EDTEC: Comprehensive Reflection

In the beginning

a photo of me

The author, a geek

For me, technology is a hobby and a passion—I’ve been a ‘computer geek’ for as long as I can remember. However, I chose to spend my undergraduate time pursuing philosophy and international politics. Having started college in September 2001, the study of international security and conflict resolution was particularly timely and interesting. But I didn’t see myself as a diplomat and, at graduation time, as luck would have it, none of the big philosophy firms were hiring.

Along with the usual taking apart of computers and writing of code, being a computer geek naturally leads into showing other people how to do things with hardware and software. It was usual for me to show teachers and friends how to use various tools, and this led into a job as a Mac Genius at an Apple store in San Diego during my last few years of undergraduate study and beyond.

Getting started in EDTEC

As a Mac Genius, I spent my time helping a broad range of customers learn how to use their devices and software. Later, I also began to create job aids and training for my co-workers. It was really quite fun to help others better understand technological things. Though initially I looked around for a Library Science graduate program (another geeky interest of mine), a friend mentioned the EDTEC program at SDSU, so I checked it out. I’m glad I did. In the summer of 2009, I enrolled in EDTEC 540 and 541. Though 541 was somewhat below my skill level (I’ve been working with web technologies since 1998), it gave me an interesting perspective on web development from an educational viewpoint. EDTEC 540 was entirely different, however, and it solidified my interest in the program. Dr. Marshall introduced me to Dr. Robert Mager’s work on instructional objectives and performance analysis (Mager, 1997), which helped my creation of job aids at work immensely.

Though I often have found myself creating small tutorials or job aids, up until I started the EDTEC program they were all informal and simple. One of the first benefits of the EDTEC program that I realized in my work at Apple was a job aid to help technicians remember how to perform data backup operations before repairing a computer. As part of the assignment, I completed a gap analysis (Mager, 1997) prior to creating the job aid. The deliverable itself was appreciated, and was printed and tacked up in the repair room for easy reference. This job aid helped to inform a project for EDTEC 541, a website entitled ‘Back up those files!‘. This is a digital learning tool which I developed after identifying a need, sketching a storyboard, and conducting usability testing. This project started to get me reacquainted with web development, and renewed my interest in online learning.

Change of plans

Working as a Mac Genius was pretty satisfying up until the release of the original iPhone. Owing to the launch, Apple’s posture toward the service provided by Mac Geniuses changed radically—instead of spending time helping customers solve problems and learn software, the focus shifted to speedy processing of iPhone customers who generally weren’t interested in learning or troubleshooting but rather wanted replacement units (even in the event of user error) so they could be on their way. I was much more interested in teaching people how to use technology than replacing phones, so I left Apple.

I had been on the lookout for ‘something to do with education and technology’, an interest that the EDTEC program helped to crystallize. I found a posting for a position in IT at lynda.com, applied, and got the job. I switched from the campus program to the distance program, left San Diego for Santa Barbara, and began a new path.

I hadn’t really mentioned my ongoing enrollment in EDTEC classes to anyone at work, but Lynda Weinman (one of lynda.com’s co-founders) managed to find out and expressed an interest in the program. She and a few other new coworkers wrote recommendation letters for me to formally apply for the EDTEC program, and I was on my way.

As an online learning provider, lynda.com gave me an invaluable level of access to both educators and eLearning professionals that only piqued my interest further. Working in IT (and my prior experience as an Apple hardware technician) utilized my interest in technology (EDTEC Competency: Technical1 ), and was by nature interpersonal (EDTEC Competency: Interpersonal2 ). Throughout both jobs, I constantly found myself creating job aids and teaching customers and coworkers how to use various technologies. As I explored various theories and models (EDTEC Competency: Principles, Theories & Models3 ) of learning, I was able to improve my job aids and screen recordings. My interpersonal ability and knack for creating useful technical training caught the attention of our Vice President of Production and was I offered the position of Training Producer.

Using what I learned

In the Training Producer role, I collaborate with our Content team (to set the goals and directions of a lynda.com course) and Subject Matter Experts to create and produce online training. I am effectively a project manager (which EDTEC 684 helped me to do even better) and an instructional designer (which EDTEC 544, 570, and 671 have helped immensely), ensuring that the course is developed, recorded, edited, and released on time and verifying that the course is presented in a logical order with consumable and informative bites of information that are accessible and useful for our members. This role has helped me to develop myself in an educational and technological space (EDTEC Competency: Character4 ), notably in the area of self-directed learning. Though my topical focus in this position is primarily for the ‘developer’ crowd (programming languages, web technologies, etc.), it’s fascinating to me to see how the theories that I’ve learned apply to teaching PHP and C++ as well as photography, audio engineering, time management, and graphic design.

Though learning about software tools (both traditional tools like Adobe Captivate and non-traditional tools like Apple Quartz Composer) is interesting to me, I was particularly interested to dive into the academic side of learning with technology. EDTEC 561 with Dr. Robert Hoffman provided me an opportunity to learn about Virtual Realities (McLellan, 2004), Visual Perception (Anglin, Vaez, and Cunningham, 2004), and Designing Text for Readers with Special Needs (Hartley, 2004). This course also helped me to develop my skill in creating an educational video, which was particularly relevant to my job.

A project for EDTEC 544 was quite interesting to me as well – my group studied and presented about Connectivism (Siemens, 2006), which remains one of my favorite learning theories. Its’ applications and appeal suddenly clicked for me as I considered how the Internet continues to fundamentally change education. Connectivism focuses on using networks of information to understand topics, which is particularly relevant in the internet age.

I have always been a ‘casual power user’ of computer and web technologies, but the various reflections on the uses of technology for education helped me to bring into focus the applications of specific technologies as they relate to the classroom and learning in a broader sense. In EDTEC 570, I composed a few profiles on how technologies could be used in education: the Swype data entry method, the iPad, and the Historypin website. As a casual programmer, these really got me thinking about how to tie together various systems and technologies to create improved educational platforms.

Now, no place was safe from my inquiry into education with technology. During a Hawaii vacation with my family, I visited the Valor in the Pacific museum at Pearl Harbor and observed their informal learning exhibit for EDTEC 671. What I learned there helped to inform my design for an informal learning scenario of my own, digital displays and an interactive game designed to be installed at a computer repair shop.

EDTEC 671 also afforded me the chance to create a detailed technical online learning experience which, given my work at lynda.com, was an excellent opportunity. As a casual programmer, I am always on the lookout not just for information, but opportunities to try a task and to receive feedback. I elected to create a small quiz based on the Ruby programming language, defining learning outcomes and feedback, developing a storyboard, and ultimately creating a quiz in Adobe Captivate. Afterward, I composed a learnability report outlining my results. Because this project was frame-based, I decided to use the ‘chunking’ method outlined in The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information (Miller, 1956). This method helped me to pare down the content to manageable pieces for each frame.

All of these projects helped me to hone my skill at visual and verbal communication (EDTEC Competency: Communication5 ) and critical thinking about how best to implement a solution (EDTEC Competency: Cognitive6 ).

Sir Ken Robinson, image from TED.com

Influential minds

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Sir Ken Robinson speak about what modern education is doing wrong (trying to use 19th century techniques to teach the 21st century’s workforce how to do things that don’t yet exist) and about the fundamental importance of creativity. Once again, what the icons of educational change were preaching, the EDTEC program was teaching. As much thought as I had given to the state of education in schools and in the workplace, it was through Sir Ken’s TED talks (Robinson, 2006 and Robinson, 2010) and a live presentation this February that the craziness of using 19th century teaching techniques really hit home for me. In a world where students and employees need to follow individual learning paths, what better technology than online education is there to meet the demand?

from TED.com

Salman Khan, image from TED.com

Salman Khan, who I also had the opportunity to hear speak both through his TED talk (Khan, 2011) and at a live presentation, has identified the need for online learning in the classroom. Whereas distance education has formerly been reserved for corporate compliance or product information webcasts and college courses to meet the demands of crowded campuses, Mr. Khan rightfully (and profitably) turned technology to help elementary and grade school students. From his start creating YouTube videos to his current platform in use by students worldwide, I feel that Salman Khan is an example of what the EDTEC program seeks to inspire.

During and after my undergraduate studies, my bookshelves were full of Philosophy and Political Science books. Now, my (new) bookshelf and iPad are increasingly filled with books on education and eLearning. As the works of McLuhan, Baudrillard, and Aristotle held my interest long after completing my undergraduate degree, I find myself going back to Rossett, Mager, and Berkun frequently for reminders and tips.

The end (for now)

The project for ED 795 provided an excellent capstone and review of everything I’ve learned in the EDTEC program. My project partner Jessica Ebel and I conducted a survey for the National Center for Urban School Transformation (NCUST) to determine how they could use social media to increase interest and attendance at their annual Symposium. We began with a needs analysis to determine what attendees might find useful, and in analyzing the data we discovered that we could create three tools for NCUST to use: A mobile website, an email newsletter, and a Twitter job aid for speakers. This project helped me to enrich my skills in both working with a client (EDTEC Competency: Professional & Career7 ) and providing data-based (EDTEC Competencies: Data-based decision-making8 ) recommendations by providing a real-life situation in which to apply so many of the skills that I acquired during my EDTEC course of study. Perhaps one of the most educational facets of the NCUST project for me was an increased understanding of the processes (EDTEC Competency: Processes9 ) and systems (EDTEC Competency: Systems10 ) behind organizing a survey and recommending actionable results.

Now, in addition to being a ‘computer geek’, I find that I have become an ‘education geek’ as well.

References

Anglin, G., Vaez, H., and Cunningham, K. (2004). Visual Representations and Learning: The Role of Static and Animated Graphics. In D. Jonassen, (Ed.), Handbook of research on educational communications and technology (2nd ed., pp. 865­‐916). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

Hartley, J. (2004). Designing Instructional and Informational Text. In D. Jonassen, (Ed.), Handbook of research on educational communications and technology (2nd ed., pp. 917­‐947). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

Khan, S. (2011). Salman Khan: Let’s use video to reinvent education [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/salman_khan_let_s_use_video_to_reinvent_education.html

Mager, R. (1997). Goal analysis: how to clarify your goals so you can actually achieve them. Atlanta, GA: Center for Effective Performance.

Mager, R. (1997). Preparing Instructional Objectives, Third Edition. Atlanta, GA: Center for Effective Performance.

McLellan, H. (2004). Virtual realities. In D. Jonassen, (Ed.), Handbook of research on educational communications and technology (2nd ed., pp. 461­‐497). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

Miller, G. (1956). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological Review 63 (2): 81–97

Robinson, K. (2006). Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

Robinson, K. (2010). Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution! [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_revolution.html

Siemens, G. (2006). Connectivism: Learning Theory or Pastime of the Self-Amused? http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/Connectivism_response.doc (Accessed: 2010-03-07)

  1. Technical: Independently choose, learn, and use an array of tools appropriate to evolving trends and needs. [EDTEC Competencies] []
  2. Interpersonal: Interact effectively with peers, followers, and leaders to accomplish goals. [EDTEC Competencies] []
  3. Principles, Theories & Models: Draw from multiple theories and models to solve human performance challenges. [EDTEC Competencies] []
  4. Character: Cultivate self-awareness, confidence, curiosity, creativity, independent learning, and cognizance of one’s strengths and limitations. []
  5. Communication: Use visual and verbal modes to explain and persuade—and thus achieve professional goals. []
  6. Cognitive: Analyze, synthesize, use inductive and deductive reasoning, solve problems effectively and creatively. []
  7. Professional & Career: Describe the roots, personalities, trends and institutions of educational technology. []
  8. Data-based decision-making: Triangulate data to make critical decisions about learning opportunities or solutions. []
  9. Processes: Exploit, plan, and steer processes such as change, design, development, and learning. []
  10. Systems: Understand and work with complex systems of cause and effect with multiple, ill-defined drivers and outcomes. []


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