Faculty Profile: Ryan McFall
Associate Professor of Computer Science
For Dr. Ryan McFall, teaching at Hope is an opportunity to give
back to a community that has been important to him.
“It was a place that had a big impact on my life,” he
says, “and so I wanted to be able to come back and hopefully
have that same kind of impact.”
Dr. McFall graduated from Hope in 1993 with a Bachelor of Science
degree in computer science and mathematics. He was a third-generation
Hope student, following the college paths of his parents and grandparents.
After Hope, he went on to get his master’s and doctorate
degrees from Michigan State.
Now, as a professor, he is incorporating his computer science
talents with a family tradition of teaching. His parents, grandparents,
and brother have all been somehow involved with education.
“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher,” he says.
He was initially interested in mathematics, but discovered that
he also enjoyed the hands-on challenge of computer science. “When
I’m given a problem, I want to see if I can do it,” he
Dr. McFall’s most recent research combines his love of
a challenge with his passion for teaching. In 2003 and 2004, he
headed research on educational technology, particularly on the
development of electronic textbooks.
His goal has been to combine the best features of a printed text,
including access to information and even the ability to highlight
important passages, with opportunities to add notes and examples
and even communicate online with others in the class. He sees an
e-textbook as an alternative medium that can help students with
active reading comprehension.
“Being able to further explain some text on my part, and
wanting the students to be able to interact with the text on their
own -- those are the sorts of things that an electronic textbook
allows you to do,” he says.
While Dr. McFall’s work aims to use technology to aid students,
his teaching often aims at helping students to use technology within
a variety of disciplines. As technology becomes increasingly important
in a variety of disciplines, he notes that students need to ask, “’How
do I have to think to be a successful person using any particular
kind of technology?’”
Ultimately, though, teaching computer science for Dr. McFall
is more about imparting a way of approaching education than it
is about familiarizing students with particular technologies.
“My goals are to be able to have students who have a life-long
ability to learn and to be able to impact students’ lives,” he
This profile was written by Melissa Sexton, a 2005 Hope
College graduate from Kalamazoo, Mich., for the 2005-06 Hope
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