Monday, September 23, 2019

By Elianna Novitch

Clinical associate professor John Achrazoglou worked with more than 1,000 students and teachers in Pakistan teaching them the latest instructional technologies and internet tools and resources.

John Achrazoglou, a clinical associate professor and chief technology officer in the University of Iowa College of Education, was able to combine his passions for education and technology on his recent trip to Pakistan.

Over the course of a three-week period, Achrazoglou worked with more than 1,000 students and teachers across Pakistan where he trained teachers on the latest instructional technologies and helped students learn internet tools and resources to increase their English skills. These experiences were part of his English language specialist assignment through the U.S. Department of State.

The English Language Specialist Program is the premier opportunity for leaders in the field of teaching to enact sustainable changes in the way teachers teach and learners learn. Through projects developed by U.S. Embassies in more than 80 countries, English Language specialists work directly with local teacher trainers, educational leaders, and ministry of education officials to exchange knowledge, build capacity, and establish partnerships benefiting participants, institutions, and communities in the U.S. and overseas.

Achrazoglou was one of about 80 U.S. citizens selected to serve on an English language specialist assignment. His assignment took place from July 11 to August 3 and spread his time across three major cities in Pakistan including Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad.

Along with training teachers, Achrazoglou also worked with underprivileged secondary Pakistani students on producing websites (e-Portfolios) that advance their job-seeking efforts.

“It was really a tremendous experience, helping these underprivileged kids get a good taste of technology and also giving them the opportunity to interact with somebody from a different culture,” Achrazoglou says. “A lot of the kids came from very isolated areas and were bussed in for the lessons. The parents really supported them learning about these new things that could advance their careers or success in today's technology-driven world.”

Graduate students from all four UI College of Education academic departments assisted Achrazoglou with his educational efforts while he was abroad. Molly Schwarz, a former English teacher and doctoral candidate in Educational Policy and Leadership Studies, assisted in online training with the use of Zoom, and graduate students Corey Topf, in the Psychological and Quantitative Foundations, Mallory Bolenbaugh, in Rehabilitation and Counselor Education, and Zach Mohr, in Teaching and Learning, evaluated students’ work on their e-Portfolios.

College of Education alumnus Krish Das, spokesperson at the U.S. Consulate General in Karachi, Pakistan, also played a crucial role in helping coordinate and facilitate Achrazoglou’s trip. Das had the chance to sit down with Achrazoglou to reflect on his time in Pakistan. To watch their conversation, visit here.

Achrazoglou says that for a lot of the students in Pakistan, it was their first time being exposed to a U.S. citizen and being taught purely in English by somebody who did not know their language of Urdu. He feels that he truly got to experience the real Pakistan and helped foster an increased understanding between the students and teachers and himself.

“One of my philosophies is the more we share our stories, the more we see that we're alike than different,” Achrazoglou said. “I opened up to them about my family and community here in the United States, and they seemed to open up to me at the same time, seeing that we weren’t that different even in another part of the world.”

Achrazoglou hopes to further foster relationships with schools in Pakistan in the future and to continue to help advance the goal of the English Language Specialist Program.

“I think there's great potential for them to learn from us and of course, for us to learn from them,” Achrazoglou said. “That was what this was all about.”

The U.S. Department of State highlighted Achrazoglou’s work abroad as an English Language Specialist on their website.