Sumaya Hanafi graduated with her degree in developmental psychology in spring of 2021 while pursuing a minor in Learning Technologies; now she’s pursuing her MEd in Learning Technologies. We caught up with her to talk about what motivated her to pursue these intensive studies, and she shared her experiences with shifting her academic career entirely online.
Your major is onsite, and then you're doing an online minor. What's your main focus for your major?
Developmental psychology. I'm taking the bachelor of science through the College of Liberal Arts. It’s a little bit complicated because the graduate programs for developmental psychology are offered through CEHD but the undergraduate program is through CLA.
You're also pursuing a minor in Learning Technologies. How does that fit with your bachelor of science?
When I transferred to the University of Minnesota, I was interested in learning about how children and youth learn, and how to create meaningful learning experiences. I thought if I learned about developmental psychology, I could be better in helping children learn. But I was also interested in technology and education, and I've had various volunteering experiences. All this made me more interested in creating learning experiences with technology.
Can you talk a bit about your volunteering experiences?
When I was in high school, I volunteered in a third grade classroom. From this experience, I realized that education can't be one-size-fits-all. It would be helpful if it was more personalized. That made me think about what needs to be changed in education. Also, my mother majored in child development and she trains educators and parents through workshops. This increased my interest in the field of child development.
Are the learning technologies courses available on-site, or is this only an online minor?
Most of the classes are online, but some of the electives would have been in person. Because of the pandemic, everything's online. What interested me about technology for education was that I was a member of a Best Buy Teen Tech Center. It's a program that gives youth access to a lot of creative technologies. I was really interested in what you can do with technology, using it creatively and for learning.
Another thing that increased my interest, particularly in online education, was that I graduated from an online high school: Minnesota Connections Academy. So I did experience what it was like, even as a high school student, to take online classes and what a curriculum can look like when it's designed for online. Because of the pandemic, the rush to translate courses online showed there's something different about courses when they're designed to be online.
I'll say my experience with the learning technologies courses was really positive. I became more comfortable with presenting online, as well as working effectively in a group.
The Learning Technologies minor was intended to be delivered online, so they have more experience with delivering these classes. How would you describe how your classes worked?
I started my first semester at the University of Minnesota with learning technologies courses. They were some of the most interesting classes I've taken—not just in college, but in my whole educational experience. One of the classes was about social media and learning, and it was very interesting to me because we were using social media to complete assignments. We understood why we were doing it, and the class felt very flexible.
I've learned how to use a lot of digital media, like Adobe Spark to create videos and websites, and how to use Twitter as a professional networking tool. I was looking at these technologies in a different way. We may be familiar with them, but we may not know how to use them effectively. That was very interesting to me.
What was it like working with your professors and classmates online? Were you able to collaborate?
One of the classes I took was about user experience and design, which was a new subject to me. I did a couple of group projects and it was a positive experience. I also became more comfortable with presenting as part of a group in Zoom.
My professors were easy to contact. If I had a question, I usually just emailed them or asked them during the last few minutes of Zoom meetings. The professors addressed these questions with the class so it benefited us all. My professors also had office hours.
You talked about user experience and design. What's another course that stuck out to you in Learning Technologies?
I'm taking my last class this semester, about video games in society. It's an interesting class because I haven't analyzed video games before. The class covers different types of video games, how music is used in video games, how the graphics tell a story, and how gamification turns everyday experiences into games. You know the piano stairs in the Science Museum of Minnesota? That's an example of gamification, where the goal is to get people to exercise.
Do you have a career goal or a dream job in mind?
My ideal job would be to use technology to design educational content that's developmentally appropriate for children and youth. I’m thinking of fields like instructional design or even educational video games.
One really interesting thing I learned in the core courses from the Learning Technologies minor is connected learning theory: combining the interests of a person with opportunities and activities to make learning experiences meaningful to them. For example, let's say a teen is interested in BTS and they're writing fanfiction about them. Through this activity, they are also developing their writing skills.
Is there anything else you'd like to add about the Learning Technologies minor?
I feel lucky that I found this minor. However, I noticed not a lot of people have not heard of this minor before. I think if more people knew it existed, more people would take these classes. Learning Technologies is very relevant, and complements many majors. It's worth checking out!