By: Gabriella Restrepo
Buenos Aires, Argentina
“Technology itself does not solve anything. One is mistaken as long as one believes that just by introducing it, education is improved” – Uriel Cukierman.
Uriel Cukierman is passionate about education and technology. He has been a teacher in Argentina for 35 years, so his biggest concern has been with the quality and level of education, especially regarding engineering.
He is an electronics engineer that graduated from the National Technological University (NTU) of Argentina; a specialist in information systems with a master’s degree in information technologies from the Polytechnic University of Madrid. Currently, he is doing his Ph.D. thesis in education sciences at the University of Buenos Aires.
He was the Dean of the Engineering School at the University of Palermo, the Secretary of Information and Communication Technologies at NTU, among other positions that have taken him to be the ad honorem president of the International Federation of Engineering Education Societies, an organization that works to promote high quality engineering education worldwide.
He has given courses and training in Argentina and abroad. His work has been published in different media and in scientific publications aimed at colleagues, teachers or researchers since as it is usual in the academic world, the idea is to share knowledge generated and achieved by each one of them. He has written three books, five chapters of books and more than forty papers.
“Technology itself does not solve anything. One is mistaken as long as one believes that just by introducing it, education is improved”
He usually uses and suggests a formula for everything he does in his life; he calls it the 3Ps recipe: Passion, Patience and Persistence. Passion for doing what one likes and feels; patience for waiting for those things we want or for the right moment to make things happen and persistence to continue to insist when things do not turn out.
This recipe has been useful for him to have an enviable record in the academic world and therefore trying to list his experience is an almost impossible task. However, dedicating to education technology became a way to join his two passions: academy and engineering.
Currently, Uriel holds five positions:
- Director – Center of Research and Education Innovation (CIIE) @ UTN – FRBA
- Professor- researcher – University of New Mexico (UNM)
- President – International Federation of Engineering Education Societies
- Professor – National Technological University
- Member of the Executive Board – Global Engineering Deans Council
His experience with e-learning is mainly at the National Technological University in Argentina, where he directs the Center of Research and Education Innovation. There, he has developed experiences with different technological resources and has even ventured to create their own LMS. Today, they are using open software platforms such as Moodle.
Throughout the 15 years of working with learning technologies, Uriel says that the most significant thing he has learned is that technology is a valuable resource, as long as it is used in an appropriate way and where it has a specific goal. Using technology just for the sake of it or to seem modern may cause worse results than if it was not used. “The most important thing is the educational proposal that will be developed. You must know what role technology will play within this proposal. If technology is used it has to be in a planned way and with a clear goal.”
On the other hand, he has collaborated with other institutions and others within the area of educational technology. It has not always been easy, because he has had to interact with very different people and places, where situations as common as food and the way men and women relate to each other can create disagreements. But this is where an important factor not only for education in classrooms but for life enters: respect for others. For Uriel, the greatest challenge is to understand that we need a level of respect even when we do not understand the customs of others. It is important to respect each other and understand that despite differences we can have excellent relations and work for a common goal.
… And changes in education
The evolution of educational environments has been a slow process, not due to the incorporation of technology rather because to see the results of any change, you must wait years. For example, “let’s suppose some changes are introduced in the first year of a university career but to see the results, you must wait until that class graduates,” Uriel says.
However, “education is one of the fields where there is more resistance to change. Universities are still using the same methodologies and structures used 100 or 200 years ago.” The way classrooms are set up, classes are given and materials are prepared has not evolved.
New materials must be prepared and new learning methodologies must be developed, “any change means leaving the comfort zone and generally teachers and humans are quite likely to stay in the area in which we always do the same.”
Living in balance
“I’m interested in living from what I do, but also to know when to say no. Sometimes it is difficult but important when one feels that there are excessive demands.”
*Photos by: AFP Javier Gonzalez