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Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award Recipient: Chris Spence, TIE'08

Chris Spence

When asked why he came to the Ed School, Chris Spence, Ed.M.'08, of Medway, Mass., simply replied, "Because it rocks." A former high school biology teacher, Spence has remained a teacher while he studied in the Technology, Innovation, and Education (TIE) Program.

"Chris has generously given his time and expertise to classmates -- leading a Saturday morning workshop on software skills, serving both formally and informally as teaching assistant in several TIE courses -- while doing excellent work of his own," said TIE Program Director and Lecturer Joe Blatt. "He's smart, humble, and ready to help lead new advances in technology for education."

Upon being honored with the Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award for the TIE Program, Spence took some time to answer questions about his time at the Ed School.

How did you stay inspired throughout the year?

It's not hard at this place. It seems like the hallmark of any Harvard school or program is the exceptional student community. Each member of my program, and those from others that I've been fortunate to know, has been inspirational in many different ways. I suppose that, if I have to choose one source of inspiration, [my classmate] Logan Smalley's story about Darius Weems (as featured in his documentary, Darius Goes West) shaped my Harvard experience most dramatically. If nothing else, it got me dancing (on the Ellen Degeneres show no less).

What's next for you? In June, I will be working with my classmates, Rosalie Fay Barnes and Marisa Segel, at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society developing some web components in conjunction with their work. Beyond that, I'm still deciding between a few different options, the most enticing of which is starting an educational media production business with Marisa and Logan. I would also like to begin introducing a project that I have worked on with a number of other classmates, called iSchoolPD, to local public schools. Basically, it a video-based, professional development web service that teaches educators how to use Web 2.0 technologies to meet the needs of diverse learners. I have been working on this with Logan, Marisa, Rachel Griffin, Valerie Belmonte, and Satsuki Kawasumi over the course of the last semester and am really excited about it.

What is something that you learned at HGSE that you will take with you throughout your career in education? In the course Universal Design for Learning, [Lecturer] David Rose and [Adjunct Lecturer] Bart Pisha described how innovation happens at the "margins." Specifically, we learned that a curriculum designed to support the needs of certain students can open up new and valuable learning opportunities for everyone. Because I see myself as something of an innovator, I hope to always be conscientious about not attempting to develop one-size-fits-all solutions for the classroom. The curb cut for wheelchair accessibility was not meant for everyone, but look how many people take advantage of it (moms with carriages, cyclists, elderly folks etc.). I think that this principle has helped me refine and guide my thinking about development and implementation of innovative educational technology, and I don't think I'll ever forget it.

Is there any professor who significantly shaped your experience at the Ed School? Again, it's impossible to pick one here, because each of the seven professors that I worked with during the course of the year was excellent. Barry Fishman (T529) pushed me to rigorously evaluate my own perception and understanding of educational technology. I think a lot of us come to TIE with a very idealistic notion of technology's contribution to learning. Barry's class really made me stop and think: Wait a minute...maybe I'm missing something. That's not easy to do, so kudos to Barry.

Any advice for next year's TIE students? If you wish to become the most popular person in the library, or at least want to meet some new and interesting people, carry a power cord extension with multiple outlets at all times. It also helps to wear a Harvard visor and hoodie every day; people will immediately assume that you're cool and will celebrate your attire by having a dress-like-you day. Next to this award, TIE's celebration of "Dress Like a Champion" day on May 5th, organized by the notorious Juan Blanco, was my greatest honor. (I gave it this name because it seemed appropriate, though I'm not entirely sure what everyone else called it. Probably something similar.)

2008 Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award Recipients

Lizzie Adelman, IEP'08

Armida Liz√°rraga, L&L'08

Tim O'Brien, L&T'08

Alice Anderson, HDP'08

Robin Basu Roy, SS'08

Mark Robertson, HEP'08

Steffie van der Steen, MBE '08

Myosha McAfee, EPM '08

Antonio "TJ" Martinez, SLP '08

Arzu Mistry, AIE'08

Emmett Cartwright, TEP'08

Mariana Zamboni, R&P'08

Chris Spence, TIE'08