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Technology For Good: Stewart Jones, TIE'18

The Intellectual Contribution Award recipient for Technology, Innovation, and Education, reflects on her time at HGSE and looks toward the future.

Stewart JonesFor Stewart Jones, enrolling at the Ed School’s Technology, Innovation, and Education (TIE) Program was an opportunity to learn all that she possibly could about the ways technology is used in education. But the lessons that she is leaving with encompass so much more.

“I have learned that understanding simply how technology works is not enough,” Jones says. “Knowing how to strategically scale (or not) and design interventions tailored to local contexts is far more critical than simply understanding how to build an app or an augmented reality game.”

Now the Phoenix native is primed for a career that not just produces technology, but also harnesses technology to work toward greater goals.

“I hope to spend my career working at the intersection of technology and government, championing efforts that use technology for good – making education, healthcare, and civic engagement more accessible regardless of socio-economic status or physical location,” she says.

This drive toward and commitment to the greater good was something on full display during her year at HGSE and was recognized by her cohort.

“Stewart is totally engaged both in our classes and in the co-curricular life of TIE, always volunteering to help on committees, participate in special events, and welcome potential applicants,” says Senior Lecturer Joe Blatt, faculty director of TIE, sharing that peers called Jones dynamic, a leader, insightful, and thoughtful when nominating her for this year’s award. “Serious study, ready empathy, and relentlessly cheery disposition are qualities we highly value in TIE, and Stewart clearly demonstrates them every day in every interaction.”

Jones will receive the Intellectual Contribution Award for TIE at Convocation on May 23. Here, Jones reflects on her year at HGSE and looks at her future in education.

The number one, biggest surprise of the last year was …
I came into this school year expecting to learn about MOOCs, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence — and don’t get me wrong, I certainly did. What I didn’t expect was how much I would learn about change. At its core, innovation means change. Most people experience a natural aversion to change that drives the choices they make and mindsets they cultivate. Fear of change influences behavior from the policy level down to the classroom. While some apprehension can be positive, it can also hinder progress at a time when our efforts in education, domestically and internationally, demand that change.

What is something that you learned at HGSE that you will take with you throughout your career in education?
Something that has been reinforced during my time at HGSE is that you should always stop to ask, “Wait, what?” when something doesn’t make sense or seem logical. Perhaps that seems obvious, but so often I accept something as “just the way it is” but don’t dig deeper to understand why. Taking the time to question the status quo is the first step in beginning to change it. 

Is there any professor or class that significantly shaped your experience at the Ed School?
All of my courses at HGSE challenged me and inspired me, often unintentionally weaving together so seamlessly that one topic would end only to pick up in my next class later that week. That said, amongst all of the exceptional courses and the incredible faculty from whom I had the opportunity to learn, Professor Monica Higgins’ course, Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and Learning, is one that will stick to my ribs for many years. The class, and Dr. Higgins, deepened my understanding of the complexities of working in education. The course’s case study-based approach challenged me to place myself in the leadership position, play out different scenarios, and build my confidence in navigating complex decisions as well as working with teams to find creative solutions. Dr. Higgins questioned my assumptions, pushed my thinking, and encouraged reflection on my own leadership strengths and weaknesses in ways that will positively impact my actions and decision-making in the future.

What advice do you have for next year’s students going through your program?
Say yes. Say yes to the opportunities that cross your path while at HGSE. Yes to coffee, yes to that hackathon, yes to auditioning for DoubleTake, yes to helping a friend with their study for a class. Some of the most rewarding moments I’ve had this year came from saying yes, even if I was tired or stressed or didn’t have the time. Your time here is limited and saying yes is the best thing you can do to ensure you make the most of each day.

If you could transport one person/place/thing from HGSE and/or Cambridge to your next destination, what would it be?
All of the people. As I look toward the future one of the hardest parts is recognizing that the members of this community are all headed in different directions. My time at HGSE has been exponentially enhanced by the strong bonds I’ve formed with my peers here and will certainly be the aspect of this experience that I miss the most. 

Oh, and Chef Matt’s toffee cookies. I’d like to take a lifetime supply of those as well.

Learn more about the Intellectual Contribution Award and read about all of this year's recipients.