Synthesis - What I learned over the past 2 years
The path towards my Masters degree in Educational Technology began in 2011, but my desire to learn and to teach started a decade before. It was the fall of 2001 and I was a senior in High School. I was working two jobs, playing sports, and generally having fun with my friends. Our favorite thing was driving the two hours from Charlotte to go to concerts in Detroit. At that point in my life I hadn't given much thought about what I wanted to study in college. It was still months before I got my acceptance letter to Michigan State University.
Everybody knows what happened the morning of September 11, 2001. That morning I was at my co-op job, Spartan Motors, Inc. The company builds fire-trucks. They even donated one to the New York City Fire Department after that terrible tragedy. History was always my favorite subject, but my senior year in high school I absorbed everything I could from my teachers and peers. I debated politics, I learned more about my family history, and a passion started in me to learn new concepts and present them to others.
I spent the next five years in East Lansing, learning all I could and building my particular skill set. I would make new friends, live new experiences, and draw even more connections between the subjects I studied and the world I observed around me. My general love for history grew, but so did my interest in Economics, Geography, World History, and Politics. I would graduate with my Bachelors in History and Social Studies. Then came the transition from college to teaching.
In my third year of teaching I decided to return to Michigan State, this time for a Master's degree in Education Technology. Although I value my high school, college, and graduate experiences equally, it was the last one that taught me the most about education, metacognition, and the way technology can fundamentally change how we teach. The connections I saw before grew stronger, and I began to see whole new ways to enable my students to make important connections of their own.
2011 was four years since I finished college, so the transition from a college student living on campus to a full time teacher working totally online was strange at first. I wanted to rejoin the dialogue on education where I left off, but campus felt like a world away from my classroom in Detroit. Thankfully my first course, CEP 810 with Sandra Plair made the transition an easy one. In CEP 810 I learned about RSS feeds, which helped me plug directly into what I was interested in. I began browsing educational resources that were directly related to my interests. I began to follow blogs, I reached out to other teachers for advice and inspiration, and it goes without saying but I'll say it anyway, “I learned a lot from that first course.”
In the spring of 2012 I took CEP 812 and 820. 812 exposed me to a host of new web 2.0 technologies to improve classroom teaching. My excitement for the potential of this emerging field really took hold. At that point in my career teachers all around me would literally copy worksheets from a book on a daily basis. Many of the students were struggling readers and the worksheets were often 10 - 15 pages of dense text with quizzes at the end. I knew I wanted something else for my students. CEP 812 helped me work towards my vision. In this course I created a stand alone course fully online. In CEP 812 I learned all about Course Management Systems like Moodle and Haiku. You can visit my course my clicking on the link below and using the supplied username and password:
A video I made while creating my online course
CEP 812 also helped me better organize my lessons and create units that build on themselves while still allowing students a certain amount of freedom and accessibility. As I create my course using Haiku, I considered the Universal Design for Leaning. Universal Design for Learning applies the simple principle that teaching should be responsive to the needs of the user. When content is presented in a way that makes it accessible for all students. There are 3 important principles of UDL.
- Principle 1: Provide multiple means of representation (recognition network).
- Principle 2: Provide multiple means of action and expression (strategic network).
- Principle 3: Provide multiple means of engagement (affective network).
The spring semester I took CEP 812 and CEP 820. I learned how I could use technology to reach students who previously might have felt lost. With the limited technology I had I began to find new ways to engage students. For my younger students I let them create stories using ToonDoo, make websites using Weebly and explore worlds using Minecraft.and Google Earth.For the older students I experimented with web-quests, online articles and even an online stock market game. I was able to apply what I learned through my online courses at night to what I was teaching the next day.
In the fall of 2012 came a new school and a new course, CEP 800 - Learning in School and Other Settings. This course, taught by Danah Henriksen. CEP 800 had the rigor I was looking for in a graduate level course. The focus was on several major psychological perspectives on learning both in the traditional classroom setting and beyond. This class helped me connect these popular theories to my own experiences. By this time, I was teaching all of my lessons directly through Moodle. The modules I taught helped students access the material and work on their schoolwork at any time through any internet connected device. While this was a grand idea and a novel concept, the transition would prove difficult. I am thankful for CEP 800 for helping me bridge that gap between 100% digital lessons and creating that authentic, "in the classroom" type experience for my students.
A video I made on Social Constructivism
What I really appreciated about CEP 800 was that the entire course was grounded in theory. The class is taught to provide enough background knowledge of the educational theories with the practical examples throughout the lectures and readings. The units were broken up into different concepts like meta-cognition, development, memory and attention. I appreciated CEP 800 for grounding my knowledge in educational theory. At the same time I was taking this course I was also enrolled in CEP 822 taught by Leigh Graves Wolf. I appreciate the fact that the MAET program has each course build on the other. CEP 800 and CEP 822 paired well with each other, and I was able to take what I learned about various educational theories and apply it to what I found in educational research. My project for this class was to create a research proposal, Cell Phones in the Classroom. You can view this either as a Google Doc or as a pdf by the links below:
The last two courses I would take to complete the #MAET program were CEP 807 and 815. These courses gave me a chance to reflect on all I have learned and what it means to be an educational leader when it comes to technology. I would like to share a few of these with you.
TPACK is the idea that a successful application of technology to education require a solid knowledge of the Technology, the Pedagogy (How we teach) and the Content (What we teach). If any of these three elements are missing then the picture is incomplete. For more information on TPACK please visit http://www.tpack.org/.