Meet Our Ambassador: Tina Pliagas

Tina is a Marketing major student at University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Her career plan involves coupling her major with something that has largely defined her education and personal life: music education and performance. 

Tina is a proud piccolo player with the University of Tennessee Pride of the Southland Marching Band. Music education has taught her everything from discipline to seeking excellence in everything she does. Marrying the major and passion isn’t always easy, but Tina is determined to follow her dream and the critical thinking skills she learned from Packback has been helping her with it.

In the month and a half that I’ve been introduced to Packback Questions, I feel that I have gotten more out of my class than I ever could with a traditional lecture-and-homework style course.

Packback encourages Tina to continue questioning how the world works because education doesn’t have to be black or white. Every week, her questions and answers become more and more in-depth. Knowing the difference that Packback made for her, Tina believes that other students and professors deserve to know that Packback is a platform that would revolutionize the way they learn and teach. She considers herself as a living proof that this platform can give academics a 180-degree makeover and she seeks to share her story.

What are some of the most interesting things you have learned on Packback?

TP: An interesting thing I learned on Packback that I wouldn’t have learned in class is a real world example of the difference between push-style and pull-style operational systems in manufacturing. I actually learned this by answering another student’s question regarding whether push or pull would be better for specialty designed products. This was when I had my ah-ha moment. Having been struggling with this concept, I challenged myself to answer my classmate’s question in hopes that it would bring me a better understanding of the topic.

The lightbulb turned on, and suddenly I felt like an expert on operations systems. I instantly felt more confident. I could not have had this moment in class simply sitting and listening to a lecture. I had to be the teacher, and suddenly, I learned so much more.

How has Packback challenged your critical thinking skills?

TP: Packback has helped me achieve this by stressing the importance of asking “How?” and “Why?” questions, rather than “Yes” or “No” questions. In a society where Google is our be-all-end-all source of answers, Packback challenges me to work harder and be more introspective. I often hear friends and classmates say, “I don’t know what I don’t know.” This is a really scary position to be in as we move closer toward graduation where we’re expected to have four years of education in a field where we’ve really only learned how to get the A. Packback has become my solution for helping me figure out what I don’t know so I can communicate it to my peers and ask them for their opinions and understanding of the topic.

How is Packback different than traditional online discussion boards?

TP: Packback is different than traditional online discussion boards because it truly does encourage curiosity in a judgment-free place.

A lot of people say there is no such thing as a bad question, and Packback takes that to heart. I am never worried that my fellow classmates will think negatively of my questions and answers because I know we are all here in the fearless, relentless pursuit of curiosity and learning.

I have never used another learning management system that incorporates a discussion board in this manner. The only other time I’ve encountered a discussion feature on an LMS, the professor was the only one who could start discussion threads and students were not notified of new questions or answers posted. Packback gives students autonomy with how they learn. The community guidelines to be open-ended, options to link inspiration and media, and encouragement to be unique with your perspective all show that Packback cares about students being active learners, which is probably the biggest difference of all.

If you can give an advice to college professors, what would you like to tell them?

TP: I would say to never give up on your students and invest in them wholeheartedly. As a professor, you’re committing to mentoring the next generation and expanding their world to be the best leaders possible. Students truly do listen and understand everything you tell us. Ask us for our opinions; we have something to say, sometimes we’re just afraid to say it. If you don’t give up on us, we’ll prove to you how you’re making a difference in our lives.

About the Packback Curiosity Ambassador Program:

The Packback Curiosity Ambassador program launched in October 2016 for students who loved using Packback in their class and who wanted to help bring the experience to other students. 

They play a key role in helping shape the future of curiosity-driven education by spreading awareness of Packback and the need for a tool that supports critical thought. Their experience is evidence that it is possible to create a dynamic community of student learners and that the depth of students’ curiosity has been long underestimated.

Packback Curiosity Ambassadors share their stories of personal growth and the impact Packback has had on their education with other professors who would otherwise not yet have been familiar with Packback.

Want to see a live Packback community and learn how you can increase student engagement and critical thinking in your course?