“My favorite thing about teaching technology to teachers is telling them that they don’t have to use technology for every last thing. Good teaching is still good teaching.”
Coming from a teacher of educational technology and a self-professed tech geek, that statement might be a little surprising, but it demonstrates the pragmatic wisdom of Professor Rachel Feld.
Serving Campus and Synod Feld is MLC’s director of Academic Computing and Online Learning. She teaches one undergrad course that’s required for education majors, Teaching with Technology, and two graduate courses, Enhancing the Curriculum with Technology and Google Technologies in Education.
Feld’s service reaches outside the MLC campus as well. She’s a regular guest host on the WELSTech podcast, always ready to discuss what’s new and important about technology in our WELS schools. And if your school has gone through the accreditation process with WELSSA, you’ve probably used Google tools that she helped build.
Tech as a Tool Feld loves technology and is eager to try new gadgets, platforms, and strategies. But she isn’t enamored of technology for technology’s sake. She sees it as the tool it is—a means to improve teaching and learning.
“I love showing teachers ways that technology can make their lives easier, can make their teaching more effective, can help their students show what they know and meet their learning objectives, and can be implemented in small pieces so that it’s not overwhelming.”
That’s the kind of pragmatism she passes on to her college students, both undergrad and graduate. “I want my students to know that it’s not about the technology; it’s about the students and what they need to know.”
She credits a book for changing her view of tech: Tasks Before Apps by Monica Burns. “I started my journey into educational technology trying out the things I thought were cool and letting my students use them. While this was a fine initial approach to technology integration, Tasks Before Apps helped me to realize that I really needed to focus on the students and their learning objectives, rather than the newest cool app. I hope that my students come away from my courses with this same approach—focusing on students and learning objectives first.”
The Joys of Teaching Feld’s first teaching assignment in 2006 was at Bethany in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where she taught grades 1-2, played organ, and served as choir accompanist. An MLC five-year graduate, with degrees in both elementary education and secondary choral music, she dreamt of being a high school choir director. “But God had much better plans!” she says. While teaching the little ones at Bethany, she also assisted with the drama productions at nearby Shoreland LHS and pursued her master’s degree in education at Wisconsin Lutheran College.
When she was called to MLC in 2017, she was already enrolled in an EdD program at Concordia University Chicago. She’s finishing her dissertation now.
Feld enjoys teaching undergrads but notes that teaching graduate students comes with unique joys.
“What I enjoy about teaching graduate students are the experience and perspectives that they bring to the course,” she says. “I learn so much from them as they share what has and hasn’t worked in their classrooms. There are always new and different tools that they come across that I can add to my list.
“I also enjoy it when they’re able to try out what they’ve learned in their classroom and share the results with us,” she adds. “I’m able to take those real-world applications from the graduate students back to the undergraduate students. It’s a great learning cycle!”
But when it comes to the classroom, Feld’s primary joy is also her primary goal: “My teaching goal for my graduate and undergraduate students is the same as it was for my first and second graders at Bethany—that they leave my classroom knowing that Jesus loves them. What’s awesome is that I now share that goal with my college students and pray that they find the same joy in their future classrooms.”
A Vision for the Future Always seeing the big picture, Feld was excited about the Facebook groups that began last spring when schools went from brick to click. “I’d love to see our teachers collaborate and share more, especially with tools and resources they’ve created.”
And she envisions an innovative collaboration between schools as well: regional technology directors.
“I would love to see our WELS schools be organized into smaller groups that could then have dedicated technology directors and instructional technology coaches, similar to the way that some high school federations share music instructors.”
Establishing this position of a shared call worker would ease the burden on individual schools, especially smaller schools who may not have a teacher who can dedicate all their time to technology. “Trying to keep up with the changes and laws surrounding technology use in the classroom is a difficult task!” Feld says. “I think that joining forces would be a good way to make better use of our resources.”
But once again, tech does not rule the day. When asked what a school with top-notch, bright shiny technology looks like, she says, “Truthfully, when I look at a school, I’m not looking for bright shiny technology. Yes, 1:1 Chromebooks or iPads are great, but what I’d rather see is students who are actively engaged in learning and show Christ’s love with their actions.”
Meet Professor Rachel Feld In her own words
I was born in West Allis and lived there until I was 2. My dad was transferred to Colorado in 1984, and my parents have lived there ever since. My dad has worked in various IT positions, and he helps with technology at the church and school I attended for grades K-8, Christ Our Redeemer-Aurora. My mom is the office administrator at COR, so although I do not come from a family of called workers, the attitude of a servant was definitely emphasized in my life from an early age.
I have one younger brother, who lives in Denver. He is an artist, author, and speaker, mainly writing and talking about his life with schizoaffective disorder. He has led me to be very passionate about mental health awareness. We both share a love for computers. He knows more about hardware than I do, so we make a good team. We also share a love for our animals. He has a dog and a cat, Kerrin and Kimchi, who I enjoy visiting whenever I get to see him!
Every summer, I sing with Canticum Novum: A WELS Chamber Choir. The group is unique because we’re just together for one week each summer. I serve as the group’s choral librarian, which means I have a big tote of music in my basement and get to send lots of mail each spring. We weren’t able to get together last summer but hope to be able to sing together this June!
I love going to Wisconsin to visit friends and visiting my friends and family in Colorado and Minnesota.
My hobbies change pretty frequently. Last year I was on a bit of a cross-stitching kick. Now I’ve been doing lots of home improvement projects and trying to make my house as “smart” as possible. I’ve always enjoyed building Legos and am happy to have an office to display them in! I also enjoy baking and digital jigsaw puzzles—digital because my cats, Zoe and Sophie, are less likely to bat the pieces across the table.
I definitely enjoy a good picture book. I miss reading Elephant and Piggie books to my students! My favorite recent read was Ready Player Two, which I didn’t actually read, but listened to during my various road trips. It’s a great combination of technology and 80s pop culture. Plus, the audiobook is narrated by Will Wheaton, which just adds to the book’s geekiness.
I’ve watched the Star Wars series (yes, even the prequels, because they’re part of the story), the Harry Potter movies, and all the Marvel movies more times than I can count! I balance my love for scifi/fantasy/superhero movies with a great love for cheesy Hallmark movies and almost anything by Disney or Pixar, especially Toy Story and High School Musical. I’m pretty sure my viewing history really confuses Netflix’s algorithm of what to watch next.
An interesting fact: I’ve jumped out of an airplane (with a parachute) and would totally do so again if given the chance!