Matt Dunleavy thinks you have unlimited potential.
The Radford University education professor, who now serves as an interim director of Academic Affairs, has long inspired and motivated students and colleagues alike to reach their intellectual heights and achieve great success. "One of my primary goals is to get people fired up," he said, sounding a bit like a football coach preparing to run through a brick wall.
It's his enthusiasm and the triumphs of those whose lives he has touched that have led to grand strides for Radford University in the past few years. It's also one of the many reasons Dunleavy has been nominated for a 2014 State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) Outstanding Faculty Award (OFA), one of the Commonwealth's highest honors for faculty at Virginia colleges and universities.
"When people come into my classroom or people work with me on a team, I want to see how I can access what intellectually turns them on," Dunleavy enthusiastically stated. "One of my great objectives is to get people excited about learning, get people excited about limitless potential."
Since his days of living in a subsistence farming village and teaching English as a second language as a Peace Corps volunteer in central Africa and teaching in Taiwan, Dunleavy has had a vision for creating and utilizing technology as a learning tool for children.
"As I went through those experiences I realized what a profound impact technology could have on what you could provide your students," he recalled. "From something as simple as pencils and books and blackboards in Cameroon, I realized that technological tools could radically transform what you could do in the classroom."
The result was the Mobile Innovation Learning Lab (MILL), formerly called the Games, Animation, Modeling and Simulation (GAMeS) Lab, a multidisciplinary effort by Dunleavy, RU students and others to "design interactive mobile games and study the impact of the products on student engagement and learning," Dunleavy explained.
Funding from the National Science Foundation and the Virginia Department of Education allowed the MILL to design and implement Standards of Learning (SOL) aligned games for participating schools in rural, southwestern Virginia. The lab also collaborates with participating local school teachers to determine how best to integrate the MILL-produced games within the existing curricula.
Out of the MILL was born another Dunleavy brainchild, the iLearn Project, which delivered approximately $1 million worth of iPod Touch devices, laptops, software and training to the Radford City and Pulaski County school districts.
"Matt quickly recognized the correlation between technology integration and student achievement in high-need classrooms," said an appreciative Tom Brewster '89, superintendent for Pulaski County Public Schools. "Matt is a forward thinker, an entrepreneur and most of all he is a compassionate advocate for improving the opportunities for rural students through technology integration in the classroom."
In collaboration with New River Community College, Dunleavy and his team also developed 20 Virginia SOL-aligned apps, which quickly soared in popularity and have been downloaded more than 200,000 times in ten countries.
Many of those apps, Dunleavy said, target challenging science, technology, engineering and technology (STEM) subjects, and three received awards from the 2009 and 2010 Virginia Mobile Learning Apps Development Challenge.