James May, a “double EduGator” with two advanced degrees from UF’s College of Education, was named one of this year’s Top 40 Innovators in Education by the national Center for Digital Education. The center is a national research and advisory institute specializing in K-12 and higher education technology trends, policy and funding. May earned his bachelor’s degree in Spanish literature in 1993, his Master of Education in ESOL curriculum and instruction in 1999, and his doctorate in teaching and learning in 2007, all from the University of Florida. He currently is a professor of English as a second language at Valencia College in Orlando, where he has pioneered the use of cell phones and computer-assisted learning in his classes. He is also the faculty fellow for innovation and technology at the college.
“We live in a world where just about everything that is known can be found by way of a quick Google or YouTube search,” May said. “Teachers who aren’t willing to embrace this digital reality are robbing future generations of what we could know tomorrow. Learning has become on-demand or just-in-time and our teaching methods should to adapt to this truth.”
For May, there is no one technology that serves as “the solution.” Instead, technologies like smart phones, Google Goggles, QR codes and Evernote (a note-taking and archiving app) provide him and his students with more efficient and engaging strategies that can be used to identify solutions to authentic problems.
“This technology allows me to model life-long learning strategies that students can use long after they have forgotten about me,” May said. For example, May teaches his students how to use Google Chrome to perform voice, image and text searches and how Google Drive could be used for collaborating learning and writing.
“Professor May’s success stems from pushing boundaries and engaging both faculty and students through various technologies and innovative digital and communications strategies,” a Center for Digital Education spokesperson said. To watch May in action, follow this link for a video by Valencia College.
May has been recognized in the past for his “eclectic” teaching strategies and use of technology in the classroom. In 2010, he was named the Association of Florida College’s Professor of the Year, and in 2011 he was selected as the CASE/Carnegie Foundation’s Florida Professor of the Year. In 2012, he won the Sloan Consortium Effective Practice Award for his presentation, “Cellphones in the Classroom: Collaborative or Calamitous?”
UF College of Education alumnus and professor James May, second from left, uses classroom technology to teach his ESOL students at Valencia College. (Photo by Don Burlinson, Valencia College)