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Polish Scholar Finds Boise State ‘Focused on the Future’

By: Sherry Squires   Published 9:19 am / September 3, 2013

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Kerry Rice and Dorota Siemieniecka

Polish university scholar Dorota Siemieniecka found the start of the academic year a striking contrast to that of Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, where she is on the faculty of education. Siemieniecka is spending a few weeks visiting the Boise State campus

PolishCopernicus620x320“At an opening assembly, the faculty members wear their traditional regalia and a choir sings in Latin,” Siemieniecka said of Nicolaus Copernicus. “The students read a pledge aloud in unison to work hard at their studies.” The administrators also present awards and scholarships to the students during the convocation.

A marked contrast was Boise State’s President’s Picnic on the Quad Aug. 21; “You would never see this in Poland,” Siemieniecka said.

She also observed that at Boise State “Everybody is focused on the future of this university. That has an impact on motivation.”

Siemieniecka is at Boise State to cement ties with the Department of Educational Technology (EdTech) that could lead to shared online courses as well as faculty and student exchanges. EdTech associate professor Kerry Rice spent last fall in Torun as a Fulbright Scholar to lecture and explore the use of new technology in education at Nicolaus Copernicus. She lectured to students in the Department of Didactics and Media in Education, a close counterpart to Boise State’s EdTech department.

Rice and Siemieniecka are continuing to work together by:

  • Writing a book on trends in educational technology in Poland and the United States. Nicolaus Copernicus is funding the book, “Crossing Borders: An Exploration of Educational Technology in Poland and the U.S,” written in both Polish and English. Other authors include Bronislaw Siemieniecki, chair of the Department of Didactics and Media in Education at Nicolaus Copernicus, and Phil Kelly, curriculum, instruction and foundational studies professor at Boise State, who is writing a chapter on the history of U.S. education.
  • Identifying common research interests for future study and publication in international research journals.
  • Exploring possible grants for a shared online course or a faculty and student exchange or both.

The two educators intend to demonstrate the quality and effectiveness of online courses to the Polish Ministry of Education, where there is some uncertainty about fully online courses or programs.

A possible shared online course where Polish students would attend a Boise State course would be tied to a research study and the results presented to the ministry. The shared course could be offered next spring.

The two universities also have to overcome different requirements for student teaching before exchanging students. Teachers in training at Boise State participate in a yearlong program of student teaching, which serves like an apprenticeship with oversight from a mentor classroom teacher and a supervising Boise State faculty member.

“Nicolaus Copernicus does not have an extensive program for student teaching,” Rice said. “In general, programs of education in Poland require only limited hours of student practice, primarily in the form of observation in the classroom, prior to graduation and employment.”

Nicolaus Copernicus is the largest university in northern Poland, with about 30,000 students and 2,500 faculty members. It has graduated about 140,000 students since 1945 when it opened after World War II.

The Polish university has a state-of-the-art University Center for Modern Teaching Technologies, which develops and shares multiple forms of new teaching technologies, including lecture capture and high-tech classrooms. Siemieniecka said she believes Nicolaus Copernicus is highly advanced in their usage of technology for teaching and learning, in comparison with universities in Norway, Italy and the Czech Republic.

Siemieniecka also is spending time at Albertsons Library researching sources not available at her university. “You have a great library with access to all these materials,” she said. “I am confident that the future will open new possibilities for cooperation and the exchange of students, faculty and new ideas.”