The Construction Zone

Occasional thoughts about education and 'who is in charge of the learning'


I am a learner and I am a teacher. Simple. The two, for me, are inseparable and part of the whole.

Although I have spent 5 decades in the K-12 education, I am still deeply involved in educational practice through TeachOntario (TVO), the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), the Ontario Teachers’ Federation (OTF), the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario (ECOO), Minds On Media, and, of course, in online learning spaces.

Check out the latest Ontario Teachers’ Federation conference—Pedagogy Before Technology!

I am currently the project manager and curriculum lead for Code To Learn—an initiative funded by the Canadian government to support the learning of computational thinking, coding, and digital skills by our students and educators. Code To Learn is one of CanCode’s projects—which offers free LYNX coding software to engage under-represented students in Canadian schools, working with educators to co-design curriculum activities & Coding Challenges. Rather than only focusing on “learning to code”, Code to Learn supports educators in diverse subject areas such as art & science, leveraging coding activities to meet broad curricular goals.

 I have been honoured to receive two awards from ISTE: the Telecommunications In Education award in 1997 and the ISTE Making IT Happen Award in October 2011. Also, proud to have been recently recognized by Microsoft as a global hero in education.

I spent 13 years teaching elementary students and 18 years as a Computers in Education consultant in the Toronto District school system. This was followed by 13 years at the YMCA of Greater Toronto.

I have been involved in using computers with kids and teachers since 1977.  This gives me an interesting perspective on things.  I have seen many ‘saviour’ technologies come and go.  So I sort of stick to my roots although I enthusiastically welcome new developments and, indeed, like to be part of them.  I believe that there are technologies that lend themselves better to learning than others, but I also recognize that it is their use that is critical.  To that end, I advocate models of learning which engage a student’s natural ‘desire to know’ and, therefore am focused on social-constructivist uses of ICT (information and communications technologies) in education.

In the early 80s I introduced project-based telecommunications to my school district through such applications as: FrEdMail, National Geographic’s Kids’ Network, GlobalLab, I*EARN, ThinkQuest, Orillas, CitySpace, Canada’s SchoolNet and Global SchoolHouse.

In 2000 Logo Computer Systems Incorporated (LCSI) contracted me as Lead Designer of Journal Zone – a collaborative online journal – software that I conceived and prototyped during my doctoral studies in educational psychology. This development was federally supported through the SchoolNet’s Learnware fund of Industry Canada. I was on the initial development team for CSILE (Computer Supported Intentional Learning Environments)—under the guidance of the Cognitive Science group at OISE/UT. CSILE evolved into Knowledge Forum.

I became involved with the YMCA of Greater Toronto when hired to be the curriculum leader at the YMCA Academy – a relatively new independent secondary school focused on an holistic, constructivist and equitable approach to learning and teaching.

The difference between ‘learning in school’ and ‘learning outside of school’ has always been a passionate interest – although this dichotomy often has led me into conflict with the ‘system’.   Nevertheless, I try to retain optimism and sense of humour. 🙂

The following are personal highlights of earlier speaking and consulting engagements.

  • MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) to deliver a Keynote address on students’ use of HyperMedia to advance their knowledge of both subject content and the processes of learning
  • Leningrad (St. Petersburg) Invited by the Soviet Academy of Sciences to participate in the 2nd East/West Invitational Seminar on New Technologies in Education and then the following year in Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic).
  • Moscow Invited by the Institute for New Technologies in Education to assist teachers in implementing science-based programs with Canadian schools via telecommunications
  • Post-Graduate Guest Lecturer at Feevale University, Porto Allegre, Brazil –Taught a week long component of a post-graduate course focusing on curriculum integration, socio-constructivism, and information technologies.
  • International Courseware Design and Evaluation conference in Tel Aviv, Israel
  • Early Childhood Conference – Focus on Technology in Tel Aviv, Israel
  • Keynote Address at Midwest Educational Technology Conference 2004 (
  • Educational consulting to LCSI — Logo Computer Systems Inc. (
  • ISTE & NECC (National Educational Computing Organization) a frequent presenter over the last 30 years
  • ThinkQuest ’99 — a VIP presenter on the future of education
  • ECOO (Educational Computing Organization of Ontario) — presented annually since 1981 — often as a Featured Speaker
  • TVOntario — consulted on The Computer Room, Internet in the Classroom
  • New Frontiers — one of a team of national presenters on integration of information technologies into the curriculum
  • Ontario Association of Mathematics Educators (OAME) — spoke of thinking skills related to mathematics education and the integration of information technologies
  • Science Teachers Association of Ontario (STAO) — spoke of student constructionism in science and the integration of information technologies

And also presenter at the following: FETC (Florida Educational Technology Conference), CUE (Computer Using Educators — California), Kids Who Know and Do, NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools), TCEA (Texas Computer Education Association), SITE (Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education)



A More Detailed History for Those of You Who Have Asked! (up to 2010!)

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7 thoughts on “About

  1. Mr. Skillen,

    My name is Alisa Slavens and I am a part of a PhD program in Science Education through Texas Tech University. For one of our assignments we are to contact and interview an award-winning teachers of instructional technology. I wanted to see if it would be a possibility to interview you for your work. Anything you could provide me would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you,

    Alisa Slavens

  2. Hi Mr.Skillen. I’ve been meaning to drop a line for awhile. Not sure if you would even remember me. However, I remember you. You are “that teacher” that impacted a kids life. That help shaped a kid that grew up without a dad. Thirty some odd years later I still have never lost site that it was you that inspired me to want to learn. Keep up the great work. Jeffrey Villeneuve. Brian Drive Elementary School

    1. Jeffrey!!!!!!!

      My brilliant young man! My wee Grade 2 rascal!

      A favourite memory of a bright-eyed, quick-to-smile kid! You have NO idea how many times I have recounted a particular story—even here in my blog! Here is a link to several posts where your incredible insight is shared:

      How kind of you to share your feelings and thoughts with me! Honestly, what you have said means more to me that you will ever know. Thank you so VERY much!

      I’m going to email you because I think we should have a coffee!

      You have made my day (month, year!)


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