Throughout history new technologies have been introduced that have changed the way people create, communicate, and learn. When children moved from chalkboards to pencils, there were adjustments in the classroom and with homework options. When the telegraph and telephone were invented, there were eventually changes to the ease in which we could speak to people that were traveling and or lived far away. Today, the accessibility to digital technologies creates that level of adjustment that must take place in our daily lives, but more importantly, in our schools. Educational technology gives our students unprecedented access to information and learning opportunities, both formal and informal. It is imperative to have Educational Technologists in the schools with the knowledge and skills to guide teachers and students through this cultural shift. My completion of the Masters of Educational Technology program at Oklahoma State University has prepared me to assess the needs of the learners, create engaging learning environments, and evaluate and maintain technology resources to empower our students to be active, responsible, engaged learners with a technology rich, fully integrated curriculum. I have had the opportunity to collaborate with others, develop a full professional learning network, and create rich learning environments specific to my learner’s needs. These skills will allow me to continue with my current role as an Instructional Technologist with a deeper understanding of the theories, research, and strategies to seamlessly integrate technology for the benefit of student learning.
Through many of the courses that are taken as part of the Ed Tech program, the standards developed by the Association for Educational communications and Technology (AECT) are referenced. They have been a helpful framework guiding my learning by emphasizing ways to create instructional materials, select technology applications, and assess their effectiveness for student learning. These indicators are part of Standard 1: Content Knowledge. In Introduction to Instructional Design, by working through the ADDIE model of Instructional Design, I created a fully online, asynchronous course to guide new STEM teachers through the set up, fundamentals and management of using MinecraftEDU with their students. By analyzing my target audience and identifying a need that technology could help fill, I was able to provide a much needed solution to a problem. Another way that Content Knowledge is demonstrated is through the indicator of selection and assessment. This was put into practice with Digital Media Production and Digital Games and Simulations when we were given the opportunity to use predetermined rubrics and checklists, like Game Principles by Paul Gee, to evaluate the purpose, use and benefits of various technologies, apps, and games. These assignments helped me to focus my attention on the learning potential each technology could provide. It has already been beneficial as teachers often ask for recommendations on various technology options for their classes. I now feel even more confident in my suggestions.
The second standard from AECT, highlights the need for Educational Technologists to create, implement and manage appropriate technology resources. Another indicator of this standard is the ability to create flexible and diverse learning environments. Several classes over the course of the Ed Tech program reinforced my confidence and skills in this area. During the class Learning in the Digital Age, we were challenged with presenting innovative solutions to some of the issues occurring in schools today. I chose to focus on the need for personalized learning paths for high school students. Too often high school students at best feel that they are not learning subjects that will be of use later in life and are not interesting now, and at worst they drop out of school altogether. My presentation focused on some of the nontraditional approaches that technology offers. Through the use of concurrent enrollment, virtual classes, career tech, and traditional classes, students are able to create a unique learning path that is tailored to their academic needs, their interests, and their abilities. Students are more engaged and successful. This type of flexible and diverse learning environment is a solid indicator of Standard 2. Another project that exemplifies the focus of this standard is the Level Up Your Tech from the Digital Games and Simulations course. Through the use of gamification techniques, I developed a course that allows teachers to complete much needed technology professional development at their own pace and at a time that is convenient to them. Leveraging various game mechanics such as quests, experience points (XP), and badges, teachers have been more engaged and excited about learning the latest technology resource to integrate into their curriculum. I created a similar website, sans gamification aspects, as a learning environment for teachers eager to learn more about implementing and integrating more creativity apps (iOS) into their lessons. Having the expertise to create learning environments that are tailored to the needs of my district has been one of the many benefits of this program.
I feel that the third standard from AECT, which highlights learning environments, was touched on by nearly every class. This is mainly due to the indicator concerned with creating instructional design products based on best practices, which was almost every class. One of my favorite quotes by George Couros states, “Technology will never replace great teachers, but technology in the hands of great teachers is transformational.” This is especially true when the learning environment is designed effectively and makes use of the available technology in an responsible, appropriate way. Technology does not replace best teaching practices. It is a tool, not a toy. I demonstrate my ability to facilitate learning through learning environment creation through my previously mentioned MinecraftEDU online course from the Introduction to Instructional Design course, as well as my Flipped Faculty Meeting concept in Facilitating Online Instruction. By adapting instruction to the time and resources available and the diverse needs of your students, learning can become accessible to all. By using the “flipped classroom” model for teachers attending faculty meetings, the learning process becomes more active. Information is available for review if needed and valuable time can be spend in discussion instead of passively watching presentations with no time to ask questions. Additionally, the innovative ideas presented in the Non-traditional Approaches to High School projects also highlight my ability to develop learning environments that empower learners from diverse backgrounds and situations. The techniques that I have learned throughout the program, especially those about Standard 3, have increased my effectiveness when working with teachers to begin integrating their technology.
Collaboration is key when striving for best practices in the classroom. Learning from each other and building upon collective ideas makes each of us stronger. Standard 4: Professional Knowledge and Skills stresses the importance of collaboration and leadership with the realm of Educational Technology, as well as the importance of well crafted assessments that are designed to gather the type of data that is needed to analyze and reflect on our instruction and student learning. Collaboration was at the forefront of the app creation project for the course, Mobile Learning. As a group, we were tasked with creating an app for student use, along with the related curricular materials. With one group member as the subject matter expert, we each took roles to ensure that the resource the students would see was complete, functional, and designed according to instructional best practices. Social media was discussed as a way to find and nurture this type of collaborative group, on a larger scale. While Mobile Learning focused on content creation and collaboration with peers, the class Curriculum Design highlights the importance of knowing how to effectively design an assessment to collect the data needed for analysis and reflection. Through the creation of my syllabus and the inclusion of several assignments with original, authentic assessments I demonstrate my mastery of Standard 4.
The final standard, Research, while the direct focus of Research Design and Methods, was interwoven through all courses in this program. I feel lucky that I was able to take Research Design during my first semester because as I worked through my research study proposal, The Effects of Game-Based Learning on Student Motivation and Cognitive Ability, I was able to gain insight into each aspect of the research process. Having the ability to evaluate the validity and reliability of a study afforded me a much more critical eye for all of the research in the many journal articles throughout the rest of the program. Not only am I better equipped to evaluate the work of others, but I am able to recognize the appropriate research methodologies to gain information needed to better serve our students. In addition to the knowledge of the methods of research sparking new ideas and ways of thinking about topics in education, the data available from the many studies on learning and motivation theories has changed my thinking too. Foundations of Instructional Technology and Introduction to Instructional Design were both classes that emphasized the research and theories behind many instructional methods. I am now more aware of the “why” things work (or do not work) in the classroom, and therefore better equipped to make a positive impact.
As I look back on all of the coursework I have completed throughout the Educational Technology program, I have, not only a great sense of accomplishment, but one of empowerment too. I feel that I now have the tools and the knowledge to effect real change for the better, in regards to the transformation that is needed in education. In the words of Susan Bearden, “It is not about how much they use the device, it is about HOW they use it.” With the skills I now have, I will continue to help empower teachers to create a more personalized, creative, diverse, flexible, engaging learning environment for their students. The AECT standards, not only guide this program, but will serve as my guidance as I continue in the field of Educational Technology.