We interviewed our leading academics to discover their recipe for success

Associate Professor Sarah Howard shares her story from art teacher in San Francisco to associate professor at the University of Wollongong. Plus her love for running.

Tell me about your work

My work looks why teachers and students use certain tech, why they don’t use others and how that relates to learning. We are bad at understanding the real role and effect of digital technology in learning, because many of the methods we use are unable to deal with the complexity of learning, teaching and technology integration.

How this all start?

I used to be an art teacher in San Francisco and part of my school’s IT department. When we first started using interactive whiteboards, I watched colleagues struggle to use it. They found it too risky and time consuming and they refused to experiment with it. I found it interesting why people avoided even attempting to use tools that could be useful for them. Essentially, my research is still exploring this question.

What is an educationalist doing at SMART Infrastructure Facility?

I started working with SMART to explore new ways to use my research data, to explore different ways I might find meaning in some of the data I’d collected.. Our core work now look at how to collect data in the natural classroom space. Other researchers in my field tend to research using controlled experiments, but the findings are often not applicable in the classroom. In our work, we develop ways to study the classroom in real time – it’s messy and noisy but you get far more meaningful results.

What do you enjoy about working at SMART?

I enjoy collaborating with other researchers at SMART because of their openness to experimentation. They have also always been open to the fact that my work is a bit different. I am such an outlier coming from Education, so I am fortunately not expected to be expert at analytics or data. I like that way my colleagues at SMART approach our collaborations. They are always ready to just give it a go and they get excited about it. If you give them a good problem,  they’re really keen to get into it.

How do keep sane?

I run marathons, do ocean swim races and have two border collies. I’ve had two ankle reconstructions, so I had to stop running for six years. I have since qualified for the 2021 Boston Marathon and New York Marathon. I run six days a week and I swim three days a week. I have a low kms/high intensity training plan. This week I’ll do 80km. I currently training for the Gold Coast Marathon; I’ll do close to 100km a week nearer the race.  In the summer I do ocean swim races as part of my training. My dogs train with me, but not all of it. They particularly love interval workouts. I think they feel they’re doing ‘work’.