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Can the Education Profession Teach Social Workers Innovation with Technology

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by Deona Hooper, MSW

Education Technology Consultant, Margaret Powers, spared some time to do an interview for SWH on the advances the education field is making in incorporating technology in the classroom. Margaret is also working on a google glass project in which she will tell us about in the Socialworkhelper Live Twitter Chat scheduled for April 15th at 8PM EST. Margaret frequently shares technology lessons designed for educational professionals on her blog located at http://margaret-powers.com/.  Margaret is a regular contributor for SWH, and she will be passing on her learning here also.

SWH: Tell me a bit about your background and your current work?

Margaret PowersMargaret: I have always been intrigued by learning so studying psychology and education felt like a natural fit for me in college. Since my mother works with young children I was also exposed to the importance and value of early childhood education from a young age and decided to make that my focus. I studied in Reggio Emilia, Italy, the birthplace of the Reggio Emilia Approach to early care and education and while there, realized how vital it was for educators around the global to share and exchange pedagogical practices so that we could all learn from one another. After receiving my B.A. from Bryn Mawr College, to deepen my knowledge and experience with international education, I went to get a Master’s in International Training and Education from American University.

Starting in high school I began to gravitate towards technology and as I started to formally study education and travel abroad, I realized its power in connecting people around the world. With that in mind, I have explored ways technology can be integrated in education, particularly to deepen learning experiences and facilitate global collaboration. This work led me to my current position as a Lower School Tech Coordinator, where I am able to bring my three passions: early childhood education, global education, and educational technology together. I work with students and teachers in Pre-K to 2nd grade, helping teachers integrate technology in developmentally appropriate and meaningful ways and helping students learn to see technology as a tool for creation, communication, and global collaboration.

SWH: What is ETMOCC, and how is it useful in combining technology and education?

ETMOOC is a massive open online course (MOOC) focused on educational technology. It was created by a group of “conspirators” or people working in the fields of technology and education who dedicated over 11 weeks to facilitate and support over 1400 students in exploring new tools and topics while building a network of co-learners. ETMOOC did a great job in having practical, “hands-on” prompts encouraging participants to try new tools and learn new technologies (e.g., creating a GIF) while also inviting participants to think about how these technologies can, should, and do integrate with or affect education today. For example, Audrey Watters, the writer of the blog Hack Education, spoke about digital literacy and data ownership. If you are looking to think critically about how technology and education intersect while also learning some new tools and joining a community of practitioners and researchers, I would recommend participating in ETMOOC next time it’s offered.

SWH: How does technology help you to be more effective in education?

Margaret: I believe technology can help me to be more effective, as well as more innovative in my work in education, as long as it’s used in meaningful ways. For example, by using technology, I can help my students see an animal species that is not local to our community in real-time or I can have my students Skype with a class in a region they are studying but could never travel to on a field trip. These activities bring new ideas and concepts to life by helping students experience them beyond just hearing or reading about them.

I would also argue that technology is an invaluable asset in helping me be a more innovative educator, primarily because it allows me to be connected to an almost endless community of experts and co-learners. Through mediums like Twitter, I am constantly learning about new tech tools, pedagogical practices, and ways of integrating technology into the classroom. I am also connected to a network that can help me solve problems and provide suggestions when I’m trying to start a global collaborative project with my students or explore a new resource. Without technology, I would be exposed to many fewer ideas and experts.

SWH: How has blogging and social media helped you to carve yourself out as an expert in your field?

Margaret: Blogging and social media can both be instrumental in helping you to share your expertise with others in your field. Both mediums allow people to more easily access your knowledge and therefore identify what areas you are knowledgable about. They can also facilitate connections between you and other people looking to learn about topics that you know. Blogging is particularly useful for sharing more in-depth reflections or information about a specific topic while social media seems more suited to conversations, sharing links to your material, and building connections with others. By sharing your blog posts on social media, you can draw people to that space and share your thoughts or expertise about a specific topic and then others can spread the word about that post, helping to increase the number of people who know about your expertise. Digital “word of mouth” is very powerful so using both blogging and social media, your identity as an expert can grow as people share from one person to another.

SWH: What are your aspirations for yourself and how would you like to see ETMOOC impact education?

Margaret: My own aspirations include working to increase my own knowledge of growing trends within the education and technology fields, such as the Maker Movement and the push to integrate computational thinking in our schools. I seek to be an innovator who is willing to try new technologies (e.g., Google Glass) and pedagogical approaches in order to constantly grow as a teacher and learner and model for students and teachers the importance of exploration, adaptation, and reflection today’s world. I also hope to continue making connections around the world with other technologists and educators who are dedicated to improving the ways in which we all teach and learn. I would like to see opportunities like ETMOOC grow so that more people can have access to that type of self-paced, personalized learning, centered around a supportive community. I believe ETMOOC offers a model to other MOOCs and traditional courses for how people from diverse background and with different learning goals can come together to exchange ideas, push each others’ thinking, and build meaningful relationships. I hope it is a model that is taken up by others in the field of education.

Deona Hooper, MSW is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Social Work Helper, and she has experience in nonprofit communications, tech development and social media consulting. Deona has a Masters in Social Work with a concentration in Management and Community Practice as well as a Certificate in Nonprofit Management both from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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