Wendy James

My first McDowell project was Beyond the Mouse and Modem (Henderson, James, & Cannon, 2003), a survey of over 2,000 Saskatchewan teachers about their knowledge and use of technology in the classroom. We did an overall summary for the province that revealed teachers lacked the skill and knowledge levels needed to use technology to support learning, and that school divisions’ investments in technologies were not being adequately matched with resources for teacher professional learning. I was teaching in Meadow Lake at the time and had not yet begun formal learning about research. The research showed up in Maclean’s and got its most recent citation in 2019, but the thing I am most proud of is that the reports we wrote for participating divisions sometimes resulted in more support for teacher learning.

At the time we did Mouse and Modem, Karen Henderson was working on her master’s and interested in technology, but Rene Cannon and I were colleagues who simply had an interest in reflecting on our professional practice. The support from the MacDowell Foundation helped all three of us step through the stages of a first major research project and present original research at a conference for the first time, opening so many new avenues of professional practice for exploration. It led all three of us into becoming consultants in different parts of the province, facilitating professional learning for other teachers, and transforming our own teaching practices using technology. I work at USask now, as a manager of the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning, after doing a master’s and PhD.  It all started with funding from the McDowell Foundation to ask, “What is happening?” and “Why might that be happening?”

I’d like others to know that McDowell Foundation grants are critical way that come to understand our work as professional teachers and the students we care for. The ongoing commitment to the Foundation expresses our desire to engage in research-supported and reflective practice, and our commitment to communicating with those who lead schools about what teachers and students need. The two grants I received to study professional learning led to two advanced degrees researching teacher learning and a decade leading it in a research-informed way in Saskatoon Public Schools as a learning leader, consultant, and coordinator. The extended support that SPS gave me made the advanced degrees possible and leadership opportunities possible, but it was the process of conducting the research supported by the McDowell Foundation that sparked the life-long interest and ultimately influenced teaching practice for many teachers and students that I had the privilege to work with.

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