. To some degree we are still laggards, leading the world in some areas while doing horribly in others (such as continuing to be world leaders in waste generation!). It’s a land of beautiful natural bounty but we are very wasteful.
What do you think of movements like Canada 150 plus (aboriginal movement)?
Though I think that some First Nations individuals or groups could probably advance their cause better with a less antagonistic approach, I support their right to protest and demand change. Aboriginals have not been given a fair shake and it’s up to our government to make amends and level the playing field. Having said that I really don’t appreciate the rhetoric that I’m a settler. I’m just a guy from Scarborough. And I believe in social justice, anti-racism, and respect for human rights.
Do you have any special personal or professional plans for the 150th anniversary of Canada this year? (Special travel or educational work or book publishing?)
I recently traveled to Ottawa where I had the pleasure of presenting on education technology to TESL Ottawa at their spring conference. My family really enjoyed the trip. I’d probably like to go north to James Bay area or North West Territories in the future, though it’s more likely I’ll make it to the Maritimes in the next couple of years. I’ve seen Ontario and BC so other parts of the country beckon.
Where have you traveled? How has this travel informed your perspective? Where to next? Why?
I’ve been mostly around North America, traveling to Vermont, Quebec, BC, Florida and California. However, with my wife I’ve made multiple trips to Russia and Costa Rica, two very opposite but exotic places. Though at times travel is frustrating, it broadens your experience. Learning about Russia and Russians has been rewarding, though I only “govoru chut chut pa russki” (or “speak a little Russian,” and not very well!). I’ve always wanted to travel to Brazil, though I think the UK is likely next. A chance to explore some family history and my wife loves London.
What’s your opinion on today’s most useful education technology? What do you recommend to teachers in terms of new ideas and tools?
I am of the opinion that though there are dozens of tools out there it’s important to use a handful well. For instance, Google’s tools like Drive with document creation and editing, and online cloud storage are great for productivity. Schoology is a favourite LMS. If you are using Moodle, Desire2Learn, Blackboard or any other LMS try to get on top of it and use it to its full potential. It’s a big time saver and assigning work through the learning management system makes for great organization and interesting social interactions for your students. I wrote a recent blog post called Top 10 Technologies for Creatives and Educators.Check it out.
How did you get interested in e-learning?
I took an e-learning certificate program from U of T between 2015 and 2016 but I’ve been interested in this type of technology for a long time. As I mentioned earlier it’s a natural extension of my passion for education and design. I think on some level I’ve always been a teacher and a techie. I’ve also done training. When you mesh that with a love for web design and video, it means a pretty keen enthusiasm for e-learning, education tech and all things related. I’m looking for freelance work in design, media and e-learning, so if you like Ancestry Project and have your own project in development, let me know and we can see if I can help you out.