A Synthesizing Series of Ed-Tech-Links
This list of annotated educational technology links shares what I’ve learned in the Master of Educational Technology (MAET) Program at Michigan State University, and what I continue to learn.
There are 4 areas to explore in the link-infused synthesis essay below:
1. How has the MAET program changed me?
2. How has the MAET program changed the way I approach my work?
3. How has the MAET program as a whole affected my thinking and practice?
4. How have three specific MAET courses affected my thinking and practice?
1. The MAET program has changed me by updating my tech skills via teaching me about innovative and beneficial technologies and techniques such as…
Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
As described on the CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology) Website, "Universal design for learning (UDL) is a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn." Specifically, the UDL framework clarifies and guides how instructors can design "instructional goals, assessments, methods, and materials that can be customized and adjusted to meet individual needs." I now apply UDL in anything I create online from whole courses to individual assignments online and in class.
One of the first essential components of website and educational material design applying the principles of UDL is to be sure your designs are accessible. The World Wide Web Consortium’s excellent introductory page about accessibility is a great first foray into what accessibility is: making sure anyone can access Internet/Web resources no matter what their range hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive ability might be. It also explains how to make Internet/Web resources accessible via links to examples, tools, and laws. I believe accessibility is not only the law, but an ethical imperative and so ensure my creations are accessible to the best of my ability..
Once your educational materials/web designs are accessible, it’s important that they are also usable, meaning easy to use to the point that no technology interface ever ‘gets in the way’ of learning, rather it should enhance learning, making it easier and more effective if at all possible. Once of the best known researchers in usability is Nielsen Norman. His website provides an excellent introduction to how to make your educational materials or website designs easily usable which is another vital component of UDL. Reading Norman's work helped me learn how to create usability testing of website, games, and course materials for very low cost.
Assistive technologies (AT) are any device or tool that helps differently abled people in their learning, working, and daily life. This website created by a team of professionals at an organization called Assistive Technology for Education is one of the best I’ve seen in providing great photos and description of the increasingly wide variety of AT options available today. I believe it's important for any technology professional to keep up in assistive technology developments.
One way of keeping up with innovations and improvements in assistive technologies is by attending an annual conference. More so than in other fields, it’s very helpful to explore these amazing technologies in person. As described on their website, “The ATIA is the premier organization for manufacturers, sellers and providers of assistive technology (AT)—products, equipment and systems that enhance learning, working and daily living for persons with disabilities.”
International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)
Another way of keeping up with developments in educational technology is to attend ISTE. Described as 'The epicenter of edtech,' this international conference features 16,000 educators, 550 education companies, and the opportunity to "Immerse yourself in powerful ideas and inspirational speakers, while connecting with innovative educators who share your passion for transformative learning."
If you can’t get to a conference, another way I like to keep up in ed-tech developments is through blogs and magazines. Ed-Tech Magazine is one of my favorites and has a nice feature of being able to choose which area of focus you’d like to explore - K-12 or Higher Ed.
2. The MAET program has changed the way I approach my work by encouraging the development of expanded competencies in the use of communication and collaborative technologies...
Google docs takes the classic suite of computer applications such as word processing, spreadsheets, and slideshows and takes them to a whole new interactive, distributive work mode. Each application allows easy storage in google’s cloud server as well as download for backing up on one’s device of choice AND each document produced can be easily shared for group viewing, commenting or editing - all in real time. This cloud computing facility has proven to be very helpful in classwork for students as well in team projects.
Zoom Video Conferencing
This tool has been used in many of my classes for teaching, learning, and meetings. It’s amazing how it really increases one’s sense of connection in online classes. It allows for the sharing of ideas, and also documents, web pages, text chats and more.
While not quite as user friendly as Zoom, Google Hangouts do have the distinct advantage of being free to use, and the ease of use is improving over time. With all the features of Zoom such as doc sharing, this is my second choice for conversations with teams and students - but can be a first choice when budget is an issue.
Another free option for real time video communication, Skype is a great option when the first two don’t work for any reason. I have found that depending on your team’s technology, sometimes Skype is the best and most stable choice.
My social media skills have certainly expanded during my edtech graduate program. For instance twitter has become my go-to source for breaking news and following emerging trends. Although not many of my students use this social media, I like to keep up with it for communication with peers and following researchers and trend setters.
Likely the most popular social media for many students, a few of my graduate courses made innovative use of this platform as a help forum. By encouraging students to help each other with common questions, it was and is a great way to build a community of learning, sharing and kindness.
To my surprise, I found myself liking LinkedIn better than Facebook, perhaps because it is more focused on sharing ideas closely related to one's work and less about sensationalism and chat that you can all too easily find on Facebook. While its educational use is uncommon, it is a useful tool for connecting with fellow educators and following educational organizations.
Although I’ve also created websites in the mostly free website creation tools, Weebly and Wix, my personal website is created with WordPress. Although a bit more challenging to learn than the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) type of website creation tools, WordPress has a vast online community and a powerful blog creation toolkit. Plus it’s helped me refresh my HTML and CSS coding skills.
3. The MAET program as a whole has affected my thinking and practice by opening doors to the exploration of the theories supporting teaching and learning...
Best Practices for Online Teaching
When I started the edtech graduate program, my focus was on finding and learning about best practices in online and hybrid or blended learning and teaching. There are many such reports available now; the best ones are based on sound educational theory such as this one written by J. V. Boettcher, Ph.D which draws on Vygotsky as well as others. I’ve been drawing on these sorts of best practices in my design and teaching of online/blended courses ever since.
Another theory set that I was familiar with upon entering the program, but enjoyed the opportunity to delve into more deeply and expand my usage of is Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Bloom's taxonomy, named after Benjamin Bloom, an educator who chaired the committee that created the model set, classifies educational learning objectives increasingly complex levels. It can be a real help in creating activities and testing since it helps the educator choose questions or goals that require greater depth of thought in responses from students.
Another educational theory that resonated strongly with me and improved my teaching is the concept of scaffolding. This idea comes from Jerome Bruner who believed that learners need to build new knowledge with the support of skills and knowledge they already possess. Most of the science and technology topics I teach need scaffolding to be learned most effectively by students. I continue to explore how best to apply this theory in online courses.
Scaffolding is often seen as an application or example of constructivism, and I agree. This website from the University College of Dublin provides a nice concise explanation of constructivist theory as applied in a face-to-face or online classroom.
Another body of theory (if you can pardon the pun) that has come to infuse a large part of my teaching philosophy is experiential learning. Enabling and encouraging student to DO what you would like them to learn, in parts, then in whole seems an imminently logical method, particularly in the sciences and technology. This particular website from one of my favorite UK groups provides a nice witty summary of this theory and practice, including a nice diagram reminding us of the importance of reflection, conceptualizing, experimenting, along with experience in the Experiential Learning Cycle.
As I moved through the edtech graduate program, I started to apply what I was learning to my science and technology teaching and in the Nature Science Club. In terms of teaching environmental science, naturalist skills and stewardship attitudes (if you can teach an attitude!), Place-based education theories seemed most promising. This area of education research and practice is ongoing and increasing and is a nice antidote to globalisation.
4. The three specific MAET courses that affected my thinking and practice are from the MSU Serious Game Design Certificate :
Course #1 Foundations of Serious Games
This course required reading two excellent texts that significantly shifted my thinking about designing educational activities and courses to incorporate serious game design practices. The first text, Playful Design: Creating game experiences in everyday interfaces by John Ferrara provided a great deal of information about the usefulness and importance of games; most useful to me was the Ten Tips for Building a Better Game. The second text, Gamify: How Gamification Motivates People to Do Extraordinary Things by Brian Burke alse came from an organizational and business perspective, and taught me about the different methods to incorporate gamification into various business practices including skill building and behavior change.
Course #2 Understanding Users
This course also had two very influential textbooks that helped refresh my usability testing skills. The User Experience Team of One by Leah Buley describes 27 User Experience Design techniques across the product design cycle from Planning and Discovery to Research to Design to Testing and Validation. Validating Product Ideas, by Tomer Sharon is a step-by-step, how-to guide presenting methods for researching essential understanding users questions at different stages in the product development cycle.
Course #3 Theories of Interaction Design
This course required no textbooks, but instead provided an amazingly extensive set of online articles, links to games, websites and more. It also covered a nice balance between table-top games and online games, including those created by women, men, and a wide variety of ethnicities. My two favorite websites in this course are:
Dr. Elizabeth LaPensée’s Website
This site continues to be one of my ideal models for an online portfolio in that it stands as a model of art combined with science. Someday, as I continue to learn about game design and educational technology, I hope to create a site as lovely and edifying as this one.
Theories of Interaction Design Course Website
This website provides an ideal way to sum up this synthesizing collection of edtech links in that it is the most comprehensive course website in terms of content and simplicity of design that I’ve ever seen.
I understand that this TechLink page is a non-traditional approach to a synthesizing essay, but based on my fourth favorite course in the MAET - CEP 818, Fall 2017 Creativity in Teaching & Learning, I wanted to apply a creative twist to make it more user friendly. Similar to the issue with most PhD Dissertations in that they are rarely read or applied, I was concerned that a traditional synthesis essay would not be all that useful to my website visitors, while a list of links could be potentially more helpful. Therefore I have also incorporated the most important way the MAET program has changed me, my thinking and practice, and how I approach my work: I now see that educational technology is at it's most effective when it is an active negation between the creators and users of the technology - when the needs and learning of students or customers are given the top priority they deserve. So I do hope this link-infused essay about what I've learned in the Master of Educational Technology Program connects my website visitors to resources that inspire them to continue learning.