New Brunswick Social Policy Research Network

Viktor Freiman

Viktor Freiman Picture1) What is your official current position and title?

I am a Full professor at the Université de Moncton in the Faculty of Education in the Department of Elementary Teaching and Educational Psychology.

2) What is your educational background?

Baccalaureat in the teaching of mathematics at the high school level (1980, Russia, Moscow)

Master’s degree in Didactical Mathematics (1982, Russia, Moscow)

Master of the Teaching of Mathematics (2003, Canada, Montréal)

PhD in Education (Ph. D., Didactics of Computer Science, 1990, Russia, Moscow)

3) Talk a little about your career path?  Where did your passion for the research/work that you do originate and how did it develop?

I started my career as a mathematics teacher at the high school level in 1982. I was passionate about new ways of teaching and am still interested in innovation. Between 1983 and 1992, I worked as a computer science project manager for the USSR Department of Education, in Moscow, where I was in charge of statistical databases (this is how I developed an interest in the use of ICT by different types of users). Starting in 1985, I was involved with implementing computer education in high schools, a new school subject in Russia. Interested in the didactics of computer science, I completed my doctoral studies at the Content and Methods of Instruction Research Institute at the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences, between 1986 and 1990. After defending my thesis, I took part in a comparative study between Russia and Germany on school education. Since working on this research, I have been interested in developing educational systems throughout the world, with a focus on reforms and new trends (this was the subject of my postdoctoral research in Germany in 1993-1994). During my last two years in Russia (1992-1993), I worked as researcher at the Institut des recherches internationales en education in Moscow (one of my projects involved participating in developing the federal education program in Russia). I arrived in Canada in 1993 and worked at a private school in Montréal, where I taught mathematics and computer science at the elementary school level between 1995 and 2003. During this period, I was involved in action research on enrichment in mathematics, in collaboration with Concordia University and UQAM. I have been working at Université de Moncton as professor of Didactical Mathematics since 2003. My research projects are aimed at developing the full potential of every student, including gifted and talented students, problem resolution, creativity, integration of ICTs, innovation in teaching–learning and digital skills. I chair APTICA (Association pour l’avancement pédagogique des technologies de l’information et de la communication en Atlantique), an association that has been assisting with the integration of ICTs in educational environments since 2000. I have been an executive board member of the Canadian Mathematics Education Study Group since 2011. I am a member of the international committee of the Groupe sur la créativité mathématique et l’enseignement aux élèves doués and, since 2004, have been involved in working groups at international conferences on the teaching of mathematics (2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016). I am co-director of the Springer Mathematics Education in the Digital Era series of books. I am also interested in relationships between mathematics, the arts and science (MACAS, Mathematics and its Connection with the Arts and Science). I have taken part in MACAS symposiums since 2005, as co-organiser in 2007 and 2009 (also local organizer in Moncton) and in 2015.

4) Tell us about one or two of your current projects?

My two key projects:

Development of a new virtual resource in didactical mathematics entitled Carrefour d’apprentissages mathématiques interactifs, which will integrate sites that were previously developed: CAMI (Communauté d’apprentissages multidisciplinaires interactifs, ) and Virtual Mathematical Marathon. Both resources offer rich, complex problems for all students, based on their interest and academic needs, by offering them daunting challenges. The new resource tool will be online for September 2015, thanks to funding from the New Brunswick Innovation Fund (research assistanceship program, 2015-2016). Aside from proposing several new problems, we will also be including videos explaining how to solve the problems, which will support problem solving based on self-directed learning. Moreover, we plan to maintain our collaboration with our French colleagues, who are experts in the development of open online educational resources, as well as with APTICA and the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie to pursue the creation of interactive modules (problems and interactive instructive materials; we already created 7 modules in 2014).

Development project management of the CompéTICA (Compétences en TIC en Atlantique, partnership. The CompéTICA network is a strategic alliance aimed at understanding the ecosystem, adaptability and digital skills transfer. The partnership being developed by the CompéTICA network is aimed at generating research data and practical recommendations to contribute to a better understanding of transfer and adaptation concepts in a digital skills continuum, from early childhood to adulthood. Moreover, a new model for action developed and launched in practical environments will create new expertise sharing opportunities. The project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (2014-2017) and the New Brunswick Innovation Fund (2015-2017).

5) How do you see your research/work in terms of possibly contributing to evidence-based public policy?

The CompéTICA project can contribute to public policy development in the area of digital skills development for all citizens. Several aspects of this partnership development project can directly or indirectly contribute to policy development. First, the project is in keeping with the Digital Canada 2.0 Government of Canada initiative aimed at offering Canadians opportunities to acquire the knowledge and skills required in a digital economy, which will help stimulate the Canadian economy ( Furthermore, the project addresses the challenges and demands of the digital economy. According to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (2010), individuals must be able to “locate, organize, understand, evaluate and create information using digital technology to function in their workplaces and in their daily lives.” There is therefore an urgent need to act, since in the same document it is stated that it is a skill that many Canadians do not currently possess, preventing them from fully participating in the digital economy. This would appear to be confirmed by recent international data analyzed by the OECD that reports that people (aged 16 to 64) in the Atlantic Provinces, with the exception of Nova Scotia, score lower than other regions in the country in terms of problem solving skills in technological environments. By identifying technology as an indispensable tool for socioeconomic innovation in New Brunswick, several government organizations, business environments and communities strive to help develop these essential skills within their target public, but they need concerted, evidence-based policies.

In order to address the problem in a systematic, concerted manner, the project team set itself the goal of developing a partnership network aimed at (1) defining the continuum of digital skills, while taking into account the various contexts of the life cycle; (2) identifying leading practices in different educational and life environments, from a digital skills continuum perspective; (3) developing and implementing innovative digital skills development approaches that are transferable and adaptable and tools for measuring their success. Our partners, who come from different economic, political and social sectors, will be actively and directly involved in the project. This direct involvement of decisionmakers in collaborative work will help us identify common needs and identify winning experts and practices, which will in turn allow researchers to clarify problem areas, define key concepts and carry out studies in the field that provide evidence that is in keeping with the public policy development process.

6) Discuss any past achievements that were significant to your professional path?  Have any contributed to the promotion of evidence-based public policy?

In the past, I took part in research that was used to promote evidence-based public policy. At the international level, I took part in a comparative study between Germany and Canada on PISA data (2000) led by the Institute for International Educational Research, in Frankfurt. I contributed to the study with a chapter on New Brunswick. Still in keeping with the PISA study, at the national level, I took part as co-researcher in a study initiated by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (2005-2006) on PISA 2003 mathematics data. My role involved analyzing open ended items regarding possible misconceptions, which mobilized my didactical expertise. I also took part in a symposium at University of Ottawa in 2007 that included the discussion of our results with the decisionmakers. At the provincial level, I was part of the ADOP (Accès direct à l’ordinateur portable) team that piloted the New Brunswick project in 2004-2006. The final report was presented to the Department of Education. From 2007 to 2011, I worked with different schools as part of the Innovative Learning Fund (ILF) to help teachers and decisionmakers obtain evidence to evaluate the impact of these initiatives. Two of these projects were presented as part of the Best Practices Forum in 2009.

In 2010-2011 and 2013-2014, I took part in two initiatives that were directly tied to the development and promotion of evidence-based public policies: the first was undertaken at the request of the Ontario Ministry of Child and Youth Services that wanted to use evidence to develop its strategic plan. The title of our report is Child and Youth Development beyond Age 6 – Transitions to Digitally Literate Adults. The report was released in the presence of representatives from different organizations, including youth organizations. Then the SSHRC initiated a knowledge synthesis on the development of skills to meet the future needs of the Canadian labour market. The report is entitled Digital skills development for future needs of the Canadian labour market. In addition to being released during a meeting with various government and public organizations involved in research, it is also available online via a link on the SSHRC website and a video is available through a YouTube channel.

7) Describe in a couple of sentences your involvement with NBSPRN and how your relationship with the Network has contributed to your research/work and/or to social/economic policy?

My involvement with the Network started in 2013, when the CompéTICA project was being prepared. A Network representative has been sitting on the partners committee since the beginning of the project in April 2014. In 2015, I was in charge of organizing the 2015 New Brunswick Policy Forum, which was held at Université de Moncton on April 27, 2015. This event brought new direction to our collaboration, by essentially increasing the possibilities for networking, seeking out new partners and project visibility.

8) Any last thoughts? 

Throughout my life and my career as a researcher, I have been involved in many initiatives highlighting innovation in education, in a local and global, systemic and comparative perspective, aimed at new technologies as an added value to talent development. A collaborative approach with different partners aimed at producing evidence to guide effective public policy development remains the unifying theme.

Copyright 2013
A Ginger Design