A UI College of Education professor travelled to Pakistan last summer to teach English and educate both teachers and students about learning technology. The trip was fueled by a connection between students in Karachi, Pakistan and Donnellson, Iowa.
October 7, 2019
In an effort to spread technological literacy and make learning accessible to everyone, a University of Iowa faculty member spent his summer traveling to teach underprivileged teachers and students valuable techniques.
John Achrazoglou, a clinical Associate Professor in the UI College of Education, recently returned from Pakistan, where he taught fellow teachers how to use technology for their trade and students how to use technology to learn.
“The more we shared our stories, the more we saw that we were more alike than different,” Achrazoglou said.
With a specialization in the application of technology to improve learning and teaching, Achrazoglou said he was interested in sharing more advanced technology with people in need. He said he enjoyed the opportunity to sharpen his own skills while working in a different environment than he’s used to.
To prepare for the trip, Achrazoglou said he needed to learn the culture and a bit of Urdu, the national language in Pakistan. In addition, he said he prepared for weeks to make sure the technology was ready to go.
Archrazoglou returned from his trip in August after living in Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad, Pakistan for 23 days. The trip was funded by an $18,000 grant from the U.S. State Department, which sponsored Archrazoglou to teach more than 1,200 people in Pakistan.
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Before his Pakistan trip, Central Lee Community School District in Donnellson, Iowa, was already connecting with the students in Karachi. A group of students from Iowa and another from Pakistan learned remotely from each other.
The school in Karachi wanted to learn English and about Americans, Achrazoglou said, and Central Lee students wanted to globalize their education.
UI alum Krish Das and former UI administrator Gary Steffensmeier coordinated the relationship between the two schools and reached out to Achrazoglou to advance the teaching in Karachi.
Steffensmeier worked at Central Lee when its students initially connected with Karachi and said that his students not only benefitted from the experience, but there was excitement from both sides about learning different cultures.
“It was a tremendous opportunity to learn and expose the students to an environment that they wouldn’t be able to see on a normal basis,” Steffensmeier said.
Steffensmeier specializes in digital tools and learning and said Achrazoglou is a great leader and visionary.
“[Achrazoglou] looks for possibilities, focuses on solutions, and breaks through barriers,” Steffensmeier said. “He advocates for building bridges among communities.”
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Krish Das, the communications coordinator at Mission Pakistan in Karachi, helped facilitate the trip during the initial phases of the partnership between the State Department and the UI College of Education.
“Working with John was a delight and he is a true professional in every sense of the word,” Das said in an email to The Daily Iowan. “His work was greatly appreciated across Pakistan.”
Before his return home, Achrazoglou received a message from Moez — one of his students in Islamabad — who said that his whole class really enjoyed learning from him and hopes to see him again.
“One of my dreams is to study in the U.S. or a developed country, and I always wondered what it would be like to take classes from teachers who don’t know my native language, and today it was my first experience with that,” Moez said. “I thought it would be hard to get used to, but now I know that it isn’t that much of a concern.”