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REDMOND, Wash. — Sept. 27, 2010 —Before he taught computer science, Pat Yongpradit was a science teacher, but he says he found his true passion when he moved into the field of technology. Yongpradit has participated in several Microsoft programs, including the Innovative Education Forum, DreamSpark and Imagine Cup. In October, he’ll head to South Africa for the Worldwide Innovative Education Forum.
Pat Yongpradit, computer science and robotics teacher at Springbrook High School in Silver Spring, Md.
You describe teaching technology as your dream job. What do you love about it?
Yongpradit: Well, I love creating stuff, and that’s what you do in computer science on a daily basis. You get fast, concrete results. And a lot of the entertainment that we enjoy these days is based off of computer science and programming, so it just feeds into my lifestyle as well.
One of the great things about teaching computer science is that you don’t have to worry about discipline in the classroom because the students like the subject. So why would they be doing anything else? You get to see kids really be creative and explore things on their own, just because they want to.
How can we best use technology in schools now?
Yongpradit: Most teachers are involved in using technology to teach a subject these days. They use interactive whiteboards, remote clickers, PowerPoint, the Internet … but I don’t know, I don’t think it’s the end-all/be-all. Schools spend thousands of dollars on these gadgets, and they are nice. But you just get a good teacher in there and they triple the efficacy of an interactive whiteboard, without the whiteboard. So my personal belief is that teaching is way more significant than the tool itself.
If you could invent a piece of technology that does anything you want it to for the classroom, what would it be?
Yongpradit: A machine that would grade papers for me. I would basically talk to the machine, tell it what to look for, and then it would work itself out, grade stuff, maybe flash it back to me to see if I agree, and we’d go from there. Something else that would be useful — a machine that adds more time to the day. Because what it comes down to is I’d rather grade it myself; I just don’t have the time.
There’s been a lot of talk recently about how best to encourage teacher retention and prevent burnout. What keeps you going?
Yongpradit: You know, I was about to burn out when I was teaching science, and I was even considering moving from being a teacher to an administrator because I thought that I didn’t enjoy teaching anymore. But I did; I just wasn’t teaching the right subject. If a teacher is teaching a subject they love, I think they can take a whole lot.
Is there a teacher who inspired you to become one?
Yongpradit: I did have an AP Physics teacher. He was a good teacher, but the most important thing that he did was that he made teaching seem like fun, the profession itself. He really enjoyed the students, so it just really humanized the profession for me. So when I thought about him, I thought, he talked to us like friends, and I think I would like to do that.