The last few months have been crazy busy for me, and one of the reason is that I was in my final semester of earning my Master’s degree. I am now finished, and officially a “Master of Information Science and Learning Technologies with an emphasis in Technology in Schools”. As if anyone could master such an amorphous and ever changing thing as technology is schools! As a part of the program I prepared a web portfolio, as well as a reflection statement. The rest of this post is my reflection on earning my Master’s degree.
Reflection on earning my Master’s Degree:
I became interested in including instructional technology as a major part of my teaching in the summer of 2011 after attending EdWeek SJSD, an instructional technology focused week of professional development put on by my school district. I had just completed my first year of teaching (a second career for me) and was thinking about beginning coursework toward my Master’s degree. I began researching programs and was particularly drawn to the Information Science and Learning Technologies degree with an emphasis in Technology in Schools at the University of Missouri.
Some people in my life thought I was crazy as a working mother of two small children to undertake what was essentially a double-time Masters degree program, but I have always been someone people describe as “intense” when it comes to school, so the intensive degree program and I got along just fine. When I entered the program, instructional technology was something I was interested in mostly because I personally found it entertaining, but what I discovered through my coursework is that while I was right about it being fun, instructional technology can also be a tremendously powerful tool for learning.
Before this program I had never considered what wonderful benefits instructional technology holds for those whose life situations make traditional schooling difficult. My coursework has opened my mind to consider not only the ideas of using technology more effectively in my brick and mortar classroom, but also to the fact that totally online education is out there, and for some students it is the best option. I was truly able to envision the possibilities of live online instruction for middle and high school students who have physical impairments that make traveling back and forth to school difficult, and also for those students who live in remote areas of the world where traveling to school daily is time and resource prohibitive.
I teach middle school communication arts, and the students I have in class are a new generation of learners. They are 12 – 14 year olds who exist in a world where internet access is just another household utility and Facebook has been around since kindergarten. They live online, and in my coursework I have learned that I can use technology to harness their desire to have a constant online presence. Using technology I can create assessments that give my students an instant relevant audience by giving their work a place to exist online. Students may choose many different tools to create, but what each student has in common is increased engagement with any activity where they know that when they are finished they will have a world-wide audience. This is a motivation only instructional technology can create.
The impact of my coursework on my educational career has been two-fold. Firstly, it has expanded my view of technology and the possibilities it holds for the future of education. While I began this program with a general interest in instructional technology, over the past 12 months of intensive study of the ideas and practices of this fast-expanding field what at first seemed like interesting ideas began to feel more like crucial skills for teaching the upcoming generation of learners who not only feel comfortable with current technology, but will grow to adulthood in a world where frequent adaptation to the constant evolution of technology will be a life skill – a life skill that I now feel I hold some obligation to teach them. Secondly, I have slowly become a technology leader in my school. I am enjoying this new niche, and can see the possibility that my future might include a role where I focus less on my own classroom and more on the classrooms of an entire building or district. Anything is possible, right?