Monday, July 6, 2009

Concepts of Educational Technology Reflection

NOTE: The post below is a reflection on my experiences in Lamar master's degree course EDLD 5306 Concepts of Educational Technology.

What outcomes had you envisioned for this course? Did you achieve those outcomes? Did the actual course outcomes align with those that you envisioned?
I envisioned gaining a broader knowledge of current effective practices in educational technology and gaining better understanding of the roles of an educational technology leader. The outcomes for the most part aligned with what I envisioned.
I believe I achieved the outcome of better understanding the role of an educational technology leader, especially in the area of data based decision making. Our analysis of the LRPT and STaR Charts was particularly meaningful to me in this area because it helped me see the correlation between data collection and long range planning.

Regarding broader knowledge of current effective practices, the focus in weeks two and three on professional development opened my eyes to different models of staff development and follow-up support for teachers regarding the creation of technology rich, student-centered learning environments. The concept of modeling effective practices for teachers was reinforced for me both through the Texas LRPT and the professional development articles we read.

To the extent that you achieved the outcomes, are they still relevant to the work that you do in your school? Why or why not?

The outcomes I achieved are most definitely relevant in the work I do in my district. As a district-level instructional technology specialist, one of the most important aspects of my job is to communicate with and train campus technology staff and classroom teachers on topics ranging from best practices in technology and instruction to reasons behind policy and budget decisions. The exercise where we analyzed a campus STaR chart and then planned to communicate our findings to the campus staff was particularly beneficial for me. So often, projects and deadlines arise quickly and as a result we communicate information to stakeholders in an informal manner. I enjoyed the exercise of looking deeply at a STaR chart and then breaking down its meaning for a campus staff. Experience with practical assignments like the presentation of the STaR chart will help me communicate more effectively with our staff, even in the limited time frames that often constrain us.

What outcomes did you not achieve? What prevented you from achieving them?

The one outcome I did not achieve was learning more about best practices in student instruction. I understand the visionary ideas of the LRPT and educational technology leaders like Prensky and their “we better get technology into the students’ hands now or we’re doomed to irrelevancy” message. As far as being better equipped to train teachers in the practical aspects of imbedding technology in their instruction, I did not achieve this outcome because the course content did not deeply address best practice models of K-12 technology integration. I enjoyed reading about Edutopia and Vicki Davis’s Flat Classroom, but I still do not have a grasp of how to help teachers move into the Edutopia/Vicki Davis realm of teaching. I was hoping for more practical examples of places that are at “Target Tech” level and whose model practices could be emulated. With less than 1% of the districts in Texas at Target Tech level, it is still disappointing, but not surprising that I did not achieve this outcome.

Were you successful in carrying out the course assignments? If not, what prevented or discouraged you?
I was successful in carrying out the course assignments from the aspect that I got them turned in on time and received good grades. I would have liked to have received some feedback on the quality and content of my assignments so I would know what I did that was deserving of an A.
I was, however, frustrated at times when carrying out my assignments. In particular, the online collaborative community assignment comes to mind.

At the end of the Week 2 assignment, the question about online learning communities confused me, because we really hadn’t been exposed to the online learning community concept yet in the videos or readings.

Also, having never used a wiki before, I struggled to interpret just how I was supposed to use it to complete the collaborative tasks in Weeks 3 and 4. It was especially disconcerting to be asking colleagues of mine to participate in this exercise with me when I wasn’t quite sure if I was approaching it correctly or giving them enough or too much guidance. A model of an online collaboration would have been helpful. Perhaps Professor Borel or Ms. Dean could have led our class in a collaborative wiki first so we would be more certain of how to organize our own wikis later.

An aspect of the course assignments I really enjoyed was the discussion boards. It was enlightening to me to see what stood out in the readings for different classmates based on their own experiences inside and outside of K-12 education and to be exposed to perspectives other than my own. It would have been encouraging to hear the perspectives of Professor Borel on the discussion boards as well. Her reactions to our thoughts and her perspective from a university setting would have added yet another dimension to the conversations.

What did you learn from this course…about yourself, your technology and leadership skills, and your attitudes?
I learned that I have acquired a lot more knowledge than I realized about educational technology practices. Even though all of my experience has been in the same school district, my varied positions at different levels – in the classroom, as a campus technologist, and as a district specialist – have given me a broad range of experience to draw from and many opportunities to acquire resources for leading instructional technology. None of the topics in the class was completely new to me, but I was invigorated by delving into some of the topics much more deeply than I had on my own in the past.
I also learned that in spite of what I already know, I still have a great deal of opportunity ahead of me for growth in my leadership abilities and knowledge of educational technology best practices. I am very glad the opportunity to get this degree has come along and I have been able to take advantage of it. Although my attitude during the course has been one of frustration at multiple points – especially when the reading and guiding documents such as the Texas LRPT are long on vision and short on practical implementation – I am still excited by all that is going on in the educational technology field and all there is for me to learn and hopefully pass on to teachers so instructional practices and student achievement can be impacted and improved.