Technology is great. When it works. Dr. Dorothy Kropf knows how to make technology work to help students learn. Her personal journey of faith and a love of technology are key reasons why.
LPU Director of Online Undergraduate Programs Dr. Dorothy Kropf once viewed God as a punisher. Her upbringing in church taught her more about fear than freedom in Christ. At 17, Dorothy’s life was radically changed when she personally met Jesus and learned to appreciate why He died on a cross. From that moment, everything shifted.
Dorothy’s journey of faith has led her into the unique field of educational technology in K-12 settings and higher education. She became fascinated with technology as a tool of educational pedagogy and learned everything she could about how various systems of technology could help students learn.
As a middle-school teacher, Dorothy found that students were drawn to tools like Ruby Coding, Nearpod, Socratic, Google classroom, Blackboard, Minecraft, Code Academy, and IXL. More, she discovered that students were engaged and motivated. Today, she confesses how much she would have benefitted from educational technology when she was a K-12 student.
“It was just the tip of the iceberg as far as educational technology is concerned and I discovered the potential of technology to profoundly impact the way students learn and the way teachers teach,” she says.
Still, many people experience fear when thinking about using technology in the classroom. As Dorothy began to train other teachers, she encountered that fear as educators brought doubts and apprehension into the training and discussions about application in their classrooms. Knowing God in personal relationship equipped Dorothy to help her colleagues overcome their fears and show them how to be successful in an otherwise fearful exploration of technology.
“God is my best teacher,” Dorothy says. “He has shown me patience, grace, and mercy as He continues to teach me. I strive each day to extend the same to others.” Further, she knows that students and faculty learn best when they feel safe with the learning process. The overarching purpose of Dorothy’s training programs for teachers is to familiarize them with new systems or applications. The outcomes have always been positive primarily because she approaches her training with the firm belief that everyone can learn new technologies.
For Dorothy, instructional design goes deeper than how we design a course, and she says our pedagogy should be based on brain science and a psychology of learning. Instructional design takes into consideration multifaceted factors that learners experience in addition to the complex situations that they have already experienced in their lifetime. Factors such as age, socioeconomic status, perceptions, learning theories, learning styles, expectations of students, and others must be taken into consideration for students to learn well.
Prior to bringing her passion for educational technology to Life Pacific University, Dorothy pursued her Ph.D. in Education at Walden University with a specialty in Educational Technology. As part of her graduate and post-graduate research, Dorothy conducted a quantitative correlational study with thirteen California school districts.
Applying the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT), Dorothy found that teachers are more likely to voluntarily utilize learning technologies rather than be mandated to do so. Although school districts have given teachers the tools that they need to use the cloud drives for grading and feedback, she found that a majority of teachers only utilize technology when provided with adequate one-on-one training.
As a teacher, Dorothy was fascinated with video lectures, 3-D printing, and other forms of educational technology and how this technology can engage, motivate, and assess students, and also build a scholarly community of educators. Instructional designers are not the technology developers either, Dorothy says, so educators must mediate between what the developers create, what the students and teachers actually need, and what institutions can afford.
Online AA and Degree Completion programs at LPU have long utilized educational technology and program enrollment continues to growth. In her new position at LPU, Dorothy brings the experience in online learning that the University needs to further develop these undergraduate programs. “Dorothy’s instructional design experience and knowledge of effective online pedagogy will benefit us all,” Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Daniel Ruarte says. “She will make us stronger as we move into more online offerings.”
Prior to her current role, Dorothy was the Learning Management System (LMS) specialist at Life Pacific University and for a season served in the office of institutional research and as adjunct faculty. She has published academic research in online learning and is a content creator and educator with experience in faculty development and student training for LMS and other technology-based systems.