Technology & Pedagogy
If there is one key statement that I can articulate from my experiences with educational technology, it is that the technology utilized in an educational setting must fulfill an instructional need, and not simply be present for technology's sake.
Technology gives teachers and learners tools to organize their classes, to access information and provide learning experiences otherwise unavailable or prohibitively expensive, to simulate real-world situations, to communicate over long distaces, to generate excitment about learning through novelty, to make any space and time an opportunity for learning, and so much more.
In my obersvation, i ndividuals who learn new technologies quickly seem to have learning habits that include risk-taking and experimentation, persistence, and the ability to apply past knowledge to new applications. I find a lot of people who are shy about adopting technologies often state that they are afraid they will "break" something if they press the wrong button. I like to tell them there is always the "undo" command and always the ability to reboot! While it is good to strive towards excellence, I believe using just becoming familiar with the basic fuctions of a software application will provide a learner the foundation for more complex and sophisticated use in later work as it is envisioned.
As a self-directed learner, I have come to find that I hold firmly to constructivist theories of learning. I believe someone truly learns not only through observation and experience, but by experimentation, through trial-and-error and problem-solving, and through the application of knowledge to specific and unique challenges. Talking about a dance and diagraming the steps is not the same as getting out on the dance floor and moving. In this vein, I find the best learning for me comes through project-based learning where knowledge is applied.
Whenever I teach a skill, I prefer to first demonstrate, and then actively guide and correct the learner for a time; eventually, I stand back and see if the learner can accomplish the task without guidance and be self-correcting. That moment where a student masters a skill and takes pride and pleasure in his or her learning is the moment I feel rewarded.
Whenever I am trying to learn something, I first like to see it done and discuss the process with the expert, attempt the task with supervision, and after I can demonstrate basic operations I then repeat the task until it becomes more refined and natural. I then think on what the next step of improvement would be and may seek out instruction again to help guide me towards mastery. To this day I cannot pinpoint where my learning style originated. Did it come "naturally" to me to observe myself learning and reflect upon those processes in order so I could accomplish many things without a parent or teacher present to guide me? Was it honed by the education I received in in my undergraduate college, where I felt much academic energy was spent towards how to best ask questions of ourselves and the world rather than to arrive at a correct answer?
During my graduate studies in educational technology, I began to look at educational systems much as I had looked at religious systems as an undergraduate. I saw how the industrial model of production dictated to the United States' educational system how learners were to be produced en masse for consumption by our businesses, and I was curious to explore alternative models. I felt joy as I learned and explored new technologies and expressed my creativity in my projects. I am excited that with the professional experiences I garnered working on academic technology initiatives and co-teaching several faculty training sessions, I will have more career opportunities once I complete my graduate education.
The area I feel I have the most room for personal growth would seem to be in working with others to generate institutional or organizational change. Having always been the "smart one" in any group learning task at school, I felt that, overwhelmingly, I did much more work than the other students unless they were of comparable skill and intelligence. Most of the time whenever I am in a peer learning situation I am the one that is looked upon for guidance and direction from the others who don't pick up and digest information as quickly as I do. This often left me frustrated and desiring to do the assignment on my own, where I could be assured of my own skills and discipline to accomplish what must be done far more easily than trying to direct and supervize others. However, I have found my experience is not the same in an organizational environment, where colleagues and other stake-holders are likely to have valuable knowledge and experience to contribute.
In order to strategically shape organizational change through shared vision, people need to have leadership and team-building skills. Given my independent-individualistic mindset that was shaped by much solitude as a child, developing these leadership skills is on my self-growth agenda for the upcoming fifty years.
Reading to Grow and Learn By
Much of the above reflection came from response to the ideas from:
Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education
These two readings served as the foundations for class discussions in my educational technology class and also as the guiding texts for self-reflection excercises, including the paragraphs above.