By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)–Dr. Sumreen Asim, assistant professor of elementary science and technology education, is the 2019-20 Institute for Learning and Teaching Excellence (ILTE) faculty innovator of the year.
The award, announced at the ILTE Mini-Conference, recognizes Asim’s drive to cultivate a mindset of continuous innovation not only in her own classroom, but in the classrooms of her student educators.
This involves both a high degree of expertise in science and technology education and a deep sensitivity to her students’ often challenging relationship to the subject matter.
Technology is ubiquitous, yet elementary educators are often unfamiliar with or resistant to it. Through clever curriculum design and a breezy fun-loving style, Asim taps into their innate curiosity to lower her students’ anxiety level and broaden their acceptance of technology in the teaching environment.
Among the innovations her students have been exposed to are Merge Cubes and other virtual and augmented reality devices.
She has reinforced these innovations by fusing research and teaching to an impressive degree, integrating new insights from the field into her classes while involving her students in the scholarship of teaching and learning, essentially treating courses themselves as research projects.
She has also made sure that her students are exposed to cutting edge conversations in the field by hosting leading practitioners of technology education, and has leveraged resources of the IU system whenever possible to benefit her classes.
In acquainting her teacher candidates with the latest tools, she is not just helping them use gadgetry. She is teaching them to become innovators by expanding their skills in areas such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity.
“Science content is intertwined with creativity,” Asim said. “Scientists use their creativity, innovation and imagination throughout the scientific process. This includes posing and developing research questions, designing investigations and then interpreting and formulating reasons for phenomena discovered in evidence collected in research.”
A devout Muslim woman, Asim has also helped the campus reimagine its notion of community. Last year Asim received the IU Southeast Diversity Award, reflecting her efforts in helping to foster an inclusive multicultural atmosphere through advocacy for Muslim students and encouraging the creation of prayer spaces.
“Having cultural understanding and awareness allows relationships to build, brings together harmony and makes us emotionally intelligent,” Asim said. “Education does not stop at the classroom walls.”
The Faculty Innovator of the Year is selected by the ILTE Advisory Board from among eight nominees whose educational vision is profiled in monthly feature articles in Campus News. The nominees for 2019-20 were Sumreen Asim, Omar Attum, John-Robert Curtin, Quinn Dauer, Kent Edmonds, Jeremy Wells. Two groups of collaborating faculty were also nominated: Lisa Russell and Aaron Setterdahl, and the team of Bradford Griggs, David Sullivan Losey and Alan Zollman.