A colleague recently labeled me an “intrapreneur,” (1) which is a complement I think captures my approach well. I find success working within established frameworks to promote Mission-driven innovation by capitalizing upon data and leveraging relationships. Over the past 15 years, I have honed these skills by working as both a teacher and a Technology and Learning coach in IB Schools, and I believe that my actions in these roles embody excellent values. My own life-long learning adventure continues, having recently attained my Ph.D. and published an intensive study on student choice in blended learning environments. I have applied my studies and experiences in novel ways, both within my coaching role and as a member of our R&D-focused Strategy Team, tasked with creating solutions through the Design Thinking approach. The roles have also given me the chance to communicate with audiences large and small, make data-driven connections to enhance student learning, and facilitate reflective practice across our learning community.
As a learning and tech innovation coach, it has been my job to support education for my colleagues and students. While it is important that I am at the cusp of knowledge about computer tools and social networks, it is more significant that I focus on the psychology of learning. Through this lens, I try to develop an empathetic understanding for teacher and student learning, and I apply this to my everyday practice.
Although I am part a tech coach, I do not rush to employ technology. I examine that tech is being implemented to meet student’s needs. This may be with the help of the TPACK model, along with using the higher ends of the SAMR model. For example, devices should not be used for novelty alone. Using this schema, I look at how computers, tablets, Apple TV, social networks, cameras, audio, video, and other devices and software can be implemented by my colleagues and me. In searching for new pedagogical approaches, I delve into a myriad of learning environments.
Back in 2011, upon arrival at IICS, I realized there was no immediate learning network in Istanbul for teachers concerning technology, which I thought was very important to have. Therefore, I developed the LTEN (Learning and Technology Exchange Network), which grew to over 40 schools in Eastern Europe, Asia, and the USA. It consists of more than 160 people who connected online and met three times a year at host schools. The network continued to grow and developed into an entity that endured without me.
My vision in any school is to see full personalized and blended learning, where students discover through brick and mortar institutions in conjunction with an online education. These are some of my reasons why:
- Many colleges and universities are moving this way;
- Asynchronous learning allows the student to study and acquire knowledge when they choose;
- Students will learn auto-didactically;
- Enables differentiation because students should move along at their own pace with teachers taking a coaching role in small group situations or for individual needs;
- If personalized, blended learning takes place throughout the year there is no down-time because of a possible switch to full online learning;
- Personalized, blended learning is more effective than face-to-face or online methods alone.
Along with blended learning, I am keen to promote learning strategies based on studies in Behaviorism, cognition, motivation, emotion, cognitive development, and neuroscience. I strain to pass on specific knowledge, like Martinez’s (2010) ideas to: chunk information, encode in multiple modes, associate learning with positive emotions, encourage semiosis and schema building, make higher order thinking explicit goals, present the right condition for Csikszentmihalyi’s flow, and appreciate the importance of freedom and exploration in education.
I am persistently striving to be at the cusp of new technological information and consider myself an early adopter. My motto is: I may not know how to work it yet, but I will definitely find out how. Because of this philosophy, I often find myself in the company of colleagues who have questions for which I am helping them find answers. I am happy to do so and create professional development for my staff in many informal and formal settings.
I am proud of myself and my accomplishments as a teacher, professional, colleague, student, friend, and father. I know I will be an asset to whatever school I work with.
(1) An “intrapreneur” creates and adds value within an organization through the analysis and the development of new systems (Yong Zhao, in person, 2013)