When I completed my undergraduate study at Michigan State University, I knew that I could head straight into the classroom and begin my teaching career, but I still had reservations. My classroom experiences had been exciting and fulfilling, but beyond education my first love was computer technology. I knew that I would be remiss if I didn't pursue that dream, therefore, I re-enrolled at MSU to complete a Bachelor's of Telecommunications, Information Media Studies. After completing that degree, I started working for the university as an Information Technologist in the Office of Admissions. While I had achieved many of my personal goals, I still felt I had not achieved all of my learning goals, which included completing a master’s degree and finding a way to bridge my two fields of study; education and technology. During 2015, I reflected on my experiences as I wrote my personal statement for the Master of Arts in Educational Technology (MAET) application. I talked frankly about not knowing where I fit in the world of education, but that the emerging field of Educational Technology provided me an opportunity to showcase my talent for technology while bridging two areas of study that I felt passionately about. I explained how my unique background afforded me the opportunity utilize my background in technology to create powerful displays of educational technology, while conducting academic research.
The MAET program presented me with many opportunities to showcase my unique talents and how they could apply to creating educational technology. In CEP 800 I explored situated learning through the world of Ages of Empires III and explained how this gamification could benefit student learning. In CEP 811 I created a lesson plan for instructors to teach animation programming to their students using a Raspberry Pi 2 and the open source software Scratch. In CEP 813 I used Minecraft to create a replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and created a lesson plan in which teachers could replicate this world and assess student learning of Shakespeare by having them recreate a scene on the stage of the theatre in Minecraft. In CEP 820, I created a four-week course entitled Mastering Microsoft Word 2016 on the CMS, Schoology.
As I reflect on my previous goals and compare them to my current, I believe they have remained consistent; I have proven that I am able to create unique displays of educational technology and will have achieved my personal goal of completing an advanced degree. My goal of bridging my two passions, education and technology, has come to fruition through this program. I believe I am able to continue my success with educational technology while maintaining my current position at the university. As I finish up the MAET program, I find myself creating new goals and I see many areas of the educational world that I fit into, like as an IT Administrator for an intermediate school district (ISD). I am looking forward to my future endeavors in education and technology.
In CEP 811 Adapting Innovative Technology To Education, I was fascinated with how popular Makerspaces were becoming and that even the White House had a Makerspace Faire. In fourth grade, I had a chance to be part of the Lego Mindstorms Robotics team and I believe this exposure helped encourage me to pursue a career in technology. In my graduate work I wrote about how teachers could use a Raspberry Pi 2 to create a dedicated machine for teaching animation using the software Scratch. That project caused me to start brainstorming future learning goals and I started to think how great it would be to open a Makerspace off-campus in the city of Lansing. How I would achieve this is not clear yet, however a great resource for starting a Makerspace is Artisan's Asylum. They offer guidance through video calls, connecting clients with other Makerspace managers, and helping to create a business model. I believe I would need to apply for grants or use crowdsourcing to cover the startup costs of opening my Makerspace. Beyond mentoring and guidance, I believe I would be able to offer a variety of classes through the Makerspace and provide students with the technology needed for those classes. I've even thought of waiving course fees based on parental income. This would allow for an equal opportunity experience for all students.
Another future learning goal I have is to learn more about the duties of an Information Technology (IT) administrator for an intermediate school district (ISD) as this may be a future career field for me. Throughout junior high and high school, I worked closely with my school's IT administrator. She taught me many things about computer networks, software, hardware, and introduced me to the world of Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML). Many of these skills I still utilize today and I believe her guidance helped set me toward my current career path. I'm interested in learning more about the role of an IT administrator for an ISD as I would enjoy helping institutions research and select the best, most affordable, and user-friendly software or hardware in order to help position students for success. I would utilize my former mentor as a source for advice and question her about the duties required of an IT administrator. I could also contact current IT administrators online via Twitter to learn more about their duties. Job search websites would also be a great source of information as they would list the specific qualifications and job roles that an applicant would be expected to perform.
While my time in the MAET program is almost over, I will continue to challenge myself as life-long learn to learn new things and expand upon what I already know. I look forward to learning more about Makerspaces and possibly opening my own, exploring the role of an IT administrator for an ISD as a possible future career move, and learning more about JSON to expand my computer programming knowledge.
The Master of Arts in Educational Technology (MAET) program afforded me an opportunity to resume my work in education, while still retaining my position as an information technologist. I have always had a knack for technology, but the MAET program pushed me to dig deep for creative solutions, take chances with my ideas, and be prepared to reevaluate my work. I learned how to be confident in my technological decisions as well as how to aide learning processes with effective uses of educational technology. While every moment of the program has affected my thinking and practice, four specific courses have helped me discover new learning theories, understand how to better adapt technological solutions, how to be a more effective leader, and how to better design and manage technical solutions in and out of the classroom.
CEP 800, Learning in School and Other Settings, was the first course I took in the MAET program and set the standard for all others I took after. My instructors Dr. Danah Henriksen and Sarah Keenan-Lechel plotted out a course that allowed me to express my creativity as a programmer, without making me feel out of place as someone who was not actively teaching. I explored learning theories like Project Based Learning, learning that results from the demonstration of the process of working towards the understanding or resolution of a problem (Barrows & Tamblyn, 1980) and Situated Learning Theory, learning as it normally occurs is a function of the activity, context and culture in which it occurs (Lave & Wenger, 1990). Learning these theories helped prepare me to understand a theory I would eventually revisit multiple times in the MAET program; situated learning through video games. The first project I created in MAET program that explored learning through video games, Exploring Student Understanding in Ages of Empires III through Situated Learning, examined the many ways students learn while playing the game. I chose to study situated learning through video games as I felt many educators have a negative view of gaming in education. Dr. James Paul Gee’s work, particularly The Anti-Education Era (2013) and Situated Language and Learning: A critique of traditional schooling (2004), has helped me understand the value of situated learning through video games. I found his research to be so interesting that I revisited the topic again in CEP 812, Applying Educational Technology to Issues of Practice, during my project, Incorporating Fuzzy Lion Ears into Your CAPD Intervention Plan, and again in CEP 813, Electronic Portfolios for Teaching and Learning, during my project, Using Minecraft To Assess Student Learning.
Exploring Student Understanding in Ages of Empires III through Situated LearningIncorporating Fuzzy Lion Ears into Your CAPD Intervention Plan
CEP 800 also helped me expand my understanding of audio and video software. While I was familiar with Audacity, a free multi-track audio editor, I didn’t realize the full potential of it until I started using it to create audio projects. I used Audacity to record audio, remove noise, amplify voices, and trim unwanted audio from tracks. Once I created the audio track, I would create the accompanying video in Corel VideoStudio. I was able to use Corel VideoStudio to combine the audio with informative slides, animation, filters, and custom motion tracking. I realized that I could use my knowledge of audio and video creation from the MAET program to create audio and video user guides for software I created as an information technologist in the Office of Admissions. These video guides are an excellent way to document and explain all the features and functionality of projects I have created for current and future users.
CEP 811, Adapting Innovative Technologies in Education, introduced me to makerspaces and maker culture. While I had been participating in maker culture for most of my life, I didn’t even know about the maker movement or my potential to be a part of it. While learning about maker culture in CEP 811, it reinforced a long held belief of mine that "Everything is a Remix" (Ferguson, 2016) and that one of the best ways of adapting technology is by using existing technology in new ways. While learning about maker culture, I challenged myself to allow for imperfection as Fernanda Viégas explained in an Eyeo 2013 panel, Failing With Style. Her explanation of learning from failure allowed me to understand how "perfect is the enemy of good" and to not allow my creativity or ideas to be hindered by thoughts of failure. As she explained, "...the amount of effort does not equal importance."
This new found freedom allowing for failure pushed me to try adapting technology I was not familiar with, in ways I had not thought of before. I repurposed technology for one CEP 811 project by purchasing an old monitor, keyboard, and mouse from MSU Surplus Store and connected them to a Raspberry Pi 2, a small single-board computer. I used the free Linux operating system Raspbian, which was specifically crafted for the Raspberry Pi 2, to boot directly into the animation software Scratch. I took this technology experiment and created a lesson plan for other instructors where they could repurpose technology and a Raspberry Pi 2 to create a standalone animation station. The lesson plan guides students through creating an animated presentation on greenhouse gases, which is represented through two talking cows. The animated presentation is a visually exciting and unique way of presenting important information. Scratch also helps to teach students computer programming without having to type code as it has an easy-to-use drag and drop environment. This project in CEP 811 encouraged me to create technology to serve unfulfilled solutions and changed how I view my role as a programmer. In my profession I often have to create "middleware", new software that interacts with vended solutions, to fulfill a purpose that the purchased software does not. While I use to view this as a nuisance, I now view it as an opportunity to creatively problem solve gaps in technology.
How-To Assemble a Raspberry Pi 2 & Boot into Linux’s ScratchUse a Raspberry Pi 2 To Create A Dedicated Computer For Animation Programming
CEP 815, Technology and Leadership, introduced me to great lectures and readings on what it means to be an effective leader. While my official role as an information technologist is not a supervisor position, I do have a unique situation where I have to be my own leader. The tech team for the Office of Admissions is extremely small and the majority my time working there has been just my supervisor and I. My supervisor places a lot of trust in me and there are times where we don’t have the chance to meet in person or communicate for weeks. I appreciate that he trusts me to work with users and on projects without direct supervision, however there have been times where I resent this structure. While reading In Praise of the Incompetent Leader (Ancona et al., 2001) I reached a new understanding about leaders. I learned being an effective leader doesn’t necessarily mean giving direction or constant supervision and that we need to accept the "myth of the complete leader" (p. 92). It helped me reexamine my role and accept that I need to become a leader in my own right by sensemaking, relating, visioning, and inventing my own technological solutions for the future (p. 95-98).
In CEP 815 I had the opportunity to examine my vision for the future of technology in education. I envision an educational atmosphere where breaking down resistance to technology integration, allowing instructors to experiment with different pedagogies, and shifting grading policies leads to increased creativity and innovation in school curriculums. As I did previously, I returned to Dr. James Paul Gee’s work and incorporated his idea of "unfreezing" thought by putting forth ideas that offer better solutions utilizing technology in smarter ways (Gee, 2013, p. 87-89). I explained how Problem Based Learning helps students develop complex thinking skills, which are skills needed in the classroom and in the real-world. I also expressed my hope that institutions would be willing to re-examine grading policies to help students develop growth mindsets by allowing them to learn from their failure. By doing this institutions exhibit that they value student self-reflection and reevaluation of their work.
CEP 817, Learning Technologies by Design, had the largest impact on the way I design while programming. This course introduced me to the Stanford d. School’s design modes of Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test as well as other strategies for design thinking, like incubation (Stanford d. School, n.d.). While I wasn’t aware of it, I had been utilizing Stanford’s model for design thinking for solving problems in and out of the classroom. While in the classroom I stressed the importance of empathy and how important it is to be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. I saw this happen when a student answers a question out-loud incorrectly and is embarrassed for not knowing the right answer. I pushed students to explain why they think that is the correct answer and to follow the path that led them there. When the correct answer was revealed I challenged them to ask why this is the right answer. I stressed to students that by explaining your thought process you are showing others how your brain views the world. I see prototyping and testing in their answers as they try to work out solutions to these problems.
I also realized I followed a similar design thinking while programming. When working on a new project I always started by interviewing the current user(s) to define the issues needed to be fixed or included in the program. I would brainstorm ideas and prototype them out before eventually testing them. Learning about design thinking, and having the d. School’s bootleg bootcamp as a resource, helped me reach a deeper understanding of how I design technology in and out of the classroom. CEP 817 offered me an opportunity to put this design thinking to work as I completed my Problem of Practice project, redesigning the Office of Admissions Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) macro. I believe by adapting the d. School design modes I was able to solve my problem of practice, resistance to change in the workplace, by opening up communication through empathizing, unfreezing institutional thought by defining and ideating, and providing professional development through prototyping and testing, all while redesigning the SAT macro’s appearance and functionality. I expanded my design thinking with new tools for defining problems like the 5 Whys, Point of View Madlibs, and Why-How laddering. I learned how to ideate my problem using ‘combined talent’ brainstorming and how to nurture ideas with my incubation journal. I learned how to prototype and test by combining knowledge from previous modes and incorporate user feedback through interviewing and questionnaires. The success I achieved using these methods inspired me to use adapt these design thinking process for all future project designs in and out of the classroom.
The research, theories, and technologies that I studied during my time in the MAET program have changed how I view teaching and how I view my role in computer programming. I learned how to be confident in my technological decisions as well as how to aide learning processes with effective uses of educational technology. While every moment of the program has affected my thinking and practice, the four courses I described helped me discover new learning theories, understand how to better adapt technological solutions, taught me how to be an effective leader, and how to better design and manage technical solutions in and out of educational settings.
Barrows, Howard S. & Tamblyn, Robyn M. (1980). Problem-Based Learning: An Approach to Medical Education. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.