Recently appointed as an Education Fast Forward fellow, Lucy Gray is an education consultant who views technology and new media as essential to facilitating educational and societal change. To this end, she co-founded the Global Education Conference (read this NewLearningTimes.com coverage of the 2012 virtual event), a network for students, organizations, and educators interested in collaboration. In her role as a consultant, she led CoSN’s Leadership for Mobile Learning initiative and provides professional development coaching to school districts. An Apple Distinguished Educator and Google Certified Teacher, Gray previously taught elementary grade levels in Chicago Public Schools and middle school computer science at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. She also has worked at the University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute and the Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education.

EXCLUSIVE NEW LEARNING TIMES INTERVIEW

Question: How did your educational trajectory (background) affect your current work?
Answer: Everything in my background has led up to my current work… my ed tech consulting practice is built on many different experiences as an educator and as a learner myself. Both of my parents were both passionate teachers, I was exposed to many experiential learning opportunities while I was in school, and I’ve always been interested in making learning experiences more engaging and relevant to students. This all has led me to the beliefs that technology can enhance student engagement, connect students and educators in ways never before possible, and can bring equity to education in my opinion.

Question: What professional experiences have been most formative to your current work?
Answer: All of my professional experiences have informed my work to some degree, but I have to point to a few experiences that really allowed me to flourish as an educator. First, I taught at a progressive independent school for a number of years. Independent schools tend to take a truly whole child approach to the education process, and I also was fortunate to have a great deal of autonomy and resources at my disposal. I was able to dive deeply into my professional practices because I had time and freedom to continually improve my curriculum and teaching practices. During this time, I developed confidence as an educator.

Secondly, in 2005, I was awarded the Apple Distinguished Educator distinction. This is an award given to approximately 50 educators every other year in the US (the program has expanded globally since) for innovative uses of educational technology. This award profoundly changed my professional life and gave me access to a community of educators who embraced innovation, worked towards excellence, and believed in the power of technology to transform. Often teachers feel isolated in schools, particularly when there are varying degrees of professionalism within a building, and the ADE program allowed me to be at home with educators who were as geeked out and passionate as myself.

In 2006, ADEs participated in a project through Apple to create a global awareness curriculum. We traveled to Berlin and Prague, creating digital media on the go and dreaming up activities that would open our students to the world. It dawned on me during this trip that technology has allowed us to connect our classrooms in ways that were never before possible, and this affordance should be leveraged to a much higher level in US schools. Because of this trip, I launched a social network for connecting teachers, students, and classrooms and eventually, Steve Hargadon and I started our Global Education Conference as an annual celebration of this community.

Finally, around the same time that I became involved with the ADE program, I also started using and experimenting with new media for professional learning and that knowledge transferred to explorations for student use. New media gives everyone a voice and an equitable playing ground in the world of education.

Question: How do you hope your work will change the learning landscape?
Answer: I hope that my work will support and inspire educators in their work. I also see myself as an advocate for teachers and more progressive educational practices, so I would like to use my voice to continually bring attention to important educational issues and innovations. And finally, through my work with the Global Education Conference network, I endeavor to connect more students, educators, and organizations with each other… together, we can do more!

Question: What broad trends do you think will have the most impact on learning in the years ahead?
Answer: The K12 Horizon Report is a great resource for understanding current trends. In addition to this annual report, I would also note that I think that the trend towards personalized learning will continue to be an important theme in education. Learning will become more personalized for students as well as teachers, as professional development efforts are becoming more organic and geared towards teachers’ professional interests. I also think that the proliferation of mobile devices at affordable price points will also provide more opportunities for personalized learning, both in formal and informal settings for students, too. My hope, though, is that we don’t forget that face-to-face interactions and thoughtful planning by teachers leads to personalization and that we don’t leave personalization solely up to technology tools and devices. Strong relationships between students and teachers combined with great curriculum and activities are still the best way to engage students and we need to be thoughtful about the role technology plays in all of this.

Question: What are you currently working on & what is your next big project?
Answer: I’m juggling several really interesting projects right now. First, I’m wrapping up the school year with a couple of year long coaching engagement in Illinois public schools. One involves providing professional development for teachers in a mobile learning pilot sponsored by Kajeet. The other coaching project has involved a high school pilot of Chromebooks and iPad in which again, I’m supporting teachers with training.

Currently, I’m working with the Dwight School in New York City to help them with strategic planning around developing a culture of innovation. My partner on this project is Don Buckley, who teaches at Teachers College and is into design thinking. I also just started working with Convergence Academies in Chicago, a project out of Columbia College in which new models of teaching and learning are being developed through a new media lens.

Finally, I am in midst of planning our fifth annual Global Education Conference with my co-chair, Steve Hargadon. This is a free, online and open event that takes place during International Education Week. The call for proposals is currently open, and we just announced a few keynote speakers. We’d love it if EdLab fans would read our informational flyer and pass it along to potentially interested friends and colleagues!

Image: Courtesy Lucy Gray