Monday, June 20, 2011

Profile Questions

I recently submitted a job application. The fields were limited to 1000 characters, so I had to truncate my answers. Below is the full text.

What is your greatest achievement to date and why do you regard it as such? *

Professionally my greatest achievement has been serving as the technology director for the NESA Virtual Science Fair (NVSF). This is a project that spans international schools around the world for students in Grade 5 and Middle School. The project uses pre-service science educators as mentors for science fair projects, effectively outsourcing the management of the science fair projects to these teachers in training. The pre-service teachers learn how to interact and guide Middle School science learners. As the technology director for this project, I’ve been responsible for training the local site coordinators, adapting the project to the available technologies, and troubleshooting the annual running of the project. This has involved originally setting up the project within the BlackBoard Learning Management System (LMS), adding wikis and blogs from a third party provider, and then transitioning the project this past year to the Moodle LMS. In collaboration with the local site coordinators, the templates used in the project have been continually reviewed and revised so that the technology is making life easier for the classroom teachers, and they are more easily able to manage the interactions between their students and their students’ mentors. I believe in this project because student learning is improved from the regular attention of one pre-service teacher, and it allows teachers to see an accessible and beneficial use of technology. The technology provides an easy entry pathway for teachers that improves student learning. Participating in this project has continually pushed me to learn and explore new things, finding the limits of different LMS’s, finding new ways to instruct teachers (both in person, and on-line video tutorials), and mastering new technologies like the web-based programming languages of php and Zoho’s Deluge. Like my work as a technology integrator it has been about adapting the right technology to improve student learning, rather than adapting technology for its own sake. The technology director of the NVSF is largely a background role, but it has been a key component of the project’s ongoing success.

My greatest personal achievement is my fifteen-year (and counting) marriage, and the two children that we are currently raising. Both are very much works in progress that require daily attention, but they are ultimately that which counts the most in my life.

Describe yourself in the words of an imaginary, fair and impartial critic. *

I believe in the nobility of the teaching profession. I believe in giving students as many opportunities as possible to demonstrate their understanding of the material. I prefer hands on experimentation to direct instruction. I believe in mastery learning so my assessments don’t always fall easily into summative and formative categories. I am passionate about students using technology in novel ways that will allow them to showcase their mastery of content. I am always eager to explore new technologies and their applications to education. I am patient with people who do not possess the same aptitude towards technology that I have. If a teacher is willing to try something new, I will work hard to make sure that they encounter success in adopting a new technological skill to their repertoire.

I listen to teachers’ needs, and try to collaboratively help them craft a solution that will help them simplify their processes. For example I worked extensively this past year with a Spanish teacher to migrate rote assessments of vocabulary and grammar to an online format. This automated her grading and allowed her to spend more time developing in depth assessments of skills that were higher on Bloom’s taxonomy than that of recall. Her successes spread to the rest of the Spanish department as they all started to use these on-line quizzes as formative assessments. This was applicable to second language learning, but is less so to the sciences or even social sciences.

I work hard on providing meaningful professional development for the colleagues with whom I am privileged to work. I survey my colleagues to determine their needs and gaps and work to develop professional development opportunities that will meet their needs and the needs of the institution as mandated by the administration. This past year it took the form of adopting a new LMS in the form of Moodle and ensuring all of our faculty members possessed certain minimum competencies.

I believe that al students need to have opportunities to demonstrate their understandings. In the on-line course that I’ve taught with the Virtual High School this has meant that I have been flexible with students who have been travelling or even missed deadlines. I’ve been flexible and allowed the students enough chances to prove that they can master the material. This has even meant accepting work from students over the summer vacation, and then revising the student’s grade.

Why are you interested in a position with the Higher Colleges of Technology? (If you are an overseas applicant, why are you considering a career move to the Middle East, and to the United Arab Emirates in particular?) *

I am interested in contributing to teacher development in a more formalized role. As a technology integrator I currently work with teachers to help them use technology to implement their curricula. Part of that role is a responsibility for professional development. I would like to help shape pre-service teachers to better equip them to select and use the best technology to meet their learners’ needs. I believe that technology is an amplifier. It makes good teaching exceptional, but it can also make bad teaching horrendous. Having lived in the Middle East for 13 years, I believe that the UAE is poised to transform its educational system beyond rote learning to life-long learning.