An interview with Doug Peterson

Sylvia: To many teachers on social media, you are the Big Kahuna of Ontario edutweeters. How long have you been on Twitter? Do you know what your first tweet was?

Doug:  Well, I’m not sure about that.  I’m just another Ontario educator trying to do some learning with others.  According to my Twitter account, I joined Twitter in August, 2007.  I was inspired by Rodd Lucier who sold me on the concept of connectivism.  He was our ReLC at the time and seemed to be years ahead of us in terms of his thinking.  I felt like I needed to catch up!  As for my first message, I think I did download all my messages at one point.  I just checked - it was “Riding the storm out”.  I’m guessing that we were having a wonderful Essex County storm at the time...

Sylvia: I am always amazed will how prolific you are on Twitter. It seems like you tweet 24/7. Can you shed some light on how you do this? Approximately how many hours a day are you on social media? What time do you go to bed? What time do you get up?!!

Doug:  Actually, I’m on it for about half an hour in the morning reading and sharing.  The rest of the times, content is provided by a third party program.  I will check in on my phone if I’m out walking the dog or something.  I am an early to bed; early to rise type of person.  There’s no doubt about it.  I find being alone first thing in the morning is my most productive time.

Sylvia: A highlight of my Fridays is getting an #FF from you, and I know that many people feel the same way. Can you share with us how you decide to #FF someone and how you automate this (if you do)?

Doug:  There are secrets…  My first #FollowFriday is actually scheduled for 5am to come out at the same time as my blog post “This Week in Ontario Edublogs”.  The names there are the owners of the blog posts that I include in that post.  As for the rest, I like to recognize those who I’ve interacted with recently, and I also have two Twitter lists of Ontario Educators and it’s just a matter of running down who sent a Twitter message on Thursday.  That’s my acid test for “active”.  

Sylvia: I know that you are on Google+ too. For non-Google+ users, can you describe what you like/don’t like about it?

Doug:  Quite frankly, I think that Google+ is one of the best social networks for learning.  I follow groups and individuals there and the commentary that I enjoy is at highest of the professional learning and sharing level.  

Sylvia: I know that you are retired. Please tell us a bit about your pre-retirement teaching days. What subjects? Where? What age group of students? Can you pick one favourite teaching moment?

Doug:  I was the Computers in the Classroom Consultant with my old board.  It was a challenge getting involved K-12 and then Adult Education and then planning at the board level.  I’m a believer in continuous professional learning and would run 2-3 after school workshops at week in the 4-6pm timeslots.  It’s a testament to the professionalism of my colleagues that they were so well attended.  We also had a group of Computer Contacts, one from each school in the system.  These amazing people kept stirring the pot in their school and they would meet with me every other month for a full day of us pushing each other.

Before that, I was a Business Education, Computer Science teacher at a public secondary school.  I had an amazing group of students who I had the honour of teaching.  It’s a hoot when they reach out and contact you years later on Facebook or other social media.

As for a favourite teaching moment, there are so many that we all experience as teachers, as you well know.  I think one moment that will always remain with me was a young lady who needed one course to fill her timetable.  Computer Science was the least offensive to her and she made no bones about it.  However, I’ll never forget her success writing her first program and having it run perfectly.  She was hooked.  I ran into her at the mall years later and she made a point of mentioning how she felt.  She couldn’t remember the topic or the language but she knew exactly the moment she had her moment of Zen.  I’ll never forget that conversation.

A few years ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to teach the Computer Science teachable at the University of Windsor.  That was a completely new experience for me and I’ve made some enduring connections as a result of that experience.

Sylvia: Your blog is an amazing resource for teachers way beyond Ontario’s borders. When did you start the blog? What are some of your favourite things to blog about? What kinds of things inspire you to write a blogpost? How many posts do you write a day?

Doug:  I was writing and then blogging all during the time I was a consultant.  It was a way to just get my thoughts out.  I’ve “blogged” on a number of platforms but settled in to WordPress at one point and have been there ever since.  I do have a Blogger blog and it’s an automated curation of my OTR Links.  Favourite things is tough to answer.  In my mission statement, I give myself leave to write about whatever strikes my fancy.  I even wrote a post once about the US Presidential election that someone from the Christian Science Monitor felt inspired to write about me.  I’ll never forget being called a “snooty Canadian blogger”.  It’s one of the things that I’ve kept in my favourites.

As for posts, I write one day.

Sylvia: You seem like a dedicated family man. I love the links on your blog to your family members’ online presence. Can you tell us a bit about your family?

Doug:  As cliche as it sounds, I married my best friend in high school.  We have three awesome kids who are working on building their own successes in a variety of areas.  Health care, television productions, health and safety are their current passions.

Sylvia: I always love running into you at conferences. How many conferences do you attend every year? What are some of your favourite not-to-be-missed conferences?

Doug:  Just a couple.  As you know, I co-chaired the Bring IT, Together conference with Cyndie Jacobs for the past couple of years.  Together, we had amassed an amazing conference committee and they put together a renaissance of sorts for educational technology in Ontario.  I’ve also been on the conference committee for the Computer Science Teachers’ Association for a number of years.  This conference moves all over the United States and appeals to Computer Science teachers K-20.  This year, we’re in Grapevine, TX.  For years, I was involved with the Western Regional Computer Advisory Committee’s Symposium.  On the snowiest day in December, we would hold a one day symposium for edtech leaders in London, Ontario.  Other than that, the other conference I attend regularly is the MACUL Conference in Michigan.  One year it’s in Grand Rapids in Western Michigan and the next year it’s at Cobo Centre in Detroit.  It’s an easy ride on the Tunnel Bus from downtown Windsor to downtown Detroit.

Sylvia: What do you foresee as being the next trend in educational technology?

Doug:  We’ve talked about personalization as long as I remember.  I don’t know if it’s the “next” trend or not but I think we’re getting better at it and getting closer to legitimately personalizing the learning experience.  We are, unfortunately, a long way from it.  Decision makers spend too much time on what nice and shiny to buy next and the life of technology is so short that plans based on acquisition of “stuff” need to be constantly revised because last year’s technology isn’t available this year.  It would be most productive if technology plans were just scrapped and focused instead on providing the best environments for students and give more than lip service to personalization.  I’ve always maintained that we work best when we’re creating something.  Great teachers know how to create that environment.  I think that the appropriate use of technology amplifies the opportunity to personalize.

Sylvia: What is your advice to teachers new to social media?

Doug:  I love the quote “He/She who hesitates is lost”.  Those who have laid the groundwork for where we are today took the major risks.  With networks, groups, chats, communities already in place, talk to a colleague or leader you respect and jump in and start learning.  Let common sense be your social conscience and be selfish in your learning.  The more you get involved, the better social media works for you.  

Thanks Doug for being such an inspiration and icon of support to educators everywhere!

I don’t view it that way.  I am selfish in that I always want to learn and explore new things.  I’ve met amazing people along the way.  Without social media as a connector, you’d just be some French teacher in Toronto and I’d just be some Computer Science teacher in Essex County.  With our connections, I’m learning from you and your efforts daily.  I can’t predict it yet, but I know that I’m going to create a Sketchnote worthy of sharing someday.

Thanks so much, Sylvia.


  1. I was in Doug's first Computer Science teachable course at the University of Windsor in 2007. I remember fondly how he would bring gadgets and we had to guess their purpose and function. He always made us think about technology differently. It's been a while since then, but much of my teaching practice stems from this inquiry approach to new tech and tools.

    I appreciate this post. I am an avid reader of Doug's blog and admire seeing an interview from the other side. Thanks, Sylvia & Doug!


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