As the course comes to an end, our instructor asked us to reflect on the course and what we learned. I have to admit it’s been quite a journey since September. I started the program with a general idea of what to expect, but it has been so much more. In some cases, the program forced me to get outside my comfort zone. In others, it simply pushed me to think beyond the obvious. Finally, perhaps the biggest benefit to me, I was exposed to a whole new world of thinking about teaching using technology. The course definitely expanded my horizons as promised.
Like so many people, I have a bad habit of wanting to stay in my comfort zone. I have no good explanation for why because past experience has taught me that the most rewarding things tend to lie outside of it. This class forced me to do things I did not consider beneficial in the past. I lead a very busy life and tend to resist anything I don’t directly see the benefit in. The course forced me to start blogging and to join Twitter. I have considered blogging before, but never found the motivation to follow through with it. I’m happy to report that I enjoy the process and might consider incorporating it in my classroom in the future. I was also reluctant to join Twitter because I felt like it was just one more time suck to my day and offered little in terms of value. However, after being forced to join, I must say I kind of love it. I am able to follow designers and educators that I admire. I am exposed to even more information that I would not otherwise come in contact with including numerous articles that I turn around and share with my students. I must say that I am a convert. Twitter helps me expand my PLN in ways I never thought possible by shortening the distance between me and the people I’m most interested in learning from. It really helps eliminate the barriers that prevented access to leaders in the field. I can now see exactly what they think and are interested in on a daily basis. It’s an excellent tool for growing your PLN beyond the network of people in your geographic region. I am again glad to say that leaving my comfort zone was for the best.
The course also focused on the use of technology in the classroom. I must say that I originally felt this part would be more like review for me. I teach a subject that mandates the use of technology, graphic design. I have been hooked on computers since my father first exposed me to programming at eight (monumental at the time). I spend most of my day tied to technology in some form. However, the course really forced me to think more about how the technology was used. Typically, technology is used just because it is available and sometimes as a matter of convenience. I really didn’t think about the why or how it could encourage student learning in a more meaningful way. Now, I am looking not just for new technology to use, but also evaluating on a deeper level the why and the how. I think more about how it contributes to what I want them to gain a deeper understanding of. Some of my experiments with it have proved successful; others may need to be rethought. The course inspired me to challenge how I approach technology and how to use it as a more effective teaching tool.
Finally, the course exposed me to new learning theories and other new approaches to the topic. I’ve explored several more traditional theories about learning in my quest to be a better instructor. However, this course often challenged the very notion of what learning meant and how learning occurs in the advent off technology. I have pondered the massive changes at the hands of technology. In fact, I even lecture on it in terms of how it impacted graphic design as a discipline. I also realized from my own classroom that students push the boundaries of traditional education. As instructors, we too often view it from a negative light as we view it more in terms of enabling cheating and lowering the bar for academic standards. However, the material in this course really pushed me towards further embracing a radical change in looking at education. TPACK forced me to consider what role technology plays in the classroom including exactly what defined technology. Dr. Mishra’s Keynote address highlighted that even a simple pen and paper can be technology depending on how it is used (view lecture here). The chapters from “How People Learn” introduced concepts about how race and other culture factors impact not just the learners but also instructor’s perceptions of the learners. It is a topic I now want to explore further as I teach a population with a very different background than my own. Furthermore, reading work by Will Richardson, Mizuko Ito, and James Paul Gee challenged deeply held ideas about defining the educational system and how it would work into the 21st century. Overall, the material helped challenge and define my views of technology in the classroom and the future of education.
To conclude, the course meets to goal of expanding my thinking about technology in the classroom and helped reassure me that I’m on the right path for the future. It helped me grow personally and professionally as well as expand the dialogue about technology’s role in education. I am excited to see what is to come as I travel down this new path.