Dr. Ya-Huei Lu
1. What were 2-3 of your most important learning experiences? Why were they so important?
One of my most important learning experiences was learning English during summer camps in Cambridge, England. Even though I started learning English when I was 8 years old in Taiwan, there were not many opportunities for me to communicate with native speakers. My parents decided to send me to these summer camps for two summers during my junior and senior year in high school. These experiences were so important to me because they really opened my eyes and helped me learn how to communicate with native English speakers without the fear of making mistakes.
Another important learning experience I had was learning to teach American undergraduates. Before entering my doctoral program at Indiana University, Bloomington in 2011 and working as an instructor teaching preservice teachers, I had never had any experience teaching college students. This experience was so important to me because it completely changed my career goal from being a teacher to wanting to become a “teacher of teachers”.
2. What were 2-3 of your favorite learning experiences?
The two most important learning experiences I discussed before, were also my favorite learning experiences. Learning English can be very challenging and boring if that learning is not also connected to real life experiences. Luckily, my parents sent me to Cambridge summer camps which really helped expand my ways of learning English. Speaking English with native speakers made the learning more authentic, and I was able to learn better through these types of real-world experiences.
Learning to be a “teacher of teachers” was also one of my favorite learning experience. The experience of working with preservice teachers and helping them learn to teach has been very rewarding for me. As a teacher of teachers, I wanted my students to enjoy learning about new technology, even though this process can be challenging at times. Therefore, it has always been very important for me to make students feel like they can succeed in my classroom, and also to turn those feelings of confidence into knowledge they can apply to their teaching practices in the future.
3. What was the purpose of your doctoral dissertation? What data did you collect to answer the research questions or address the hypotheses? What are the key results and implications of your research?
The purpose of my doctoral dissertation was to gain a better understanding of how a beginning elementary teacher conceptualized technology integration and the degree to which technology can be infused in her pedagogy during her first two years of teaching. The research questions were addressed through an intrinsic case study design. I collected data from multiple interviews with the teacher, classroom observations, and documents, such as lesson plans, class materials, sources related to the observed lessons, and the school website.
I found that the teacher’s beliefs and practices about technology were heavily influenced by the external factors such as school culture and resources, mentor, and classroom setting. This implies that in addition to making sure teachers and students have access to technology, it is vitally important to create a school culture where beginning teachers can learn to select and utilize the technology that matches their students’ needs.
4. Through research, what do you want to discover next?
My research, teaching, and service are mutually supportive of my scholarly goal: to help teachers effectively use educational technology to support teaching and learning. This research interest began after my initial experience teaching in the teacher education program. I spent five years teaching introductory technology courses, as well as supervising student teachers. I watched them experience success with technology when they were in their teacher education program, but then witnessed their struggles with technology integration when they needed to apply what they learned in their student teaching. Therefore, I want to find ways to support these beginning teachers and help them discover and integrate technology into various subject areas, to foster learning, and to prepare students for their future.
5. What excites you about teacher preparation?
As stated before, I really enjoy being a “teacher of teachers” because it allows me to collaborate with different groups of educators. I recognize that the trajectory of becoming a teacher is a complex, challenging, and overwhelming experience. I consider my role as a teacher educator to plant seeds of interest and confidence in using technology in the classroom. I have been helping to plant and sprout these seeds with promising future teachers for the past five years. I plan to continue to devote myself to teacher education and I enjoy watching my students grow and become tech-savvy teachers.
6. What should all teachers know about instructional technology?
Teachers should know that instructional technology is a tool, like pencils, papers, and boards in the classroom. Technology is also a catalyst for pedagogical change. Technology in the classroom is not going to replace a teacher. It is a tool that teachers can use to expand students’ authentic, real-world learning experiences.
7. What differences do you find between Greenville, NC, and Taipei, Taiwan? What do you regard as favorable about each city?
Living in Greenville, NC and Taipei, Taiwan are totally different experiences. Here are some of the main differences. First, Taipei is the national capital of Taiwan, and it has an estimated population of 2.7 million people. Therefore, as you can imagine, it is very busy and crowded, whereas things are much calmer and slower in Greenville. Second, the cost of a house is way too high in Taipei; it has one of the most expensive housing prices in the world. If I worked as a professor in Taipei, I could not afford to buy an apartment. Living quality is so much better and more comfortable in Greenville; indeed, there are many beautiful and affordable houses around the city. Third, traffic in Taipei is so congested and people can’t afford to buy a parking space in the city, so Taipei has one of the best Mass Rapid Transit systems (MRT) which you can take anywhere you want to go. In Greenville, you get around with your own car without worrying about finding a parking space. Fourth, you can get almost any service you need in a convenience store at every corner in Taipei (and almost every city in Taiwan). The things you can do at convenience stores in Taiwan are not simply the “in and out” shopping you are accustomed to in Greenville. Not only can you get the most basic items of necessity alongside snacks and beverages, you can also get your phone and gas bills paid, as well as purchase a variety of tickets (e.g. train tickets, concert tickets). Convenience stores in Taiwan also serve as secondary postal stations, acting as repositories for packages of goods purchased online. In Greenville, or I should say in the U.S., you get almost all the services online without many travels. Lastly, since there are different night markets located in each district in Taipei, you can get vendor food from night markets. These vendor foods are cheap, clean and super yummy!
I actually love living in both cities. I can’t really tell which one I like better, especially since I have only been living in Greenville since last July. My favorite part about living in Greenville is that it is a friendly and laid-back place. I am not a city person, even though I grew up in a big city. People here are super nice to each other and I enjoy being a part of a genuine community. It is really weird and hard to start a conversation with strangers when living in a big city like Taipei. I also really enjoy having lots of space, trees and fresh air, which I never had when I lived in a big city.
The thing I miss the most about living in Taipei is how convenient it is. As I mentioned before, you can easily get anything you need from a convenience store nearby your house or get food from a night market, even after midnight. I miss the times when I could just walk for a couple minutes, when hungry, to get yummy foods from a convenience store or a night market, even after midnight. Another thing I miss are the hot springs in Taipei. I especially miss them during the winter!