CIRCL perspectives offer a window into the different worlds of various stakeholders in the cyberlearning community — what drives their work, what they need to be successful, and what they think the community should be doing. Share your perspective.
Pati Ruiz is an Ed.D. student in Learning Technologies at Pepperdine University. She has 12 years of experience teaching Spanish and computer science. Pati recently moved to New York City, and is a computer science teacher and Dean of Studies at Convent of the Sacred Heart (CSHNYC).
How did you get started in cyberlearning?
Judi Fusco was one of my professors at Pepperdine and taught my first course in learning sciences. She introduced our class to cyberlearning and we spent time exploring what cyberlearning is all about.
My academic background is in computer science in business, specializing in Operations Management and Information Systems (OMIS) at Santa Clara University, but in my junior year of undergrad, I started doing a lot of volunteer work, which sparked my interest in education. Through my volunteering, I helped to retrofit an old school bus. We put a generator in it, and put desktop computers in it, rebuilding with shelves along the side. At that point it was 2002 and many of the public schools in San Jose and Santa Clara didn’t have computers, so we would take our mobile computer lab out to schools. We worked mostly with elementary school students and teachers. That experience got me really excited about education and how computers can play a role in learning for students.
After my junior year, I took over the program and became the director of the Service Learning group for my OMIS major. I ended up doing a lot of outreach. Since there wasn’t a certification to teach computer science at the time, and I knew I wanted to be in the classroom, I decided to minor in Spanish to complete the Spanish teaching credential content requirements. I applied for the AmeriCorps program at Nativity School in San Jose, which is where I started teaching and started working on my credential.
What do you share with teachers who are interested in Cyberlearning?
I find that having conversations with teachers is the best way to expose them to cyberlearning ideas. I think it’s hard to encourage teachers to take a look at the resources in a way that I might, unless they are very interested already. I take more of a coaching approach and a conversational approach with teachers that I work with. When I’m working one-on-one with teachers, I’m more likely to share a story and get them interested through sharing my own experiences, or connecting them, if they are having a particular interest, to a specific cyberlearning project that I think would benefit them. I do my best to talk about my experiences, especially having gone to the Cyberlearning 2016 (CL16) conference in DC. Also, I like just sharing the resources that I’ve been exposed to, like the NSF video showcase. I’ll tweet those out as links to my online professional development community. When I’m teaching, I will share links directly to the different cyberlearning websites.
How do you think the Cyberlearning community can stay connected to teachers?
The Buddies Program at the CL16 conference was a really effective way to get some of us practitioners at the same table with researchers in the cyberlearning community. I know I definitely learned a lot from those researchers, and I hope that they also learned something from those of us who are practitioners and are working in the classroom. Having time at a face-to-face meeting to have a conversation, ask questions, and bounce ideas off of was very valuable. At CL16, researchers had access to practitioners to figure out what types of teacher communities might be interested in their specific project. It was a great way to bring those two communities together!
I also served as a facilitator for the NSF 2016 Video Showcase: Advancing STEM Learning for All, where researchers shared their project and practitioners had the opportunity to comment on the videos. There were a couple projects I was particularly interested in, and I wrote a blog post about them for circleducators.org that I hope will be helpful to teachers intererest in broadening participation and engaging all learners in STEM topics.
In addition, I was really excited by embodied learning, such as using gesture for learning science concepts (see my blog post about this). Having students use body movements and eventually being able to track those body movements and see how all of that can be applied to fulfilling learning objectives was really exciting! Another topic I enjoyed learning about is how virtual reality can used for students with learning differences or students who need a different type of learning experience, and more generally, using Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to help diverse learners. I think it’s important to apply these lessons to all populations, ensuring that materials are accessible. In my computer science class, for example, we talk about what types of colors and what types of considerations we should have for diverse users when programming a website. Those are really important conversations.
What are you thinking about right now?
I am thinking about supporting teachers. I want to share so much of the work that’s being done in cyberlearning, and am trying to find a way to get others interested without being that one crazy person advocating for it. I want to help teachers use the tools that they have available because I find that doesn’t always happen. The resources and tools that some educators have been using for awhile aren’t being used as effectively as they could be used by other educators.
I am also thinking about students. I am teaching a Computer Science 1 course in the fall at my all-girls school. I am thinking about whether their needs are different than my previous co-ed classes. I’d like to expose my students to the many great women in computer science. The young women I have worked with are interested in having conversations about social media; I want to talk about the technology that they’re using, and then have them go behind the curtain to figure out how it’s done. I’m curious to learn more about what recent female computer science majors might recommend to a high school CS teacher like me in terms of teaching strategies, activities, and events; this is what my dissertation research will focus on.
Lastly, I am thinking about using technology to manage student records. As Dean of Studies, I am managing all of our students’ records and in my capstone project I thought about the application of the blockchain to support learners and store their records of learning. This means thinking about the digitization of student records and student ownership and agency in the process to see if there can be more engagement with those records rather than what we’ve seen traditionally where institutions are in control of those records. The project that I proposed for my capstone is combining the work done for digital badges, blockchain, and open API, with the addition of a digital portfolio and metacognitive reflective component. That’s imagining 5-10 years in the future, but I’m thinking about how to do that with student records, here and now. So I’ve been thinking about digitizing records, and how students can access those records, and how can I support them in creating a digital portfolio system at schools where one doesn’t currently exist.