The Education That Was

“You know, being a doctor would be great, but I have always been drawn towards being an educator.  This is where I believe I could do the greatest good.”.  I made this statement, in passing, to my wife as we sat watching a football game after getting my MCAT results back showing me that I would likely get accepted into the medical program I was applying for.  This started my journey into the world of education.  I removed my application to medical school and started thinking about what being an educator would truly look like. 

As I started down the journey of becoming an educator I went to the University of Texas and attended one of the best programs in the world.  Here is where I began to learn about what education is, and what it could become.   I got to experience different methods of learning and teaching, I got to develop my confidence and personality as a teacher.  This gave me a great foundation and start as to who I was as an educator, and what I believed education should become.

My career started in America and has taken me around the world into different countries and educational systems.   I have got to experience different subjects, different teaching styles, different cultures, and different school systems.  All of this has grown me as an educator and expanded my knowledge.  This experience, however, is only part of the path my journey has taken over the past two years.  I also have been growing and developing by continuing my academic knowledge through the Master of Arts in Educational Technology at MSU.  Reflecting on that journey, I can see many key areas of growth and development.

Some of the main areas of development I have had through this program is in my belief and practice in what education is and should be.  I have expanded my belief on what purpose education should have in a student’s life.  Education should be about creating knowledge, skills, abilities, and characteristics in students to help benefit them throughout the entirety of their life.  Additionally, this program has helped me in my skills as to how to effectively practice education and effectively leverage technology to optimally achieve this.  I have broadened my skills at employing technology throughout the entire education process and how to use it to continuously improve my practice.  Below I will look at some of the main areas of development I have had throughout this program.

What is Learning?

The question, “What is Learning” is a foundational aspect of education, and one that I got the experience of growing in my knowledge with.  Many courses explored this, but the first course of my program was CEP 810: Teaching and Understanding with Technology, in which I spent a lot of time directly exploring what truly is learning.  I created my own personal theory of learning, which explored the relationship between deep learning of content and how this allows you to then use this knowledge in multiple ways.  This course explored the implementation of TPACK, which is the intersection of Technology, Pedagogy and Content Knowledge and adapting these to your situation to increase their impact on the learning environment.  We explored how to use technology for networked learning.

This course was beneficial to me as a learner, as well as an educator by increasing my understanding and ability to apply theories of learning.  Having a deep understanding of what learning is, and how it can be improved within, and outside of an educational setting.  The application of this knowledge to my educational practice has meant focusing on deep foundational knowledge acquisition and then the application of these skills and knowledge with challenging scaffolded learning situations.  I have began employing the TPACK strategies that we learned about and practiced in the course. 

This course’s learning outcomes were supported by many of the other courses within the MAET program.  CEP 800 was a course about learning in school and other settings, and in this course we explored learning both intentional and unintentional.  This course helped to build on the knowledge gained about learning by comparing experts and novice in their learning and how they complete tasks, how different settings and stages of life shape learning, and finally how habits could be created to be learning experiences, or support learning.  These courses, and others, created a solid foundation of what learning is, and how to use learning to optimize education.

How should we apply technology to education?

After you understand learning in a deep, comprehensive way the next step for an educator using technology is to think, how should I apply technology to education?  This program spent a lot of time helping me explore this question, both in theory and in practice.  Some of the things I was able to take from this course, in this regard, included the ability to utilize maker education practices, redesigning learning environments to optimize learning with technology, adapting technology to your learning environment, and the ways technology impact my practice and how to optimize this.

One of the common themes throughout the entire program has been that technology should not be an ends, but rather a means.  This means that at the forefront of decisions should be the desired learning or outcomes, and the employment of technology should only be utilized to help achieve this outcome.  I had not previously stopped to intentionally think about this, although often using technology as a tool I often thought that if I didn’t have a tool that perfectly suited my need I would do without, but this course allowed me to explore adapting my available tools to better suit what I needed from them.  This force me to begin treating the educational process as missional, focused on the big-picture desired outcome, rather than focusing on the small steps along the way, and then shaping the path accordingly.  Focusing on this concept has caused indirect application into all aspects of my educational practice, causing me to be more reflective on whether my methods are helping me reach my desired outcome.

In my second semester I completed a course, CEP 812: Applying Educational Technology to Practice, and we explored how technology can be applied to learning and change the way that education is completed, rather than as a place for information education has become a place to develop skills and learn to apply knowledge.  Through this course I collaborated with a peer to explore how technology has created a wicked problem in education, by revolutionizing education, changing it from information based to skill based.  Technology has created a situation where students have access to information, but they need to learn how to successfully apply this knowledge and develop a variety of soft skills necessary for the 21st century.  This is well connected to maker culture, as explored in CEP 811: Adapting Innovative Technology to Education, where students learn in environments where they are constantly creating or recreating.

Additionally, in CEP 811 I explored how technology can be more directly applied to learning and education in a variety of ways.  I explored using technology to create video’s for educational purposes, to create digital lesson plans, and to improve learning networks through social media.   For me, personally, the skill that was new and most beneficial was the use of learning networks through social media, as I had never used technology or social media for this specific reason, and I realized how beneficial it can be.  The application of technology to improve learning is an important skill to master and this course has helped me to hone some of these skills. 

Assessment in learning?

After having greater understanding of what learning is and exploring how to apply technology in a way to improve learning the next natural question would be to explore how to assess learning.  Two courses explored this concept of assessing learning, CEP 813 Electronic Assessment and CEP 822 Approaches to Education Research.  These courses explored assessing learning in a variety of ways, with CEP 813 exploring how to use technology to assess learning, and CEP 822 exploring how to conduct action research on educational practices.

Within CEP 813 we learned about different theories of assessment and explored creating various assessments with technology.  I adapted my beliefs on assessment into a checklist for creating a formative assessment.  This checklist I use to guide my educational practice, helping me to create assessments that are better at evaluating true learning.  Additionally, I explored using technology to create various assessment methods that can be used in my practice.  I iterated and revised this checklist multiple times until I had a tool that is useful in the guidance of creating formative assessments.

Another key concept I learned in the realm of assessment was the use of technology in formative assessment.  I created different assessments using technology, and then explored what a true assessment of education would look like in a perfect world using technology.  This exploration was one of the most impactful aspects of the entire program as it changed how I think about education more broadly.  This was towards the end of my path through the MAET program, and by now I had already changed my views of education and how it can be much larger than it initially was.  I changed my belief that as an educator was not just about improving the fate of those around me, but to improve the education opportunities for as many as I could.  Helping to show others what education could be, and more effective ways of measuring it was the biggest take away I had from the entire program.

The last part of this topic that I developed throughout the program was the ability to assess education program through action research.  CEP 822 explored the use of action research in educational practice, and this helped me shape my mind as to how to improve being a reflective teacher.  When you are constantly researching into your own practice you can then measure results and adjust practice according to what is most impactful on learning.  I created a research within my practice to see if inquiry-based teaching was able to keep or improve attainment compared to traditional teaching and after measuring the results I was able to see that it did, in fact, improve assessed attainment.  This gave me evidence to then support this practice and improve upon it and has now become a foundation of how I practice, constant measurements and reflection on practice.

Conclusion

Reflecting on the decision to be an educator, I believe it was better than I ever imagined it could be at the time.  This course has helped me to become a much better educator in many ways.  I explored deeply what exactly is learning, to include what the various environments it happens in, and under what circumstances it can occur.  I explored what types of changes can be made to education to optimize learning, and what changes could be made to more accurately connect education to learning.  I created tools and strategies to optimally apply technology to learning, as well as understanding what methods of adaptation can be applied to technology to make it more properly support learning and education for my personal practice.  I explored what tools can improve my practice, whether already established or needing to be created, and began to employ technology to support my own learning and progression as an educator.  Finally, I have evolved in my belief and skill set for assessing learning.  I have created guidelines to help me create and employ better assessment strategies and reframed my view of what should be assessed.  This assessment skill development allows me to also be more reflective as an educator both on a short-term basis or a long-term basis.  Overall, this program has been very supportive and positive for my educational practice, either establishing or improving my skill set as an educator.  However, the educator I am now is, still, only the beginning.