Geert Jan van Ouwendorp, practor at ROC Tilburg

08 November 2023 Meet the experts

When you say MindLabs, you say knowledge, expertise and craftsmanship. And for good reason. After all, there are the necessary practitioners, lecturers, and professors associated with our ecosystem. And we are happy to introduce them to you. In the section 'Meet the experts' we put them to the test. Who are they? What do they do? What is their role within MindLabs? And what do they get in return for their efforts? In this edition it is the turn of Geert Jan van Ouwendorp, the new tractor of the Practorate Interactive Technology (PIT) of ROC Tilburg.

Geert Jan, to start at the beginning: can you briefly tell us who you are, where you come from, and what you do in terms of work?  
Before I took over the role of practor from my predecessor Erdinç Saçan, I was a lecturer in ICT and Media Design at the Fontys ICT program. I had a coordinating role within the specialization route 'ICT & Creative Technology', which I set up there. In addition to my current role as a practor, I am a teacher-researcher within the 'interaction design' lectureship, where I study the concept of empathic buildings. Not to be able to realize those buildings tomorrow, but more speculative design; what if....

You will now be pulling the PIT wagon. Why is this role a good fit for you? 
I have been involved with interactive technology from a young age. With computers on the one hand, but also in the broader sense of the word. In my final year of studying Digital Video Design at the Utrecht School of the Arts (HKU), I focused on interactive installations that react when users walk towards them. That mutual curiosity between humans and technology has been a topic I keep coming back to ever since. It's something that very much touches on my work in education. After all, by making students wonder, you can excite and motivate them. That's why I'm so interested in the projects within PIT.

I think the role of practor suits me particularly well because of my knowledge in the field of interactive technology and research. I can focus on the technical content, act as a sparring partner and also have a keen eye for the 'how'. I also have a clear vision on the subject and am a generalist. And if I think something can be done easier or better, I actually want to take care of it; then I go for it.

How did you actually get into your new position? Were you approached or did you apply yourself?
My predecessor, Erdinç, was a colleague of mine at Fontys ICT. He called me at one point saying, "We are looking for my replacement, I can name three names of possible successors and I thought of you. I then applied.

What are your plans for the coming period?
There was already an agenda for PIT; Erdinç put it together with great care and it will simply remain in place. But there are some things that I am going to focus on. For example, I have been assigned the task of taking research validation to the next level. That way, we can ensure that research really delivers. So I would like to develop a 'plug and play' toolkit with easy research methods for teachers to use within PIT. A kit that we can say: use it, collect your data and we'll do the rest. After all, we need to start forming our own clear, educated opinions about where and how interactive technology does or does not work within education. Because if we let it run its course, we will be overtaken by commercial parties. And they will then start telling us what is good for us.

I also want to have compiled a clear portfolio of our projects and their status by the end of this school year. So that we can easily show exactly what we are working on, and share the (completed) prototypes with interested parties.

And what are you going to honor especially very much?
Starting Tuesdays with a stand-up works incredibly well. We stand together in a circle, discuss announcements, look back, look forward and share inspiration. I adopted that way of working immediately. Although I still want to do a lot more on that inspiration; sharing interesting articles in our app group, for example. That is something Erdinç also did a lot.

Do you still have contact with Erdinç in between?
Yes I do. Every now and then he throws an interesting article over the fence, for example. Just the other day he tipped me off that I haven't updated my LinkedIn profile to the new situation yet. And if necessary, I can always spar with him. But I do try to let him do his own thing and find my own way as much as possible. I have to do it myself in the end....

You bring a lot of knowledge and expertise with you. But let's turn it around: what does this new position bring you?
I started my teaching career in secondary education. That's where my interest in educational development and motivating students began. Unlike in higher education, the motivation of your students is much more your responsibility. It is great to be working for that group again and to be able to contribute to so many different disciplines at the same time; from beautician to process technology.

Of course, the professorship also offers me a new challenge. It came at exactly the right time. I also get to work in an inspiring and connecting environment. And the fact that I can now regularly have lunch with my wife - we now work within walking distance of each other - is a nice bonus!