Thompson Rivers University (TRU) faculty member Brenna Clarke Gray is a positive voice for technology, especially in higher education. A proactive leader, she promotes and embraces emerging technologies while setting up the TRU community for digital success.
And for that, and much more, she’s been named one of 30 higher education IT Influencers to follow in 2023 by EdTech magazine.
Supporting learning tech needs
In her role as co-ordinator of educational technologies on the Learning Technology and Innovation team at TRU, Gray understands the benefits technology provides.
“We help faculty with their technology needs, which can be everything from answering support tickets to supporting them when they stop by our office with questions about anything they’re working on,” says Gray. “So, anywhere where people want to augment their teaching with some kind of technology, we offer pedagogical support that focuses on using technological tools well, not just efficiently, but well.”
Gray adds that she and her team use technology responsibly, focusing on the ethical issues it may raise.
“We strongly align with the ethical educational technology movement — the idea of promoting the best possible uses of technology,” she says. “We consider things like student privacy and what happens to their data and equitable practice. We spend a lot of time on designing inclusively.”
Connecting campus community
During the first summer of the pandemic in 2020 — when most faculty, staff and students moved to remote learning — Gray led popular virtual workshops for faculty. Knowing the fall session was on the horizon, she wanted to keep the momentum going.
“I had the sense, because I had been teaching faculty and I knew what the demands on them are like, that as soon as we hit September and everyone put their heads down, we would lose that sense of community. So, I was trying to think of ways to keep people connected.”
Since Gray had been working on a Social Science and Humanities Research Council grant-funded podcast project in her role, she considered creating her own podcast.
“I did a lot of brainstorming with Brian Lamb, the director of our team, and we came up with the idea that we only interview people internally and we have a range of people — faculty, staff and students across campus. We would try and tell the story of what’s happening for the different constituent groups on campus as much as possible.”
With everything in place, Gray started the You Got This! podcast in September 2020.
“The podcast was a real chance to talk to people about the things they’re proud of,” she says. “It dealt with my curiosity about campus as well.”
Produced by the Learning Technology and Innovation team, the podcast provided just-in-time teaching and learning encouragement and support to the campus community.
Well-received by listeners, Gray kept the podcast going after everyone returned to campus in 2021.
“I feel like in some ways it’s a real artifact of TRU through this very transitional period that we’ve ended up in, on the other side of the pandemic.”
The podcast continues to attract listeners.
“We’re closing in on 100 episodes,” she says. “It’s the favourite part of my job.”
A better future
For Gray, the recognition from EdTech reaffirms she’s on the right path, using technology for good.
“I’m grateful that the kinds of conversations I’m interested in having about technology — which are around how do we minimize harm to students, how do we use tech in ways that are accessible and inclusive, how do we make sure people aren’t being left behind — are being held within a framework of forward thinking.
“I hope it means good things for the discipline of educational technology and for the students ending up on the receiving end of it.”