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About professor John Nietfeld


John Nietfeld, a professor from North Carolina, USA is teaching in Estonia because of the Fullbright grant. His year in Estonia is going to end soon. In this interview John is talking about himself and his impression on Estonia. 


Who are you? (a bit about your past and portfolio, and your home university - what you did there)

I am a professor of educational psychology at North Carolina State University located in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. I have lived and worked there since 2003 doing research and teaching. I also spend a lot of my time mentoring students. My area of work is in self-regulated learning, the effective regulation of one’s own learning in the pursuit of personal goals, and focused mostly in the area of metacognition. Metacognition is critical for learning in that it describes to extent to which you can accurately gauge what you know and don’t know and then effectively monitor and adjust your learning as it is happening. Self-regulated and metacognition are the backbone of student learning itself yet neither are commonly discussed in classrooms or incorporated to a great extent in teacher training. When I am not working, I enjoy traveling the world, running, and feeding my sweet tooth.

How you succeeded to get Fullbright? It is very prestigious grant? What was your idea for this grant?

Yes, it is a highly-valued grant. In order to be selected it helped that I was already connected to the BFM by teaching a course for their first cohort of students in the Digital Learning Games Master’s program. I was fortunate to have made a connection with Andres Jõesaar who informed me that the BFM had a potential opening for a Fulbright Scholar.

For my research project this year I am leading the development of a program that will assist Estonian elementary students in their metacognitive skills related to comprehending informational science texts. The idea is to get students engaged in both reading and science through an interesting narrative gaming approach. We have made much progress on the initial version this year and then will continue development into the future. The game is called Missions with Monty and has an animal theme and narrative driven by the lead character, Monty, a monitor lizard. I have been fortunate to have recruited Digital Learning Games students Mihkel and Eilika Matas and Joonas Sildre to assist in the design and development of the program.

What you did in Estonia due your Fullbright time?

During my time this year I have taught a course for the Digital Learning Games program each semester and also spent a large portion of my time working on the Missions with Monty program. This has included a couple visits to Estonian schools to get feedback from the students on the gaming components. When not working I have been fortunate to experience a lot of things from Estonian culture such as neighborhood festivals, the light festival, watching “futbol” and volleyball, picking blueberries, experiencing wonderful lunch offers and food in Tallinn, going to markets, sledding, and traveling to other areas outside of Tallinn such as Haapsalu and Tartu.

What was the most impressive in Estonia and what was most problematic for you here?

I think the most impressive thing I have experienced about Estonia is the level of safety and comfort that the society gives all individuals. I especially like seeing how free the small children are to be out on their own going to school and riding public transportation without any worries. I think this is a very rare experience in the capital city in virtually any country. The most problematic thing for me has been getting my work permit and my ID card to work for online purposes. I realize that the move to online ‘everything’ for Estonia is a major selling point for the country but as someone here on a work permit I have found it difficult to set up and not so intuitive to navigate.

As you are connected with digital games, how about “Kids and media” - what do you think about this topic in Estonia, are we in trouble with style to give smartphones and social media access to kids?

My feeling is that smartphones and social media can have benefits but their use by kids should be overseen. All technology experiences are not equal in terms of their benefits for kids so this should also be considered.