Our communities aren’t the only ones who have exciting things happening. Powerful Learning Practice has expanded its staff and brought some fascinating new minds (and fresh ideas) to our team. We’d like to introduce our team to you, one by one, and so we’ve come up with seven questions for each of them so you can have a little peek into what they’re thinking and who they are.

Meet Peter Skillen, Community Leader for Powerful Learning Practice

Tell us a bit about yourself – who are you, where are you from, what are your passions?

Hello everyone. My name is Peter Skillen, and I live in one of the most multicultural cities in the world – Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (A bit of trivia – Toronto is just about the same latitude as northern California!)

I am passionate about the outdoors. In fact, I got married in the woods – many years ago – in the middle of winter with two feet of snow!  I have been lucky enough to survive many crazy adventures – from flying to mountaineering to motorcycles and underwater explorations. But, it’s not always the adrenaline I love – it’s being in ‘the zone’ – in what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi would call the state of ‘flow’. It is somewhat meditative for me. In the same ways, I approach learning and teaching. I love to become immersed in that which I am learning. When teaching, I prefer to be a co-investigator into deep problems and projects with the kids. Authentic environments where kids are equal partners in bringing their expertise and personal strengths to the task are my passion. Oh I know. I know. It’s not always easy to do. There is a curriculum to follow. But, that is part of the joy for me – figuring out how I can focus on the deep learning of the skills and knowledge required in novel and relevant ways.


What do you do here at Powerful Learning Practice?

My involvement with Powerful Learning Practice started with my inviting Sheryl to speak at our local conference for the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario. We chatted a lot and discovered we shared many similar beliefs and so I was asked to be an ‘experienced voice’ for the Australian Community and share my love, understandings, aha’s, and questions of ‘project-based learning’. I am now a co-leader of the Canadian / New England Community and am learning and growing in that role with my educator colleagues.


What else are you up to professionally?

After 40 years of teaching elementary, secondary and tertiary students and working to integrate information and communication technologies into schools, I developed an online collaborative, scaffolded journal writing environment which served to get kids thinking deeply about their knowledge and processes of learning. In 2003, I helped start the YMCA Academy for the YMCA of Greater Toronto. Currently I am Manager, Professional Learning in that organization – with a mission to create a culture of conversation and a culture of self-directed, 21st century learning. (I would prefer the title Manager of Intentional Serendipity – but I couldn’t convince the powers that be. <g>)

Serving on the Board of Directors of iEARN-Canada, The Educational Computing Organization of Ontario, and global ambassador with the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has afforded me the opportunity to learn, and engage, with educators from many diverse backgrounds. Developing and supporting both face-to-face and online learning for the Ontario Teachers’ Federation keeps me grounded with my local communities and curricular expectations. I also co-founded the Minds On Media model of professional learning which truly reflects how I wish classrooms to be.


I am greatly influenced by observing the ways in which people learn in ‘out of school’ environments, and I encourage all students/learners to be mindful – to ‘take charge of their own learning’ as is so common in the ‘real world’.


Desert island situation – you get to take five books. What are they?

The Full Catastrophe by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Pedagogy in (E)Motion: Rethinking Spaces and Relations (Explorations of Educational Purpose) by Nellie J. Zambrana-Ortiz

Surpassing ourselves: an inquiry into the nature and implications of expertise by Carl Bereiter & Marlene Scardamalia

Five Minds for the Future by Howard Gardner

Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich


What is your favorite example of how online communities are powerful and transformative?

Having been involved in education for over forty years, I have been part of many communities and ‘revolutions’. However, these past few years have been fuelled by the affordances provided by social media. This has transformed education in my home province of Ontario. Not because it is all about Ontario – because it’s not. But the Ontario educators in their interconnections with one another and with the world have gelled into multiple overlapping passionate communities of diverse thought and opinion. There is energy, enthusiasm and support to continue our collective missions for a better world for our students – here and afar.


Where can people find you online?

Website – peterskillen.org

Blog – The Construction Zone

Twitter – @peterskillen


Any final words?

Bring love.

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