Rethinking the Very Nature of What It Means to be an Educator – George Saltsman, USA
When you are one of the pioneers of the 1:1 movement, it almost goes without saying that you would continue to lead the way in mobile and online learning. And Dr. George Saltsman, who helped design ACU Connected at Abilene Christian University – the world’s first 1:1 program providing all students and faculty with a smartphone as a platform for exploring advanced digital learning – is doing just that.
“Leading a revolution in learning through the use of information technology is our generation’s greatest opportunity,” says Saltsman. Today, as Associate Research Professor in the Center for Doctoral Studies in Global Educational Leadership at Lamar University, Saltsman is once again a forerunner in education transformation, especially as it relates to faculty development.
“For decades, teachers were both the conduit of information and the means to assess if that transfer of information was effective,” says Dr. Saltsman. “Today, our students have access to multiple sources of information and live in an increasingly complex world where one answer doesn’t fit all situations.”
And, according to Saltsman, the transition to using technology in the classroom in today’s digital world isn’t something that educators can just do. Educating the educator is just as important as educating today’s students.
“The teachers’ role transforms into helping students assess the information they find on their own and to helping them think critically about how to use that knowledge to produce products that solve the real-word problems in their life, community, and environment,” adds Saltsman. “That model of teaching is completely new for the millions of educators in the world who were taught in the old model. Making that transition from the old model to the new is not intuitive.”
To help address this, the Lamar University College of Education and Human Development recently announced a partnership with Microsoft to advance technology literacy for educators worldwide, while simultaneously providing a pathway to post-graduate certificate programs or a graduate degree in Digital Learning and Leading.
Beginning this year under Saltsman’s direction, educators who complete Microsoft’s Teaching with Technology professional development course and successfully pass the Microsoft Certified Educator exam will be eligible to receive three graduate credit-hours, and can earn three additional credit-hours through the demonstrated use of these technology skills in the classroom. Any teacher who earns all six credit-hours will receive recognition by Lamar University as a Certified Digital Educator in addition to becoming a Microsoft Certified Educator.
This innovative partnership is designed to provide educators with the competencies needed to deliver a rich learning experience for students, while acknowledging their professional development with graduate course-credits. A win-win for educators, and ultimately, for students.
Here’s today’s Daily Edventure with Dr. George Saltsman.
Please tell us the story of what inspired you to become an educator.
Being an educator was never my career goal. Growing up I wanted to be an engineer, programmer, or designer. I thought working in computer-aided design might be the best career path for me. I loved innovation and technology and growing up in the heart of the personal computer revolution provided so many opportunities to explore my interest. A PC became my playground for intellectual exploration.
During college, I began to realize I had a talent for helping others understand difficult concepts. I was very good at communicating, helping solve problems, and was soon offered a full-time technical management position at the university the year before graduation. Later, as I was completing my masters, Professor Charlie Marler approached me with a proposal to start teaching courses in a new Digital Media program at the university. Dr. Marler was an incredible mentor.
He was simultaneously the kindest and sweetest person you would ever meet, yet he also had an uncanny way of demanding nothing short of the best I could do, but never more. With Dr. Marler as my guide and mentor, I found my place in the university classroom and I never looked back. Education was not just what got me where I am, but it has become what I do.
What was a defining moment in your career when you felt proudest to be an educator?
Early in my career, I was working in Uganda with my good friend Edward Baliddawa. On a trip to the village outside Jinja where he grew up, Edward explained to me that he was the only one in his family to receive a formal education. All of his brothers and sisters worked to earn the money required to send him to school. That visit had a profound impact on me.
In much of the world, where education is needed the most, it is either simply not available or the system is so overloaded it becomes ineffective. Some think that the task of providing all the world’s children with access to a quality education is simply too great, but I see it another way. Information technology has now reached almost every person on the planet. The International Telecommunication Union now reports 6.8 billion devices in use and those devices are becoming increasing more powerful with each generation. I believe we can bring quality education to every person on the planet, if we embrace the power of technology to deliver it.
Why do you feel passionate about innovation and technology in the classroom?
Technology, at its most basic definition, is a tool. Throughout history, humans have used tools to do amazing things. We’ve decoded the human genome, sent people to live and work in space, and cured many of the world’s most terrifying diseases. Within our lifetime, we have witnessed the introduction of a technology so unprecedented, at a scale so broad, and a pace so quick, that scholars are simply unable to envision the full scope of the social significance this innovation will ultimately produce. Personal computing devices, and the global network they are connected to, have combined to become the single greatest invention humanity has ever experienced.
Of all industries, education holds the most potential for disruptive innovation from the invention of information technology and the global information we have created. After all, education is the only field centered exclusively on the transfer of information and the skills required to find, create, and utilize information. Not since the emergence of the printed book has the field of education experienced such opportunity for advancing the core product it produces.
What’s the biggest obstacle you or your country or region has had to overcome, or will have to overcome, to ensure a quality education for students?
The integration of information technology into education through the world is the largest challenge we face today as educators. The challenge isn’t in inventing the tools or methods. The tools exist, the methods exist, and they have been proven repeatedly to be effective. The challenge is reconstructing an educational system built in the absence of these tools, which requires nothing less than rethinking the very nature of what it means to be an educator.
What are you most excited about for the future? What is your biggest hope for today’s students?
Fortunately, some of the best minds on the planet are focused on helping teachers make the transition to using technology in the classroom. Using the collective knowledge of experts and organizations like UNESCO, Microsoft has developed an outstanding professional development program to assist educators around the world. I believe programs like Microsoft’s Teaching with Technology are the first step teachers can take toward making the transition to becoming truly effective digital educators. If we are to realize the potential of technology in education, we must begin with the teachers, and Teaching with Technology is a great place to start.
The goal of creating better digital educators is not unique to Microsoft. It is also shared by many educational organizations. I’m excited to be working with Lamar University to close the gaps between professional development, professional practice, and higher education. Beginning this spring, Lamar University and Microsoft are partnering to provide awarded full-graduate college credit to educators who complete Microsoft professional development and demonstrate successful use in the classroom. These graduate credits are eligible to be applied to a graduate certificate or diploma at Lamar University or other universities around the world.
My personal hope is that educators around the world will meet the challenge of revolutionizing formal education and will embrace the power of information technology in transforming it. The promise of providing a quality education for all, throughout the world, is monumental in scope but is one that must be kept. This is our moment and I am honored to be part of the millions of educators around the world who are making it a reality.
About George Saltsman
Associate Research Professor
- Blog URL: www.georgesaltsman.com
- Birthplace: Tacoma, Washington
- Educational background:
- B.S: Computer Science
- M.S.Organizational and Human Resource Development
- Ed.D Education Leadership
- Website I check every day: Engadget.com
- Favorite childhood memory: Backpacking through the San Juans in Colorado.
- Favorite book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: Microsoft Excel, I’m a numbers nerd.
- What is the best advice you have ever received? “If you don’t like something, change it.”