If Where I Have Been Is Any Indication Of Where I Am Going... This Should Be Interesting!
By: Euan Frew
In looking into the future and where I want to end up, I think first I must go back a little, to where I started… I initially started the Master of Arts in Education (MAED) program online due to my circumstance. This is to say, as a full-time teacher living overseas, I was interested in finding something that not only suited my immediate needs of wanting to enhance my craft, but something that would also afford me the opportunity to continue working while completing, as taking time away from work was simply not an option. The MAED program not only met these needs and requirements, but also, exceeded them as I found immediately with the first course I took.
With instant gratification came an enhanced experience and interest on my part. I wanted to know more and discover new technologies, theories, ideas and much more. As my course selection included Educational Technology and Sport Leadership and Coaching, I quickly discovered that the link between the two was very similar. Both areas used a tremendous amount of innovative and interactive programs to help reinforce the learning. The premise of the Educational Technology component was more direct in what I was learning, however the Sport Leadership and Coaching aspect utilized many of these technologies in activities such as video analysis and an online athletics program website packed with information to reinforce and put into practice what was learned.
The practicality of the program and its connections with my professional needs and usage were unexpected and very welcomed. Throughout the program I have discovered that much to my pleasure, the inherent design of the course promotes this entire notion of “real world” application. This has led me to discover even more beyond the courses.
For the past two years since starting the program I have taken on the mantra “give a person a fish, feed them for a day; teach a person to fish and feed them for a lifetime”. This is to say that when using the knowledge that I have acquired from the program, I do not tend to teach my students the specific technologies, but rather focus on helping them understand what their task is and from that come up with ideas of how to most effectively choose and use what is available to them, in essence, help them understand the “big picture” ideas rather than the specifics, that is left for them to explore and learn with my guidance and help. This to me is similar to what I have experienced in the program and has been extremely beneficial in my learning. I have found that the design of the MAED courses afford this desired flexibility, or more specifically differentiated learning within.
Differentiation is a professional goal of mine that I have heavily focused on for the past two years and through my learning in the program and outside, I have been able to take all the resources and build quite a list in order to help my students learning experiences. This has been such a wonderful dimension that has come about from the program, which has resulted in an enhanced insight to teaching strategies within my lessons. The strongest example of this that comes to mind is the incorporation of electronic portfolios for all of my students to utilize in a cross-curricular endeavor to showcase their learning throughout the year in a culminating showcasing event. This year the entire experience was done with paper except for my particular component and as a result was disjointed and cumbersome. Each teacher asked the students to create their own subject specific portfolios, which they had to organize separately which proved to be a difficult task for middle school students to do well. In light of this and upon reflection of the experience, it has already been decided that next year we will collaborate and utilize electronic portfolios as it is well suited to our needs and more importantly, the needs of the students.
This is a particular example of the hurdles, if not the biggest hurdle that I have found with attaining my goals. Early in the program I was fortunate to read the Harvard Business Reviews, ‘10 Must Reads on Leadership’. Little did I know how insightful this read would be. These '10 Must Reads' helped me understand the minds of my peers and finding ways to bring everyone on board with technology and help to take some of the fears away. The most valuable idea to convey here is that we are teaching to the student’s needs, not our own. This has been a continuing theme that I have really struggled with.
As educators one would assume that this was always at the forefront of planning, however, this quite often is not the case. By no means is it a deliberate act on the parts of educators, more likely it relates specifically to a lack of time coupled with sheer numbers of students and workload that do not allow opportunities to explore and learn about different educational technologies. Finding time to seek out new technologies when a person feels they have no time and that they are simply not adept in the area of technology is a daunting task to say the least. For that reason specifically, I have taken the initiative of trying to help my colleagues in a casual non-threatening atmosphere to bring them on board with acquiring different technological skills and help in any way that I can to spark their interest. This has only been possible because of my recently acquired skill set and understanding first hand of the learning process when it comes to technology integration no matter the subject or curriculum.
The leadership roles that I have begun to take on have directly been impacted by the courses in both areas that I have taken. Creating a vision is vital to any task undertaken. Knowing what the desired end result is is critical in understanding how to get there. This is what separates leaders from dreamers. Dreaming is a vital part of leading because it is something that initiates the entire process, a vision, but to take it to the next level takes thoughtful consideration. As I am still a learner, I have a long way to go with these skills, but the intent, the will and the plan are there to see this out.
Seeking opportunities to enhance and grow my learning are always at the forefront of what I am undertaking professionally. I have memberships in and read frequently articles from various sites such as ASCD.org to enhance my skills and to see simply what’s out there for educators. After I conclude the MAED program, I intend to seek out professional development wherever I can and do my best to be active within my own school community to build a dynamic environment with educators embracing tech and their roles as facilitators.
My vision does not end with that, but begins with it. From there, in the next two years I will endeavor to enter a Doctoral program relating to technology integration and leadership roles. I have had my interest sparked initially with concepts such as technology, pedagogy and content knowledge (TPACK) and the immense impact that such ideas have had on my teaching. I want to understand further the complexities of such ideas and theories that I have learned and gain a deeper understanding of how they fit into the big picture of education.
I am excited and very much looking forward to the future and what it will bring to me personally and professionally. Through the program I have gained insight and focus for my passion. The next step will be to take advantage of what I have learned and put it towards the context of a life-long learner and continually endeavor to seek out further learning opportunities.