Doctoral Student Cigdem Meral ‘21PHD is Inspired to Improve Learning and Classroom Instruction For Special Education Students in Turkey Through the Use of Technology

Cigdem Meral

When Cigdem Meral ‘21PHD was a child in Istanbul, Turkey, she was unable to listen to an educational CD called Vitamins because her family didn’t have access to a CD or DVD player.

Later on, one of her teachers played educational content on the only computer in the classroom. And the idea of learning new things through technology fascinated Meral.

She always knew she wanted to be a teacher from the time she was in elementary school. Meral was amazed by how much knowledge her teachers had, but it was those childhood experiences that sparked her interest in educational technology.

“After I received my bachelor’s degree, I decided to work with special needs children instead of working as an elementary school teacher. That experience made me realize we had many ideas about education and using technology, except it did not include special education in Turkey,” Meral said. “I decided to make a difference and I applied for a scholarship from the Turkish government to pursue higher education, a master’s and Ph.D. degree, abroad with a full ride.”

With a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a special needs education certificate, Meral earned a master’s degree in instructional system and technology from Indiana University. Now, she is pursuing a Ph.D. in Teacher Education and Learning Sciences in the program area of study in learning design and technology from the NC State College of Education.

“I like that my field of study can be applied to any subject regardless of grade. I feel lucky to have the technology along with instructional design knowledge as an educator,” she said.

Meral serves as a makerspace operator in the Media and Education Technology Resource Center (METRC) and completed an internship this summer in data analysis, where she worked with Shaun Kellogg, Ph.D., director of the research and evaluation team at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, which is part of the College of Education, and his team for the Kenan Fellowship Program.

“I have had the opportunity to work with great people. When you work with good people, they encourage you to be better and they lead you to meet other people that can definitely help broaden your horizon,” Meral said.

Meral has an interest in reading 3D design models and STEM education with a focus on high school students who live in rural areas. Her research is on improving spatial visualization ability through the use of virtual reality technology.

Upon graduation, Meral will return to her home country of Turkey, where she will work as an educational expert for the Ministry of National Education as part of the scholarship agreement between her and the government.

“My field has taught me a lot about technology and education. I’ve grown a lot the last three years at NC State and I have gained skills that I did not have before and discovered skills I didn’t know I had,” she said.