I started my career as an educator in a small indigenous community in the Canadian Arctic in the late 1990’s just as internet services were emerging via government satellite services. Being familiar and comfortable with early network technologies like bulletin board systems I soon became involved in northern Arctic communities as an administrator overseeing how the internet would be adopted in schools. During this time I was also asked to work with a team of territorial educators to take advantage of the newly arrived World Wide Web in designing and implementing an online delivery model to support a required course for all high school students in the Canadian Northwest Territories. This course aimed to help students think critically about issues of importance to the Canadian North by sharing and gaining a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities of life in the Arctic, develop meaningful relationships within schools, and strengthen the critical relationship between the community and the school, using innovative approaches to teaching and methods of learning. The internet arrived as promised, but with very little infrastructure, software, and supports educators could use to take advantage of this new connectivity. Crafting an assembly of freeware and opensource software, the online course was launched for the first time in 1998 with a small group of educators. I became convinced that open technologies and open networks were always going to inform my practice as an educator when I witnessed indigenous students connect with each other across the vast distances of the Arctic sharing stories, photos, and stories from their respective communities. Further still, for many of my students, meaningful connections were made with non-Indigenous students far from the circumpolar Arctic for the first time in their lives.
Years later I carried my instructional technology and design expertise to China to work with a network of private schools. The scale of needs for students within these emergent online systems challenged me to explore and adopt new forms of hardware and software infrastructure. This experience further solidified my commitment to open source approaches and open frameworks as these were often the easiest to access, adapt, and scale.
Working now in the Canadian post-secondary sector, my ongoing involvement and commitment to open practices have introduced me to a global network of treasured colleagues and friends that have enriched my professional and personal life in countless ways. Although the heady optimism of early internet days has dimmed somewhat, the rich relationships, experiences, and learning that open practices have afforded me continue to inspire.