Richard Mitchell


In 1985, Professor Richard Mitchell first began his teaching career at Humber College. His first assignment was to teach math life skills to a group of 16-25 year old street kids in an old run down school building. It was an experience that profoundly changed everything that Richard had learned at Teacher’s College about traditional math classrooms and traditional students. From that day forward, Richard made a commitment to developing methodologies, materials, and processes that have contributed to student success. Now, 30 years later, Professor Mitchell has helped 1000’s of students at all levels of math ability to successfully pursue their career goals by applying a multitude of tools including F2F, on-line, inclusive design, digital presentations, blended, flipped and most recently his award winning SMILE model of instruction. His vision is simple yet empowering ‘Imagine a class without boards, without walls, without boundaries … accessible anytime, anywhere and on any device … available to anyone regardless of social, economic, geographic or physical limitation’. In 1989, Richard was asked to teach Adult Upgrading in mathematics at the Humber Keelesdale campus. This time, the diverse needs of the adult learner added greater depth to Richard’s philosophy of teaching. It was here, in 1993, where Richard received his first Humber College Innovation of the Year Award for helping to implement an annual Intercultural Festival for faculty and students. In the years that followed, Richard completed his Master’s Degree in Computer Applications, wrote a qualifying research paper on using computers in a technical math classroom and completed Part Three of a Computers in the Classroom Specialist Teaching Certificate. Richard transferred to the North Campus in the fall of 1993 where he taught an Environmental Science course. The challenges of delivering curriculum to post-secondary students proved to be engaging for everyone as assignments included video logs of nature walks and a water analysis of the Humber River. During this time, Professor Mitchell volunteered as Faculty Advisor for the Humber Environmental Action Team (HEAT). Under Richard’s supervision, the club took an active role in helping to establish the recycle bin model that is presently being used at Humber. Richard also began teaching Technical Mathematics and was responsible for course revisions, curriculum development, revising student manuals and developing course supplements. In 2010, Wiley & Sons published his mathematics PowerPoints as a supplement for their text book. Wiley continued to ask Professor Mitchell to upgrade for their second and third editions. Richard has also worked with Wiley to review their Math text books and with Pearson. In 2014 and 2015, Richard was asked to review Pearson’s new on-line Canadian Tech Math course. In 2006, Professor Mitchell was the first professor at Humber College to teach math using a Tablet PC. This initiative won him the Humber Innovation of the Year Award (2007), a League Innovation of the Year Award (2007) and an Educational Technology Committee Award (2008) for his visionary approach to teaching with digital technologies. A research article was also published in the IEEE Computer Society (2007) and presented at the 1st International PLT 07 Conference in Italy (2007) and the CIT League for Innovation conference in Nashville (2007). Richard’s paper discussed the statistical improvement observed in student attitudes, grades and attendance. Since then, Richard has presented at many conferences both in Canada and the US and written several articles. Last year, Professor Mitchell re-invented himself by designing and piloting a new hybrid teaching technique called Synchronous Mobile Interactive Learning Environment or SMILE for short. Humber’s Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTL) produced a SMILE video for their YouTube site which is also being used by the Humber Education (EDU) site for their Gold Master Blackboard training module for new faculty. He has also had articles published in Humber’s Next magazine, the Community College Week newspaper and Educause regarding using inclusive design technology in a math classroom. As mentioned above, professional development has been an important part of Professor Mitchell’s vision. Over the years, Richard has provided leadership and support for his colleagues as a volunteer mentor, given numerous Humber Mathematics Community of Practice and Humber Showcase presentations, and given workshops internationally at the League for Innovation, STLHE, OCMA and NISOD conferences. In 2008, he was an invited guest speaker at Vincennes University to discuss using tablets for their professional development week. Richard has also served on numerous college wide committees including the IT Steering Committee, Committee on Learning Technologies, Continuing the Journey, Y2K Report and Plan for Instructional Computing. Last year, he was asked to represent the college at an HEQCO co-creation workshop on the future of post-secondary education. Presently, he is the LAS faculty representative on the college wide Academic Educational Technology Committee (AETC). As noted above, Professor Mitchell has been honoured throughout his career with awards for creativity and innovation. In May of 2015, Richard was presented with the 2015 NISOD Award for Teaching Excellence in Austin, Texas. In June of 2015, Richard received his third Humber Innovation of the Year Award and his second League Innovation of the Year Award for his SMILE model. Recently, he was also awarded with a Distinguished Faculty Award from Humber College. In short, Richard has contributed much to the Humber Community, its reputation and to the teaching of mathematics. Professor Richard Mitchell has repeatedly demonstrated creativity and innovation both inside and outside of the classroom and fosters a community of learning for students and faculty based upon Universal Instructional Design principles. Presently, he is exploring virtual worlds, augmented reality, gaming, wearables and adaptive learning technologies. Not only does he love his job but students, co-workers and administrators respect and support his initiatives.

EDUCAUSE Publications

  • Pathway to a SMILE
    • Article
    • Author

    This case study explains how SMILE — Synchronous Mobile Interactive Learning Environment — lets the instructor address student needs ranging from travel restrictions to barriers imposed by geographic, economic, or physical constraints.