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CEHS Technology Director Brings Resources and Goodwill to the Middle East

Thursday, Apr. 25, 2013

a large group of educators with USU's Nathan Smith in the Middle East

Nathan Smith (back row in cap), traveled to the Middle East where he provided information to a variety of educators. He posed with Laila Abu Qatousah's English class at a high school for girls in Jordan. (all photos courtesy Nathan Smith)

USU's Nathan Smith with teachers in the Middle East

(from left to right) Mai Awad, Hiyam Abu-Areadah, Phyllis Smith and Nathan Smith. Mai and Hiyam were part of the TEA 2011 cohort of international high school teachers that spent six weeks at Utah State University.

A technology director from Utah State University just returned from a successful trip to Jordan, where he presented to Middle Eastern education leaders.

“It was a life changing experience for me,” said Nathan Smith, technology director for the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services. “I’m not sure what there is about the experience, but we connected very deeply.”

Smith has had previous experience teaching instructional technology to international audiences. He worked with two groups of teaching fellows who came to Utah State through the Teaching Excellence and Achievement program, offered through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. It is implemented by IREX, an international nonprofit organization.

Smith’s work with the TEA program led to his latest experience in Jordan. The Jordan and Lebanon Alumni Professional Development Training was for fellows who had participated in either the TEA or the International Leaders in Education Program (also offered through the U.S. Department of State).

TEA alumni recommended him, said Jessica Anduiza, program officer with the education programs division of IREX.

“He did amazing,” Anduiza said. “He really engaged the participants and took them through. He kept it in mind that it’s not about the cool technology, it’s about using technology to achieve your learning objectives.”

He also created a website so that participants could refer to the resources he shared with them.

The participants included 31 alumni of the two programs who live in Jordan and Lebanon. The teaching fellows also brought invited guests, who were mostly school administrators. The educators focused on similar issues as their counterparts in the United States, Smith said. They wanted to move away from a lecture-based, “sage on the stage” model and engage students in real-world problem solving. Conference-goers added a lot to the discussion because they brought their own classroom experiences with them.

“It was a chance for us to connect and reconnect and show our support for their continued growth,” Anduiza said. “We hope we’ve also supported their ability to connect with each other as they work to improve their teaching skills, classroom management, whatever they’re striving to do in their classroom.”

An underlying goal is to expose educators from outside the United States to the real America. 

“I think for a lot of these folks, their only lens on America is the media, and what they see on the movies and TV isn’t a very accurate picture,” Smith said. “And we have the same lens on their country.”

If the goal was to leave a favorable impression, it worked.

“Everybody I met was so kind and gracious,” he said. “I was told by many of them, ‘Come back to Jordan and my home will be your home.’”

Related link:

Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services 

Contact: Nathan Smith, 435-797-1484,

Writer:  JoLynne Lyon, 435-797-1463,

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