In most cases this would be the place where I introduce myself and explain to you why I write this blog and what is its main focus. In this case I would like to reveal this information as I take you through a journey that started in my childhood and how it influenced my direction in life and ultimately creating this blog.
As most people,I can’t recall most events in my educational upbringing, but there are a few defining moments and central figures that I will never forget. Those were usually inspiring teachers or unusual methods of teaching that I keep going back to to reflect on whenever a similar educational situation arises in my professional life. These instances are not always inspiring or positive in nature. Sometimes, they are just important lessons I learned while trying to cope with a problem or dilemma I encountered.
My struggle with understanding Math was one such issue. As an elementary student I was quite good in math, but as I started learning algebra, geometry and trigonometry, my confidence started to fade. I spent more and more hours trying to solve problems, which surprisingly never resembled the examples that the professor gave in class. I always felt that I was lacking a fundamental foundation that could help me understand the underlying concepts behind the formulas. Teachers usually did not take the time to go into these details. They provided a general explanation of the topic with a few sample exercises and covered a few typical problems that a student may encounter. Then they moved on to assigning as many problems as they could to make sure that students repeat them enough times to master the subject. At least, that is what they hoped.
When doing homework,I always remember that I could not find similarities between the examples that were worked-out in class and the problems I was working on. The only ammunition I possessed was to try to plug in numbers into known formulas and hope that the outcome will somehow make sense. It never did, because one problem never resembled the other and when I was trying to reach deeper into my thinking, there was always a feeling of void or shaky ground that could not be relied on. I wished that there was some way that can help me turn these obscure formulas into something I can grasp and manipulate in ways that may lead me to solve the problems. Until one day a new math professor told us that in order to feel confident in solving any problem in math, you need to learn to identify its underlying concepts and learn to develop the formulas on which it is based. This observation, which was so different from what I heard before, had a great impact on my interpretation of problem solving in general and became an important component of my educational philosophy.
Years later as I became an educational technology professional I reflected upon this experience. I realized that as understanding should be the aim of education, my focus should be on applications of technology through which understanding is enhanced. I believe that for technology to be effective, it needs to be applied in ways that promote teaching for understanding. The tools that students used in my computer lab to work on their project are a testimony to this general direction. Through the years I took students on a journey through a wide range of technology uses and applications. Students have created multimedia projects, simulations, animated stories, robots, and data manipulation projects. I also tapped into Web 2.0 technology and helped students use web-based applications to work in teams while communicating and collaborating effectively. In view of the exponential growth of information, the need for students to sift through this information, make sense out of it and focus only on the things that can benefit their research became apparent almost as soon as our reliance on internet-based research started growing. Finding and designing tools that can help students store, organize, and interpret information in meaningful ways, became a high priority for me and an important component in my classes.
In this blog, I intend to write about my experiences in learning, designing and teaching educational technology as reflected in my work with students and teachers. Entries will cover the areas mentioned above and will include stories, case studies, and my thoughts about different technologies and teaching methods. I hope that this journey will benefit my readers as much as this reflection will benefit me personally and professionally.