LeBaron nabs Fulbright Senior Specialist Award to work in Helsinki

John LeBaron, the Jay M. Robinson Distinguished Professor in Educational Technologies at Western Carolina University, is recipient of a prestigious Fulbright Senior Specialist Award to teach and conduct research at the University of Helsinki this May and June.

It marks the second Fulbright award for LeBaron, who teaches in WCU’s department of educational leadership and foundations. He previously served as a Fulbright senior scholar to the University of Oulu, also in Finland, during the 1998-99 academic year.

John LeBaron

John LeBaron

LeBaron will assist the University of Helsinki, which recently established a teacher education program that takes advantage of developments in distance education and in the use of educational technology to explore increasingly flexible ways to prepare teachers for certification. The university is trying to boost the credentials of unlicensed teachers currently working provisionally in schools and unable to fulfill campus-based classroom study.

Starting in 2007, learning via computer networks will be utilized in all teacher education classes at the University of Helsinki, which is seeking LeBaron’s help with development of an implementation plan for the program. He will work in cooperation with a Helsinki faculty team investigating how education using a variety of media, including distance education, supports teacher preparation.

“Based on the university’s previous work, research and existing curriculum, I will be negotiating with teachers, students and administrators as they plan new technology-driven strategies for teacher education programs,” he said. “We want to seek a broader use of the technological tools available to teacher education throughout the entire faculty at the University of Helsinki.”

LeBaron is the second WCU faculty member to be awarded a Fulbright in the past year. Jeanne Dorle, assistant professor in the department of management and international business, was named the Fulbright Research Chair in Project Management at the University of Quebec last summer.

LeBaron came to WCU from the Graduate School of Education at the University of Massachusetts Lowell in 2004. He helped lead information technology and academic technology initiatives for the five-campus University of Massachusetts system, and served as adviser to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Education, where he co-authored the state’s core educational technology policy paper on public school reform.

He also is lead editor and contributing author for the 2001 book “Technology in Its Place: Successful Technology Infusion in Schools,” and lead author of the 1997 book “A Travel Agent in Cyber School: The Internet and the Library Media Program.” LeBaron previously served as executive director of Massachusetts Educational Television, and was a member of the education faculty at York University in Toronto. He earned his doctoral and master’s degrees in educational media and technology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The Jay M. Robinson Distinguished Professorship in Educational Technologies was endowed at more than $500,000 in 1997 through $355,000 in gifts from then-retiring University of North Carolina system president C.D. Spangler, along with $167,000 in state matching funds. It is named in honor of the late Jay Robinson, who served as president of the N.C. State Board of Education from 1994 to 1997. The brother of former Western Chancellor H.F. “Cotton” Robinson, he died in 2000.

The Jay Robinson professorship is designed as a rotating position that will enable the university to bring to campus experts from the corporate or educational sectors who are using electronic technologies to enhance the teaching and learning process.