Kindred Spirits

When I originally applied for the Fulbright, I had asked to be hosted with the Department of Didactics and Media in Education at Nicolaus Copernicus University, because in our past experience working together we had recognized that we had many common interests. My goal and my hope has always been the establishment of a lasting collaboration and partnership in whatever form that might take. However, working at a distance proved challenging,  Part of the challenge was due to language, but part was also a lack of understanding about our relative government and university systems. To this end, I have spent quite a bit of time learning about the Polish university system, policies, practices, trends in pre-service teacher training and about educational technology in particular.

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That’s me observing Technologie Informacyjne Konversatorium course in General Pedagogy at UMK.

My friends and colleagues here have been very generous with their time and in providing opportunities for me to visit classrooms. Undergraduate Pedagogy students at Nicolaus Copernicus all take a general curriculum which prepares them to teach. Included in that curriculum is a course in Information Technology, which is an introductory course similar to the course we offer at Boise State for our pre-service teachers.

The course covers the basic MS Office suite of tools in an educational context.  It is technically classified as a “Konwersatorium” course which means that the course combines both a lecture/discussion and practical hands-on experience. Similar to a lab/lecture course in the U.S.

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Dr. Malgorzata Skibinska demonstrating how to alter an image in MS Word.

Dr. Marlgorzata Skibinska teaches the Information Technology course for pre-service teachers and I have visited her class a couple of times. When I visited, the students were beginning a new project to gain experience in using the tools and features in MS Word. In the photo on the left, she is instructing students to create a tutorial in Word on how to make a Christmas ornament of their choice. The instructions must be original and of course there are specific requirements about the features required to create the document in Word. Students actually build the ornaments and these are then sold and the money is donated to a local children’s charity.

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Students in the Technologie Informacyjne course (Aleksandra and Blanka with Dr. Dorota Siemieniecka).

I have also had the opportunity to observe several courses in the new University Centre for Modern Teaching Technologies. I observed a course on Computer Diagnostics and Pedagogical Therapy taught by Dr. Dorota Siemieneicka and watched students give presentations on various digital diagnostic tools for learners with disabilities. Another course on Interactive Digital Media taught by Dr. Agnieszka Sieminska-Losko, was taught to third year students on using Flash technologies to design and create multimedia diagnostic tools. The majority of content for this course was housed in Moodle.

In a tour of the Center by the director, Maciej Pańka, I learned that it is one of the most technologically advanced centers in Poland. In addition to supporting faculty in the use of technology for teaching and learning, the Center houses a state of the art video recording studio and NCU TV. (They will actually be recording one of my upcoming lectures.)

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Tutorial in Moodle for students in Interactive Digital Media course.
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Classroom in the Centre for Modern Teaching Technologies.

I have always believed that we were more alike than different and my experiences thus far have proven this to be true. I have found kindred spirits in the Department of Didactics and Media in Education and the new Centre for Modern Teaching Technologies here at Nicolaus Copernicus University. The goal now is to capitalize on these similarities and our willingness to find a fit for our mutual interests. Where it will lead is anybody’s guess but I’m happy to say that we have plans to collaborate on a text exploring the evolution of educational technology in the U.S. and in Poland which we hope will provide a solid foundation to move forward with other plans. These include discussion around a faculty/student exchange, a blended/online course exchange, and perhaps a dual degree program is in our future.

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