“I love sports and thought it would be great to spend the rest of my life as a physical education instructor,” says Darren Cannell. “Teaching physical education for me was a challenge because I could not understand why someone would not want to be in the gym. I was lucky enough to experience other subjects and environments. During my career I taught at elementary schools (all subjects), a first nation inner city school, and a high school. I learned so much in each of these environments and I hope my students learned even half of what I did.”
Today, Cannell leads a different kind of school: the Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School, which is the largest online high school in Saskatchewan. Established in 2000, it educates approximately 1600 students a year and employs 34+ teachers. The asynchronous online school is recognized as one of the leaders in distance education because of its innovative approach to high school education.
Cannell is eager to share what he learns each day, and blogs regularly. He’s also dedicated to his personal learning network. “Technology has removed the walls of the classroom allowing me to explore and embrace the network of fellow learning people of the world,” says Cannell. “My personal learning network is full of exciting, like-minded and not so like-minded people of different educational, societal and economic backgrounds challenging me to explore my beliefs, approaches and daily routines to make myself a better educator, father, husband, athlete and overall person.”
I’m pleased to share today’s Daily Edventure with Darren Cannell.
What is your philosophy as an educator?
Students and teachers are on a learning journey in which they need to travel side by side.
What type of learning environment do you create in your classroom? Experimental, exploratory, safe environment to try, fail, grow, and learn.
Why is using technology an important part of your educator toolkit?
Technology is a huge part of our society and educators need to assist in the preparation of students in said society. Any educator who feels they can educate students without infusing technology into their lessons is fooling themselves if they think they are preparing their students for their world. Without using technology in our teaching, we are preparing the students for the world in which I grew up and not preparing the students for today’s world.
What are three things every student must have in order to be successful?
Confidence to fail, desire to improve and curiosity to find the answers.
What is your biggest pet peeve as an educator?
Hand-holding. Not between students, but the way we provide so many supports and excuses for our students when they themselves do not succeed. Failure is not a bad thing, it is a character-building thing, as long as it doesn’t become a habit. Students need to take ownership for themselves. I am obviously talking about the older students — not those wide-eyed younger students.
Where do you find inspiration and new ideas for the classroom?
My child, coaching, my personal learning network and more than anything else, my students. I ask them what they would like to learn and do and they have way cool ideas.
What lessons have your students taught you?
They have taught me way more than I have taught them. I think it is important to listen to them, ask them frequently what they think, and ask them what they would do differently. Expect a lot from them and they will surprise you.
What is your key to success?
Surround yourself with positive, talented people. You cannot do it alone. Share everything in your professional life, and others will do the same with you.
About Darren Cannell
- How many years have you been in education? 30 years.
- Where did you grow up (home town)? I was an Army brat, no hometown. I lived in Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Washington, United States; Kakabeka Falls, Ontario, Canada; North Bay, Ontario, Canada; Zweibrucken, Germany Lahr, Germany; Baden Soellingen, Germany; St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (All of the above were before I was 21 years of age.)
- What university or college did you attend? What subject did you major in? Brock University Honours Bachelor of Physical Education; Brock University Bachelor of Education; Athabasca University Masters of Distance Learning; Northcentral University Doctoral Candidate in Distance Education
- What are your personal interests or hobbies outside of education? I am an artist. I love to try to create the world as I see it. Sometimes that is scary but it is always interesting.
- If you weren’t in education, what would you be doing? Why would anyone want to be in anything else other than education? It is the noblest, most world-changing profession. But if I needed to choose another, I think it would be a computer programmer because you could do so many cool things to help educators do their jobs easier and better.
- What is your favorite food served in the school cafeteria? I am a sucker for fries and gravy and poutine.
- What’s one piece of technology in your classroom that you can’t live without? I really like my projector just because it gives me the power to share what I am looking at on the computer.
- If you had to write something on the chalkboard 100 times what would it be? “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”
- If you could be on the cover of a magazine, which would it be? Being on Wired would be very cool, Sports Illustrated would make my day as well.
- Who was your favorite educator and why? I really like Elmo. He is so human and he makes mistakes, challenges us to think differently, laughs and enjoys the good things he has in life.
- What is the worst excuse you’ve heard for not completing an assignment? Worst — as in the one that pulled at my heart strings — I did not get my homework done because I am currently living in a bus shelter.
- What subject did you like the most in school and why? Physical education and art were the best and tied. I sweated so much in both trying to improve.
- What subject did you like the least in school and why? Math, anything with only one right answer is boring.
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