Over lunch, and when everyone was talking about their day at work/school… I could not help but overhear my cousin Dana talking about her professor using “Twitter” as a tool in teaching/communication at Kuwait University, so I sat next to her and asked her to tell me all about it. She said that he, Dr. Mohammad AlMarzouq -Kuwait University- asked each and every student to create a Twitter account and use it as a form of communication with him! She spoke of him very highly and his ways/techniques used in teaching… I really wanted to interview him right away since I thought this was really cool and very innovative + He is one of the people I thought that he was worth knowing! So I wanted people to know more about him!
With the help of Dana, I got in contact with him… and with the help of P0ach, I prepared my questions! Thank you guys 😉
I got the directions from Dana…. and on my way, I received a DM Tweet on my Twitter from Dr. AlMarzouq with his office number just in case I get lost in the building! I loved how the e-communication all started!
I see his name on the door, I knock, get in, and then meet Dr. AlMarzouq! All smiles… and being the gentleman he is, I was offered refreshment and sweets.. and off we start. It was a casual interview, so I was so at ease. We talked in general about social media, blogging, twitter, facebook… you name it. Then it was time for the interview….
1. Dr. Mohammed AlMarzouq…. Talk about yourself
I loved technology from a young age and knew I was going to study computer engineering or computer science if I finish high school. I was fortunate to be accepted to Kuwait university as an undergrad, and what I learned there had me eager for more, which is why I set my sight on continuing my education.
Circumstances got me to accept a scholarship from college of business administration to get a PhD in Management of Information Systems instead of my first choice of Computer Science. While initially I was not very excited about the prospect, my experience in the MBA program at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign got me to break out of my “school of engineering” way of thinking and I never looked back since.
At UIUC, I was constantly challenged to think critically, a skill that served me well during my time at Clemson University where I was getting my PhD in Management and further enforced that skill. Now that I am in Kuwait, I would like to bring this experience to my students. The message I’m delivering is simple: Change to the better start with oneself. Gaining knowledge, then thinking differently, then projecting this change into what we do, and hopefully in a good way, on to others.
While I didn’t see my self as a college professor when I was young, I couldn’t think of a better way to bring about change to the better to our beloved Kuwait. Being an undergrad student myself at one point in time, I didn’t expect much from students at CBA when I first arrived. However, my experience with them thus far certainly changed my perception of undergrads and I think we have the best and brightest here at CBA.
2. Describe yourself in one line?
I am a person that likes to describe myself in what I do. I am here to make a change!
3. Your motto?
“If it doesnt go your way, you’re probably doing it wrong” meaning, do not blame others if you fail. If you fail, try it again differently.
4. What inspired you to tap into who you are today?
Curiosity! I would also say that people around me influenced me; my family of course and some people I was fortunate to meet in my life that served as good examples for integrity and perseverance. I would also attribute my position today greatly to being the geek that I am, loving technology and loving what I do!
5. Why did you pick this career?
I would say that I started with the a keen interest in technical knowledge when I first joined the College of Engineering, but circumstances, exposure to good role models, and good guidance all led me to the College of Business Administration. Looking back at how I got here, I wont change a thing. What set me on a the path of this career was not entirely innate, but the environment also played a very imprtant role in where I am now and where I am heading.. I am very grateful.
6. What makes you different? Do you like to be different?
Well, things I continually do and things I want to project on my students and how I do it. I always tell my students that I never like to do anything because other professors do it, I have to be convinced, and when I am convinced, I do it my way. A healthy dose of stubbornness is sometimes needed to make yourself different.
7. Do you love your job? And Why? Whats the best part of your job?
Absolutely! And what I love about it is that it gives me the opportunity to learn along with the pleasant surprises -in many cases- along the way. When students exceed my expectations I get motivated to give more. Its like getting instant feedback that pushes you to give more and more.
What other professors think of as “not doable” by our students, I take as a challenge and try to prove otherwise. You can see it in the student’s eyes when you succeed and the feeling is beyond great.
With my job, I do what I want, when I want, and how I want to do it. This works well with my personality.
8. How do you find e-learning and using social networking media for learning material and technique? Mainly using Twitter with your students!
I was first exposed to e-learning during MBA, and I wasn’t really convinced. This is due to the way I thought of it; the info is pushed onto the students who will, in return, just absorb it or forget about it. Not to mention that when the greatest amount of learning is done the most unpleasant of processes, so with e-learning students will tend to avoid learning. So I strongly believe that the best way to absorb information is to physically sit, interact, and learn in a class room setting.
However, this is not to say that e-learning is a complete failure. Maybe learning platforms have yet to mature to be more effective or as effective as in-class learning. It is also possible that certain aspects of the learning experience are fit for an e-platform and could complement in class learning effectively.
For example, with more than 90 students in total, using one to one communication tools such as email or IM might not be very effective for out of class communication, because I would have to repeat my response for the same question to all students. Using a mass communication tool such as IRC might not be effective also, because it requires both students and faculty to be online to communicate (synchronous communication). This makes forums, which is an important tool used in many e-learning platform, a likely candidate for out of class communication. However, discussion could be lost amidst all the conversations and long messages written on the forum.
In my class, we managed to use twitter very effectively for out of class communication. Twitter is a special social media tool because its at reach, even on your smart phone (pointing at his iPhone). It made a huge difference. You don’t have to be online to respond to your students, and you only get information that is important to you. Most importantly, it limits messages to 140 characters, which places a greater burden on the writer to be concise, and does away with all the formalities of other forms of communication.
So, maybe there is a platform or a technology that will make e-learning as a whole possible, but for now, I will be using a number of technologies, with twitter for out of class communication, to enhance my students experience in class.
9. How are your students responding to your new innovative techniques (twitter)?
Its really hard to tell. However, I see signs that some students really like it and started using it outside class (personal use). Some see it as an easy way of communicating. As a matter of fact, I do not see students much during office hours now but get many questions on twitter, which tells me it the method used is effective.
Interestingly enough, I justified using twitter instead of Facebook as a being a new technology which no one in class was using. One of my goals in teaching is to nurture innovative behavior among my students and have them accept new things and change. As it turns out, the method was more effective than I have imagined.
To illustrate this, a colleague of mine asked me about a meaning of a difficult arabic word in english, and it took my students only 5 minutes to give me 3 different meanings when I asked them for the meaning on twitter. I am sure there is great learning potential there, but it will take time to find the most effective way to benefit from twitter in the class room.
10. Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
learning more about what makes students “click”, and definitely experimenting more with social media and new innovation to enhance students’ learning experience.
11.Give us words of motivation please.