Vasi DonchevaOnce again the Friday Follow Twitter Interview is graced with an educator based in New Zealand yet drawn from another part of the world. I think it is time my wife and I moved to New Zealand! Our special guest is Vasi Doncheva, a talented exponent in the world of eLearning and flexible learning initiatives. Vasi is blessed with rich life experiences which she has thoughtfully shared with all below. Let’s begin…

1. Please share a little about yourself with the readers.

Thanks for the invitation John and warm greetings to all your readers and visitors. I’m Vasi and I’m looking forward to meet you all virtually. I tend to see myself as a life long and wide learner. I’m passionate about finding new ways to effectively use technology to engage and inspire learners and create learning opportunities for diverse and widely dispersed communities.

I currently work at NorthTec in beautiful Whangarei, situated in the winterless north of New Zealand. In my role as flexible learning manager I lead the flexible and e-learning initiatives, encouraging and supporting innovation and creativity through innovative use of technology across the institution in teaching and learning as well as support services.

I was born and brought up in Bulgaria until the communist regime collapsed when I had the chance to leave the country and complete my BSc in Hotel Management at the University of Nicosia (Intercollege) in Cyprus. I worked for a few years in the Hospitality industry as training and development manager and consultant while I finished my MBA in Marketing Management and returned to Bulgaria where I started my teaching career. In September 2001 I left Bulgaria and migrated with my family to New Zealand which is our home now. My passion for learning led me to a career in higher education firstly as a lecturer and later as an e-learning professional. Completing a postgraduate programme in online education and a Master of Training and Development Online with the University of Southern Queensland further fueled my passion for technology and learning.

2. Describe the role played by social media in education.

Social media is just another tool to add to the ‘tool box’ and needs to be used appropriately to fit the educational purpose. Right? I would say not really.

Technological innovation has been one of the main driving forces shaping education and other industries for centuries but has not been as invasive and disruptive as it is today. Educational institutions have managed to tame technology and put it to work to support and improve the existing educational framework and paradigm, utilising computers, the Internet and the LMS for example. I tend to believe that the fate of social media is going to be different. Social media is powerful, pervasive and user/ learner driven. For the first time in education it has brought down the physical (brick and mortar) and virtual (the LMS) classroom walls and opened up and extended learning outside the institutionally controlled spaces. Rather than being afraid and trying to regulate and control social media educational institutions should be excited about the possibilities it has to offer.

3. Tell me about your relationship with social media. How do you feel about social media?

Social Media has changed the way I think, learn, work, relate to people and do anything really. It has changed my life. Before the World Wide Web books were my ‘window to the world’. Social media is much more than just a ‘window to the world’ that I can look through and observe. It is a doorway for me to step through into the world, to explore it, experience it and even change it. I’m more of an explorer at this stage but through social media I have met and engaged with some great thought leaders and influencers who are changing the world.

The great power of social media is that now everyone who wants to have a voice can have one and that voice can be heard across country borders, physical and ideological barriers.

4. What do you feel are you strengths?

The first one has to be my passion. I’m passionate about what I do and somehow I have developed the ability to infect others and pass on my energy and enthusiasm to them.

Second in line will be my curiosity. I have managed to preserve the curiosity that we all have as children. That lively curiosity helps me see things from different perspectives, look beyond the common wisdom and ask the why and why not questions. In many cases it helps me discover new opportunities and avenues.

The third one some will see as a strength others as a major pain in the proverbial. I’m action driven or can I say, impatient for action. “When can we start?” is a question I ask a lot. In my view, action and thinking are not opposites. Even learning theories support that action is the best device for learning (learning by doing).

5. What advice do you like to share with people?

Don’t be afraid to try new things. You must put yourself out there. You must take the next step. It is the only way to keep growing and developing as an educator or individual.

6. Are there any questions you would like to ask?

Many as I’m curious by nature but will limit it to one. How can we transform subject mater experts and teachers into learners again? I’m sure there is more than one way so looking forward to some ideas.

Thank you Vasi! Wonderful ideas and you are most welcome. I admire the way you captured the impact of social media on education Vasi… “For the first time in education it has brought down the physical (brick and mortar) and virtual (the LMS) classroom walls and opened up and extended learning outside the institutionally controlled spaces.” You have captured the essence of how social media has impacted upon the learning environment with your elegantly crafted words. And yes, institutions should be exploring social media and not constantly seeking to regulate. Engagement as opposed to evasion.

Remember readers to add Vasi to your Twiiter network and to also tap into Vasi’s blog…

Vasi on Twitter: @playnice_nz
Vasi’s blog: Teaching and Learning with Technology