From the Professor: Kevin Popović
Most of us remember our days as a young student, sitting in a classroom, trying to follow along as a teacher delivered the lesson of the day. The more studious (typically) sat in the front, the more disruptive (typically) sat in the back. I was (typically) somewhere in the middle.
From the middle, I heard the studious talk about the lesson with the teacher—actually discussing what was in the book, what the teacher said, and what each student took away from it all. There seemed to be a greater level of engagement between the teacher and these students than those in the back. The lesser engaged were farther away in proximity—and of a different mindset. They would read about it later, they would talk about it later, and they asked questions of the teacher about the material later (sometime right before we would be tested on what we were supposed to have learned).
The technology in my early classrooms started with a chalkboard and chalk. On special occasions, a movie projector was used to share a 16mm educational film from PBS or a governmental agency. Mimeographs were used to replicate tests and came with a most unique smell of wet ink on paper.
When an oversized television was wheeled into my class to show a live moon landing, it captured the attention of every student, no matter where they sat. The addition of cable expanded the content available, as the number of channels expanded exponentially, in number and subject matter. Soon the oversized cart had an oversized video cassette player that enabled the teacher to share content outside of the broadcast schedule. Audio tape players, overhead transparencies, video projectors: from my moveable, self-contained, aluminum-frame desk, I could see the technology advancing.
The day the computer arrived in my classroom, so did computing-based lessons: information, applications, calculations. Things were getting interesting for those of us at our desks—and uncertain for those at the podium. Things were changing, and educators weren’t sure what would come next.
When it became my turn to take the podium, I remembered what I had seen from my desk: the introduction to technology, the evolution into what would be called “EdTech,” and the different ways different teachers had implemented it, for better or for worse. My early years teaching were obviously influenced by what I had experienced as a student but also from how I personally utilized technology for creativity, communications, and entertainment. The two were merging, whether I thought about it or not, into what my students saw from their desks.
Several years into my teaching career, the university added the Internet to the classroom. Access to the web had already become prevalent in the boardroom, but now it was becoming a more common part of the classroom, too. My library of resources was now much bigger than the brick-and-mortar institution on campus, and there really wasn’t much I could not bring into my lesson of the day. Text, audio, video, music, pictures, movies, graphics, drawings—most everything relevant to my classroom learning was available to my class, inside and out. My hand-coding of an HTML website provided 24-hour access to a syllabus, a schedule, class notes, and links to external resources. With the addition of an email address, I extended my office hours and opened a channel of communication most students had not experienced. The learning was not just confined to the classroom or to the 50 minutes three times a week prescribed by the State Board of Education.
As I expanded my experience, I expanded my learning—the basis of a curious mind. My doctoral studies in Instructional Technologies provided the framework for understanding that built upon my understanding of technology (M.S.) and helped me shape my process for application. Quite simply, this provided an explanation of what this really included from the technology space and how I, as an instructor, could leverage it all to improve my classroom.
I think this is what a sizeable portion of educators are looking for: a way to make their classrooms better. A way to better connect with their students who sometimes feel like they are a million miles away. Maybe this is a way we can meet them—somewhere in the middle—and improve our education.
Kevin Popović, B.A., M.S.