Originally published in Winter 2019
Growing up in the mountains of Southern Ohio, Dr. Lisa Jones never imagined she’d be living her dream, getting to work with technology while teaching students the ins and outs of instructional design.
Jones began working as the assistant professor of Instructional Design for Asbury University’s Adult & Online students in July 2018, and her journey to Asbury has been long and winding.
Though it surprises even Jones herself, it was partly her Appalachian roots that led her to work in instructional design, a field that has grown in popularity in recent years.
The Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) defines instructional design as “the theory and practice of design, development, utilization, management and evaluation of processes and resources for learning.”
Jones describes it this way: “Let’s say you had to teach me how to write a page of marketing and I know nothing,” Jones said. “I’m a learner and there’s a gap between me and that knowledge. In between me and that knowledge is a path to learning. The instructional designer actually creates that path. They figure out what the gap is and then they fill that in with content in a way to move you from ‘I don’t know anything’ to ‘I know how to do this.’ The cool part is, most of the time, you get to use technology.”
Jones’ uncle made a living fixing television and radio sets. When Jones was around 5 years old, she would visit his shop and play with the various tech trinkets there, her uncle encouraging her fascination with the technologies of the day.
“It was never, ‘Oh no, don’t touch that.’ It was like, ‘Here is this welder. Play with it and take this apart and put it back together,’” Jones said. “That formed me somehow to not be afraid of tech. He made me see the coolness of science and technology. You can make this work and then you can record your voice. I’m really just doing a more advanced version of that now.”
In school, Jones struggled with technical subjects like mathematics and science but loved reading and writing. She’s still an avid reader to this day. Step into her office and it won’t be long before she mentions the books she’s currently reading. However, she notes that her grades in arithmetic and chemistry may have improved had she grown up with the classroom technologies available today.
“If I had the things that people have now, I would’ve done so much better,” Jones said. “We have what’s called the Flipped Classroom Model now. If you’re struggling with math, you can go online anytime and watch these problems through technology. That would’ve helped me. I came to this epiphany that this is the future, combining technology and education. I just really wanted to be a part of that.”
While working as a high school teacher in Eastern Kentucky and pursuing a degree at a nearby college, Jones began teaching as an adjunct professor at that same college. It was there that she became familiar with classroom technologies such as smartboards and she learned to design online courses, further igniting a passion that continues today.
As Jones works with Adult & Online students, all of her classes take place online. In her own words, she is “always on.” She finds a particular joy in working with non-traditional students, as she was herself one, having returned to college to pursue higher education after getting married and having children.
“I try to be there when they need me,” Jones said. “I tell my students, jokingly, ‘If you send me an e-mail at 1 a.m., I’ve been known to answer, but don’t count on it.’ I have done that a few times and they’ve said, ‘I can’t believe you’re still up.’”
Even so, she enjoys taking a step back from her passion of tech every now and then, exploring nature and going on hikes with her husband.
“It’s becoming my new goal to figure out additional ways to unplug and really just connect back to nature, to God, to my family and just realizing that we probably shouldn’t be plugged in as much as we are,” Jones said.
As technology continues to advance, Jones hopes that people, especially Christians, are able to distinguish its place in their lives, being intentional about finding balance.
“After a while, it does become too much and it takes the place of God,” Jones said. “We read a book for the Freshman Liberal Arts Seminar at Asbury. In that book, it’s talking about setting boundaries. It quoted ‘Gulliver’s Travels.’ This was in the late 18th century. When the little people had captured Gulliver, they said he was always taking his pocket watch out and looking at it. They said, ‘That must be his god.’ They brought that up in this book and I thought, ‘Wow, that is just like us.’ If somebody captured us today, they would say that. That really hit me. We should think about how much time we spend.”
Getting to marry faith, technology and education has proved to be a dream job for Jones. Though her time at Asbury is just beginning, she’s excited to see what God has in store for her at the University.
“This is almost the perfect job, in a way, because I can do what I love to do as my career but also be there for students if they’re struggling with their faith,” Jones said.
As for that little girl from Appalachia tinkering around in her uncle’s shop? We think she’d be pretty proud.