To support our learners and families on their personalized learning journeys, SelfDesign provides digital technologies and resources as a complement to real-world learning. Among these, the suite of online learning subscriptions that we make available to learners free of charge each learning year are extremely popular.
Darrell Letourneau is responsible for managing our online subscription accounts. He works with others on the SelfDesign Educational Programs team to assess individual subscription offerings, coordinates licensing with the subscription software publishers, and seeks out new subscription resources.
He says that, in all cases, the subscriptions we offer align with SelfDesign’s core community values of equitability and access, and they follow our learners’ passions and interests while providing tonnes of fun.
From BrainPop to Discovery Learning, from Mathletics to Mystery Science, from Enchanted Learning to GoZen, subject areas cover core learning areas, such as literacy, numeracy, science and humanities, as well as interests such as current events, art, film, coding and programming, and health and well-being. Some subscriptions have individual logins, which allow our educators to see individual learners’ progress and to share results with families. Some subscriptions allow parents to sign up for their own updates on their child’s progress.
Online subscriptions have been available to learners and families enrolled with SelfDesign Learning Community for years, but beginning this learning year (2021–2022), learners registered with SelfDesign Home Learning, our home-learning option for B.C. families, can also access some of our online subscriptions.
In this interview with Darrell, we explore his role, how his background and experience support his work with SelfDesign Subscriptions, and his insights into the online subscriptions experience. We also learn more about Darrell himself.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
SelfDesign (SD): Please describe what you do at SelfDesign.
Darrell Letourneau (DL): I currently work on the Educational Program team in an education support role managing SelfDesign’s online subscription accounts. I work daily with SelfDesign’s Educational Program Learning and Technology Administrator, who creates and registers learner subscription accounts. In consultation with educators and parents, we look at all subscription suggestions each year in relation to a number of factors, such as their use and connection to our school’s learning goals and priorities.
SD: What brought you to SelfDesign?
DL: My background is that of a homelearning dad of four children and a grandson. I am also a teacher, with a Master’s degree in online learning, and I have experience as a librarian and in enrichment support, and have focused on e-learning since 1999.
My SelfDesign journey began as a conversation with SelfDesign founder Brent Cameron and others in 2002. The Latin word for conversation, conversor, means “place where one lives or dwells.” I have dwelled in conversations with the SelfDesign community since then. At that time, we were keen to explore possibilities, and the interface for SelfDesign as an online school quickly began to crystallize. I soon found myself doing home visits as a SelfDesign learning consultant, meeting the most amazing families who were so excited about learning in their homes with the support of our new school program. Those enthusiastic families quickly included our own.
I also worked in a SelfDesign leadership role until 2016. Our community was smaller then, and our team managed the major operational roles – whatever needed to be done. Since 2016, I have worked in an Educator Support role with SelfDesign Subscriptions. All of these experiences have contributed to my present role.
SD: How has your experience shaped your approach to your work?
DL: My experience as a parent of homelearning children forms the foundation of my approach to supporting families. For example, leadership saw a need for subscription services over a decade ago, and we launched our initial offerings of online software.
Since then, SelfDesign Subscriptions has grown and evolved to support our community in wider ways, such as through integration into the Learning Experiences Library, accessing Indigenous People’s resources, and enhancing our grades 10 to 12 learners’ curriculum.
SD: What is involved in coordinating the online subscriptions that SelfDesign offers learners?
DL: The major tasks involved in managing SelfDesign Subscriptions are to evaluate current subscriptions, work with the budget, choose and publicize subscriptions for the current learning year, create and maintain subscription accounts, publish events and updates in the Bulletin and Community Calendar, and correspond with all the various stakeholders. These include everyone from learners and parents to educators, team leads and Principals Team, as well as SelfDesign’s Communications and Information Technology teams and software company representatives.
With new subscriptions becoming continually available, it’s exciting to help provide these offerings for families.
SD: What tips would you share with learners, families and educators to help them make the most of SelfDesign Subscriptions?
DL: For many subscriptions, teacher accounts are available for educators to access rich information about learners that can stimulate conversation with learners and families.
Each spring, the Subscriptions team surveys SelfDesign’s families and learning consultants about their subscription use and preferences during the year. We are always on the lookout for great subscriptions for our learners and ask for suggestions as part of the survey.
Rather than hang on to a subscription, we encourage families to surrender a subscription they are not using at the moment. Those accounts can then be put to good use right away for waiting families. This helps maximize our budget and bring more subscription accounts to more learners.
SD: What do you love most about working with SelfDesign?
DL: I thoroughly enjoy helping learners and families along the path of their learning journey. Even playing a small part of that experience is satisfying, seeing learners grow and gain confidence in their abilities. Our world needs these authentic voices more than ever!
SD: What are your passions and interests outside of work?
DL: Family, family, family! Janet (my spouse, who works as the SelfDesign Educator Services lead) and I have four children and a grandchild creatively designing their lives. Our holidays and celebrations are focused on our family. My other happy place is anywhere I happen to be on my bike!
SD: Now for something fun: What is your secret superpower?
DL: Silliness! It’s underrated as a life elixir. I love being silly with kids and friends.
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