“There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore, looking like an idiot.” -Steven Wright
Digging for Worms
I have been passionate about the impact technology can have in schools since I was in fourth grade and my class was given our first computer to enhance our educational experience. Amazingly, I was the only one (including the teacher) who knew how to use it. My dad has always been interested in technology and had purchased a home computer for us the year before. I loved being the “expert” (if you can classify my skills of insert disk, type run as expert). I loved being able to help my teacher and bring ideas to her of how we could use the computer in our class. I knew at that moment that technology and helping others were going to be a big part of what I wanted to be when I grew up. What I could never have fathomed way back in 1993, however, is how technology was going to revolutionize everything about education from the way we deliver instruction to the way we reflect and plan.
After graduating with my Master’s degree in Instructional Technology in 2006, I transitioned into the role of elementary library media specialist. I began working with elementary students and teachers and realized quite early on that a big part of my job encompassed being a leader in technology integration and support for teachers. I love being that person who teachers come to with questions about troubleshooting, use of programs, and how to successfully integrate elements of technology into their instruction. I have found myself hosting multiple professional development opportunities for teachers, not only in my building or district, but also around the state of Arkansas.
Those two interests, technology and helping others, are also what inspired me to continue my education. I had a pretty good background in technology in schools, however, I wanted a more formal one; one that ended with a diploma. I began researching programs and Mizzou was recommended as having a challenging online program. I took Introduction to Technology in the Schools just to see if this was, indeed, the direction I wanted to go. Halfway through the eight-week class, I asked for special permission to enroll in another class (that would take place during the second eight-weeks). I had my worms. I had my pole, my hook, my line, and my net. Now, I was ready to put some application into it. I was ready to learn how all these tools and skills I possessed could assimilate and push me to become a better educator.
“Fishing is not an escape from life, but often a deeper immersion into it.” -Harry Middleton
Baiting the Hook
As I reflect on all the things I’ve accomplished throughout this program, it is extremely difficult to narrow it down to just three specific things that I learned. Every part of this journey has taught me new skills (new lures for my tackle box) and I am grateful as well for the relationships I was able to form with others. For the past two years, I feel as though I have been completely immersed in educational technology. I was able to take each new thing I learned in class and immediately apply it in real life. Three of the most significant things that I learned are: how to design instruction that integrates technology, how to ensure that instruction is effective and impacts my students (whether they be adult or young learners), and the importance of collaboration with other educators to reflect on our practices and plan for the future.
As an educator, I must strive to create meaningful learning opportunities for my students. The integration of technology enables me to enhance my lessons or develop lessons that would not have previously been possible. In Instructional Systems Design with Dr. Howland, I had the opportunity to collaborate with other classmates to create a learning system for teachers interested in bringing computer science to their elementary classrooms. I learned the importance of analyzing my learners’ needs and abilities, articulating measurable learning goals and objectives, creating assessments to ensure those objectives have been met, and developing teaching strategies, agendas, and materials that will effectively help the learners meet the goals/objectives.
In Technology to Enhance Learning with Dr. Howland, I was able to learn more about the characteristics of meaningful learning by taking an already established lesson through a multifaceted assessment. I learned about the different elements of thoughtful integration of technology to enhance the learning taking place and not just using technology for technology’s sake. I was able to apply this knowledge during Learning with the Internet with Dr. Jahnke when I was creating my final project. In Meaningful Learning with Technology, Howland suggests one role for technologies to support meaningful learning is as an information vehicle for exploring knowledge to support learning to access needed information (Howland, 2012). Through the creation of my Individual Project, I was able to recognize the importance of creating technology based lessons that were also inquiry based and incorporated several different mediums.
Ultimately, the most applicable skill that I gained from this experience was learning how to effectively collaborate and communicate with others. Almost every class on my program of study included at least one collaborative activity where I worked with others in the class to develop, assess, or discuss various themes of the class. I learned valuable skills that indirectly will assist me as I seek out teachers, find ways that they can enhance their classrooms with technology, and work with them to ensure they are successful in integration. By taking a leadership role in each group project, I learned how a group works together and how the leader determines the mood of the team. I learned how to respect the opinion of each team member and that each team member brings something valuable to the group. I also learned to recognize the purpose behind reflection on the collaborative experiences. Reflection of the collaborative process enabled me to find my own weaknesses and think about how I could have been a stronger support or a better leader.
“A positive attitude and an open mind are true characteristics of all good fishermen.” -Kevin VanDam
As I prepare for graduation, I am amazed with how much my ideas have changed and how much I have truly learned and grown through this program. I feel as if this entire process has been an evolution of sorts as I am definitely not the same person who began taking classes two years ago. My hope is that I can continue to learn and utilize the skills I have developed through this program to be an effective teacher regardless of my students’ age, occupation, or skill level. I am excited about the future and how I may continue using my passions of technology and helping others to support teachers and learners wherever my bobber may land.
Howland, J., Jonassen, D., & Marra, R. (2012). Meaningful Learning with Technology (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson
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