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.

Proud to have been recently recognized by Microsoft as a global hero in education.

Although I have spent over 4 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.

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 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. 🙂



PLEASE NOTE: All opinions expressed in this content are my own, and not necessarily those of my employer.

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

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5 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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