This month Yvette Drager, Senior Education Consultant (Asia Pacific), Global Client Experience with Blackboard challenges us to think about what happens when technology and creativity collide. She shares with us her view on where the virtual world will take education in the years to come while encouraging a new generation of thought around STEM.
Q: How did you find yourself working in the EdTech sector, was it always an area of interest?
My background, ironically, has nothing to do with technology, in fact it was solely in the creative fields of film, television and theatre where my career first started. That’s not to say I’m not an educationist, I formally trained as a drama teacher which has allowed me to enter the EdTech world from a very different mind space than the average technical person and have continued with post graduate work in the study of EdTech. My first foray into technology and technology assisted training was when asked by one of the large TAFE (Technical and Further Education) colleges in Perth to do some online lecturing which then led to a role as an in-house mentor for TAFE lecturers before more extensive roles for the Department of Training and Workforce Development (DTWD). The constant in these roles has been technology to enhance training for the vocational education training sector. It’s wonderful to now sit on the other side of the fence knowing I can offer firsthand experience to Blackboard and still support all the incredible work being done by those within the sector.
Q: What motivates you and how do you define success?
To be a good role model is what motivates me. To personally strive to be the best at all I turn my hand to and demonstrate to my daughter and to other young people that they can achieve anything. For me, success is also being a good parent, wife and friend, someone who can be depended on. Professional success is being good at my job, willing to share knowledge, to lift others when times are tough and to shine the light on people. It’s so important to not claim to be the architect of something that you’re not, instead, applaud and celebrate that person’s moment. I’m a true believer of finding your passion, you’ll never work a day in your life if you’re passionate about your job and it is part of your bliss, this also leads to personal and professional success.
Q: What do you most enjoy about working with technology in the field of education?
Technology can certainly be used to supplement teaching, augment what you are doing as a facilitator, trainer, and lecturer. I don’t, however, feel technology needs to rule your life, yet there are times where you can leverage the affordances given to us from technology to make those lives better or easier. This year has been an example of where technology has been more critical than ever across the globe. Educators are operating in a new world, with the increase in digital online delivery of courses there has been a significant learning curve for most. Having spent most of this year supporting colleagues as they navigated online learning, it’s been fulfilling to assist them with being the architects of their organisation’s move to a new system, or as they rediscovered elements that could be used within their current system.
Q: How can schools, professional organisations and companies work together to empower women pursuing a career in STEM?
We need to consider viewing STEM not as a silo. It encroaches all areas of our lives and within education it is now across the whole curriculum. There is an opportunity for schools and organisations such as Blackboard to guide people to see STEM as more than just science, technology, engineering and maths. It encompasses the creative fields as well, and what excites me most is what happens when there is a collision between creativity and technology. We have so many wonderful women already working in the field of EdTech, it’s about opening doors to opportunities and for these women to offer advice to the younger generation. We should be empowering these young women, the next generation to think about and do things differently in the STEM space, hopefully in an imaginative way!
Q: What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve received?
A very simple piece of advice, own your mistakes and give credit where credit is due.
Q: What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career to date and what would you like to see in the next ten years?
My inner geek comes out when answering this question, if we look at Star Trek and think of how revolutionary this story has been in our lives – from the flip phone to the tablet used by Picard in ‘Next Generation’, even the sliding doors on the USS Enterprise, it was showcasing mobile technology before its time.
In my mind, the next big-ticket item is augmented reality, virtual reality and blended or mixed realities. Star Trek’s Holodeck is where people ultimately want to see this technology go and we are moving in that direction with virtual meetings, albeit in a slightly different way. The key is all about providing that ultimate immersive experience.
Q: Are there any family, colleagues, friends or people in the industry you particularly look up to or are inspired by?
In a year that has just kept on giving, it’s my daughter whom I draw inspiration from. This is her final year at school and no matter what challenge was thrown her way, and there have been quite a few, she has turned all of them into silver linings. As a theatre major, her course and assessment were forced in a different direction due to Covid19. Plans to study in England next year have also been hampered, yet she has accepted these setbacks, has found an online acting course through a UK university and is proudly living in the moment making the best of what she’s got. Not a bad life lesson to have learned from an 18-year-old!
Q: Is there a book, movie or podcast that you’ve found inspiring and would recommend?
There's a lovely little podcast called Afternoon Tea with Miss Patrice that I love. It follows the trials and tribulations of an elderly Australian teacher who was asked to ‘put on a show’ for her school. Each episode is a bite-sized ten minutes in length, an easy to digest comedic insight into the life of a drama teacher navigating administrative red tape and the many pitfalls in producing a theatrical masterpiece.